Planetary Science News

NASA’s NExSS Coalition to Search for Life on Distant Worlds

April 22, 2015

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NExSS Coalition to Search for Life on Distant Planets

NASA’s Nexus for Exoplanet System Science, or “NExSS”, coalition brings experts from a variety of scientific fields together for an unprecedented initiative dedicated to the search for life on planets outside our solar system. The Nexus for Exoplanet System Science, or “NExSS”, hopes to better understand the various components of an exoplanet, as well as […]

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NASA Scientists Identify Small-Scale Waves on Jupiter

April 20, 2015

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Astronomers Identify Missing Wave near Jupiter’s Equator

Using data from New Horizons Jupiter flyby, astronomers have discovered evidence of a type of atmospheric wave that had long been proposed but had not been identified in images before now. In the clouds of Jupiter, scientists have found evidence of a type of atmospheric wave that had long been proposed but had not been […]

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Meteorites Reveal Evidence of Moon-Forming Impact

April 17, 2015

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Chelyabinsk Meteorite

A newly published study uses the impact heat signatures in meteorites to date the Moon-forming impact between a large protoplanet and proto-Earth. The inner Solar System’s biggest known collision was the moon-forming giant impact between a large protoplanet and the proto-Earth. Kilometer-sized fragments from this impact hit main belt asteroids at much higher velocities than […]

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NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft Views Ceres’ North Pole

April 17, 2015

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Dawn Glimpses Ceres

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has captured the highest-resolution views of Ceres to date. After spending more than a month in orbit on the dark side of dwarf planet Ceres, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has captured several views of the sunlit north pole of this intriguing world. These images were taken on April 10 from a distance of […]

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Astronomers Track Icy Tendrils Reaching into Saturn’s E Ring

April 15, 2015

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Icy Tendrils Reaching into Saturn Ring Traced to Their Source

Using Cassini data and computer simulations, astronomers detail the source responsible for icy tendrils that reach into Saturn’s E ring. Long, sinuous, tendril-like structures seen in the vicinity of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus originate directly from geysers erupting from its surface, according to scientists studying images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. This result is published online […]

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NASA’s New Horizons Nears Historic Encounter with Pluto

April 15, 2015

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New Horizons Spacecraft Nears Historic Encounter with Pluto

In just three months, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will capture the first-ever close up images and scientific observations of Pluto and its system of large and small moons. “Scientific literature is filled with papers on the characteristics of Pluto and its moons from ground based and Earth orbiting space observations, but we’ve never studied Pluto […]

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Spitzer and OGLE Discover a Planet Deep Within Our Galaxy

April 15, 2015

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Spitzer Finds a Planet Deep Within Our Galaxy

Using a method called microlensing, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and OGLE’s Warsaw Telescope teamed up to reveal a remote gas planet that is located about 13,000 light-years away. The discovery demonstrates that Spitzer — from its unique perch in space — can be used to help solve the puzzle of how planets are distributed throughout […]

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Indirect Evidence of Transient Liquid Water on Mars

April 14, 2015

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Curiosity Weather Data Bolsters Case for Brine

New calculations indicate favorable conditions for small quantities of brine to form during some nights throughout the year on Mars. The possibility for liquid brines on Mars has wider implications for habitability and geological water-related processes. Martian weather and soil conditions that NASA’s Curiosity rover has measured, together with a type of salt found in […]

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New Color Map of Ceres Reveals Surface Diversity

April 13, 2015

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New Color Map Reveals Surface Diversity of Ceres

A new color map of Ceres reveals the differences in morphology and color across the surface of the dwarf planet, suggesting Ceres was once an active body. “This dwarf planet was not just an inert rock throughout its history. It was active, with processes that resulted in different materials in different regions. We are beginning […]

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New Research Explains Saturn’s Epic Tantrums

April 13, 2015

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New Research Explains Saturn's Epic Tantrums

New research describes the effect responsible for the development of a huge storm that erupts about every 30 years on Saturn. The long-standing mystery of why Saturn seethes with enormous storms every 30 years may have been solved by scientists working with data from NASA’s Cassini mission. The tempests, which can grow into bright bands […]

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NASA Study Shows ICMEs Can Have Profound Effects On Unprotected Planets

April 9, 2015

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Solar Eruptions Can Have Profound Effects On Unprotected Planets

Using data from Venus Express, researchers show how the impact of a slow Interplanetary Coronal Mass Ejection (ICME) can have profound effects on planets without protective magnetospheres. While no one yet knows what’s needed to build a habitable planet, it’s clear that the interplay between the sun and Earth is crucial for making our planet […]

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NASA’s MAVEN Spacecraft Completes 1,000th Orbit around Mars

April 9, 2015

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MAVEN Completes 1,000th Orbit around Mars

NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft completed 1,000 orbits around the Red Planet on April 6, four-and-a-half months into its one-year primary mission. MAVEN is in its science mapping orbit and has been taking data since the start of its primary mission on Nov. 16, 2014. The furthest point in the spacecraft’s elliptical […]

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Satellite Observations Reveal Glaciers of Frozen Water on Mars

April 8, 2015

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Mars Has Glacier Belts Consisting of Frozen Water

Using satellite data, scientists at the Niels Bohr Institute have observed the shape of glaciers just below the surface of Mars. New studies have now calculated the size of the glaciers and thus the amount of water in the glaciers. It is the equivalent of all of Mars being covered by more than one meter […]

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Mathematical Simulations Show Rocky Planets May Orbit Double Stars

March 30, 2015

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Planet Formation Around Binary Stars

In a new study, astronomers used mathematical analysis and simulations to show that it is possible for a rocky planet to form around binary stars. To date, NASA’s Kepler space telescope has found only gas-giant planets like Saturn or Neptune orbiting binary stars. March 30, 2015 – Luke Skywalker’s home in “Star Wars” is the […]

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A Geologic History of an Ancient Martian Lake System in Jezero Crater

March 26, 2015

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Ancient Martian Lake System Records Two Water-Related Events

Using NASA data, researchers from Brown University created a geologic history of flowing water on the surface of Mars. Providence, Rhode Island (Brown University) — Researchers from Brown University have completed a new analysis of an ancient Martian lake system in Jezero Crater, near the planet’s equator. The study finds that the onslaught of water […]

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Curiosity Finds Evidence of Nitrates on Mars

March 24, 2015

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Curiosity Finds Biologically Useful Nitrogen on Mars

NASA’s Curiosity rover has discovered evidence of nitrates in scooped samples of windblown sand and dust at the “Rocknest” site, providing further evidence that the ingredients needed for life were present on Mars billions of years ago. Nitrogen is essential for all known forms of life, since it is used in the building blocks of […]

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Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite – The Search for Planets Outside Our Solar System

March 23, 2015

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TESS — Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is set to discover thousands of exoplanets in orbit around the brightest stars in the sky. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is an Explorer-class planet finder. In the first-ever spaceborne all-sky transit survey, TESS will identify planets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, orbiting a wide range of […]

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