Best Space Stories of the Week – Aug. 30, 2015

The Area Around a Black Hole
This artist's concept shows a black hole's surroundings, including its accretion disk, jet and magnetic field. (Image credit: ESO/L. Calçada)

Mars One seeks billionaires, Ceres and Dione get close-ups, a Martian hoax is debunked and Stephen Hawking solves a black hole conundrum in's top stories for this week.

Mars One seeks billionaires

A billionaire funder could make the private Mars One colonization project a reality, the nonprofit's CEO said during a debate on the project's feasibility. [Full Story: Billionaires Wanted to Fund Private Mars Colony]

Return of the Mars hoax

A yearly rumor suggests that Mars will appear as large as the Moon in the sky on Aug. 27. The misconception stems from a misunderstood 2003 chain email. [Full Story: No, Mars Won't Be As Big as the Moon in the Sky Tonight]

Hawking posits answer to black hole paradox

At a talk Aug. 25, famed physicist Stephen Hawking suggested an explanation for a vexing physics problem: what happens to quantum-mechanical information when material is sucked into a black hole. If the information stays lodged at the boundary, he said, it need not be destroyed. [Full Story: Has Stephen Hawking Just Solved a Huge Black-Hole Mystery?]

Saturn's moon Enceladus: an exploration timeline

Some scientists want to race to sampling the geysers that burst from moon Enceladus, but Brent Sherwood, a researcher at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, suggests moving step-by-step to prove there's something worth bringing back. [Full Story: Sampling Enceladus: Is Earth Ready for Pieces of Saturn Moon's Plumes?]

Shining Ceres mountain views

The dwarf planet Ceres shows a "lonely mountain," massive crater and braided surface features in a set of newly-released images. Its photographer, the orbiting Dawn spacecraft, will spiral closer for even higher resolution views. [Full Story: 'Lonely Mountain' on Dwarf Planet Ceres Shines in Jaw-Dropping Photos]

Private space stations coming soon?

Commercial space stations could become a reality within 10 years — and could even act as the International Space Station's replacement after it retires in 2024, if transitions go smoothly. [Full Story: Private Space Stations Could Be a Reality by 2025]

One star's haunting melody                                                         

A star's distinctive twinkle turns to music in a new piece by an astronomer and amateur musician. Such vibrations within a star can be measured to piece together its inner structure and composition. [Full Story: Star Tunes: Composer Sets Twinkling Data to Music]

Saturn's moon Dione glows in final close-ups

As the Cassini spacecraft flew close by Saturn's small, icy moon Dione for the fifth and last time since its 2004 arrival in the system, it captured a few final, stunning images of the moon emerging from shadow. Cassini didn't take many photos this time around — its main goal was to measure the pull of the moon's gravity. [Full Story: Farewell Dione: Cassini Snaps Last Close Photos of Saturn Moon]

Weir talks NASA's Mars delay and more

In a video interview, "The Martian" author Andy Weir predicts that NASA will be delayed in getting astronauts to Mars by lack of Congress cooperation. He also discusses Matt Damon's performance in the upcoming movie of his Mars survival tale and the role of private companies like SpaceX in the exploration effort. [Full Story: Boots on Mars by 2050, 'The Martian' Author Says (Video)]

Keep hitchhiking Earth germs at bay

New strategies are needed to keep hitchhiking Earth microbes from contaminating measurements on Mars and other alien worlds, researchers said at an astrobiology conference in Chicago. Today's equipment is too sensitive to sterilize with extreme heat, like previous equipment. [Full Story: Earth Germs on Spacecraft: A Push for New Protections]

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Sarah Lewin
Associate Editor

Sarah Lewin started writing for in June of 2015 as a Staff Writer and became Associate Editor in 2019 . Her work has been featured by Scientific American, IEEE Spectrum, Quanta Magazine, Wired, The Scientist, Science Friday and WGBH's Inside NOVA. Sarah has an MA from NYU's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program and an AB in mathematics from Brown University. When not writing, reading or thinking about space, Sarah enjoys musical theatre and mathematical papercraft. She is currently Assistant News Editor at Scientific American. You can follow her on Twitter @SarahExplains.