Planetary Science News

Recent Hydrothermal Activity May Explain Ceres’ Mysterious Bright Spots

June 30, 2016

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Study Shows Hydrothermal Activity May Explain Ceres' Brightest Area

New research reveals that the Occator Crater on Ceres has the highest concentration of carbonate minerals ever seen outside Earth. The brightest area on Ceres, located in the mysterious Occator Crater, has the highest concentration of carbonate minerals ever seen outside Earth, according to a new study from scientists on NASA’s Dawn mission. The study, […]

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NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft Completes Primary Mission

June 30, 2016

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Dawn Completes Primary Mission

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft completes its primary mission, exceeding all expectations. On June 30, just in time for the global celebration known as Asteroid Day, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft completes its primary mission. The mission exceeded all expectations originally set for its exploration of protoplanet Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres. The historic mission is the first to […]

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Hubble Telescope Views Vivid Auroras in Jupiter’s Atmosphere

June 30, 2016

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Hubble Views Auroras in Jupiter’s Atmosphere

Using the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers view vivid auroras on the poles of Jupiter. Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, is best known for its colorful storms, the most famous being the Great Red Spot. Now astronomers have focused on another beautiful feature of the planet, using Hubble’s ultraviolet capabilities. The extraordinary vivid […]

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MIT Geologists Trace Mercury’s Origins to Rare Meteorite

June 29, 2016

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Astronomers Trace Mercury’s Origins to Rare Meteorite

A newly published study shows that Mercury underwent a period of rapid cooling and that the planet likely has the composition of an enstatite chondrite — a type of meteorite that is extremely rare here on Earth. Around 4.6 billion years ago, the universe was a chaos of collapsing gas and spinning debris. Small particles […]

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Astronomers Prepare for the Arrival of Juno at Jupiter

June 29, 2016

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VLT Image of Jupiter

In preparation for the July arrival of NASA’s Juno spacecraft, astronomers used ESO’s Very Large Telescope to obtain new infrared images of Jupiter. They are part of a campaign to create high-resolution maps of the giant planet. These observations will inform the work to be undertaken by Juno over the coming months, helping astronomers to […]

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New Cassini Image of Saturn’s Rings and the Icy Moon Enceladus

June 27, 2016

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Cassini Views Saturn's Rings and the Icy Moon Enceladus

This newly released Cassini image shows Saturn’s rings and the icy moon Enceladus. At first glance, the most obvious features in this image from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft are Saturn’s rings and the icy moon Enceladus. Upon closer inspection, Saturn’s night side is also visible (near top center), faintly illuminated by sunlight reflected off the rings. […]

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New Horizons Reveals a ‘Super Grand Canyon’ on Charon

June 24, 2016

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Astronomers Discover "Super Grand Canyon" on Pluto’s Moon Charon

Images from NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft reveal an unusual canyon system that’s far longer and deeper than the Grand Canyon. The inset above magnifies a portion of the eastern limb in the global view of Charon at left, imaged by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft several hours before its closest approach on July 14, 2015. A […]

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Hubble Telescope Confirms New Dark Spot on Neptune

June 23, 2016

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New Dark Spot on Neptune Confirmed

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has confirmed the presence of a dark vortex in the atmosphere of Neptune. Though similar features were seen during the Voyager 2 flyby of Neptune in 1989 and by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1994, this vortex is the first one observed on Neptune in the 21st century. The discovery was […]

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NASA Juno Mission Trailer – Jupiter: Into the Unknown

June 22, 2016

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NASA Juno Mission Trailer

This short video details NASA’s Juno Mission as it prepares to explore uncharted territory this July. Secrets lie deep within Jupiter, shrouded in the solar system’s strongest magnetic field and most lethal radiation belts. On July 4, 2016, NASA’s Juno spacecraft will plunge into uncharted territory, entering orbit around the gas giant and passing closer […]

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Shadow Below – New Cassini Image of Saturn

June 21, 2016

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New Cassini Image of the Planet Saturn

This newly released Cassini image of Saturn was captured this past March. As Saturn’s northern hemisphere summer approaches, the shadows of the rings creep ever southward across the planet. Here, the ring shadows appear to obscure almost the entire southern hemisphere, while the planet’s north pole and its six-sided jet stream, known as “the hexagon,” […]

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Astronomers Confirm Youngest Known Transiting Exoplanet

June 20, 2016

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New Study Confirms Youngest Transiting Exoplanet to Date

Using the MEarth-North and MEarth-South arrays, astronomers have confirmed the discovery of the youngest known planet, only 11 million years old, which transits its star once every 5.4 days. The existence of this infant world was first detected by NASA’s Kepler K2 mission. “Young stars tend to be very blotchy, with starspots that can mimic […]

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Astronomers Find an Unexpected Amount of Giant Planets in Star Cluster Messier 67

June 17, 2016

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Unexpected Excess of Giant Planets in Star Cluster Messier 67

A team of astronomers reveals that there are far more planets of the hot Jupiter type than expected in star cluster Messier 67. The surprising discovery was obtained using a number of telescopes and instruments, among them the HARPS spectrograph at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. The denser environment in a cluster will cause […]

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Young Star FU Orionis May Hold Clues to Planet Formation

June 15, 2016

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FU Orionis May Reveal Clues to Planet Formation

By combining data from two telescopes collected over a 12-year interval, astronomers were able to gain a unique perspective on FU Orionis. In 1936, the young star FU Orionis began gobbling material from its surrounding disk of gas and dust with a sudden voraciousness. During a three-month binge, as matter turned into energy, the star […]

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Newly Discovered Kepler-1647 Is The Largest Planet That Orbits Two Suns

June 14, 2016

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Newly Discovered Kepler-1647 Is The Largest Planet That Orbits Two Suns

Using the Kepler Space Telescope, astronomers have identified the largest planet to date around a double-star system. If you cast your eyes toward the constellation Cygnus, you’ll be looking in the direction of the largest planet yet discovered around a double-star system. It’s too faint to see with the naked eye, but a team led […]

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Cassini Views a Disruption in Saturn’s Narrow F Ring

June 13, 2016

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Cassini Views a Disruption in Saturn's Ring

NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft captures a small disruption in Saturn’s F ring; which was likely caused by the interaction of a small object embedded in the ring itself and material in the core of the ring. A bright disruption in Saturn’s narrow F ring suggests it may have been disturbed recently. This feature was mostly likely […]

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New Horizons Spacecraft Views Jagged Shores of Pluto’s Highlands

June 10, 2016

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New Image of the Jagged Shores of Pluto’s Highlands

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft zooms in Pluto’s great ice plains and Krun Macula. This enhanced color view from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft shows the southeastern portion of Pluto’s great ice plains, where at lower right the plains border rugged, dark highlands informally named Krun Macula. (Krun is the lord of the underworld in the Mandaean […]

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New Reseach Shows Cloudy Days on Hot Jupiters May Hide Atmospheric Water

June 8, 2016

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New Study Shows Cloudy Days on Exoplanets May Hide Atmospheric Water

New research suggests that as much as half of the water in the atmospheres of exoplanets may be blocked by clouds or hazes. Water is a hot topic in the study of exoplanets, including “hot Jupiters,” whose masses are similar to that of Jupiter, but which are much closer to their parent star than Jupiter […]

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Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Reveals Frosted Dunes on Mars

June 7, 2016

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New Image Shows Frosted Dunes on Mars

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this image of sand dunes on Mars. Sand dunes cover much of this terrain, which has large boulders lying on flat areas between the dunes. It is late winter in the southern hemisphere of Mars, and these dunes are just getting enough sunlight to start defrosting their seasonal cover of […]

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