Planetary Science News

11 Billion Year Old Stars Have Earth-like Planets

June 29, 2015

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Study Shows Even Stars Older Than 11 Billion Years Have Earth-Like Planets

A newly published study has shown with high precision that even stars older than 11 billion years have Earth-like planets. A new study of 33 Kepler stars with solar-like oscillations to be published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. According to lead author of the article Víctor Silva Aguirre from the Stellar Astrophysics […]

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SOFIA Telescope Preparing for Pluto’s Occultation

June 29, 2015

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SOFIA to View Pluto Occultation

The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy will attempt to view the dwarf planet Pluto as it passes in front of a distant star. The Stratosphere Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is a modified Boeing 747SP aircraft that makes celestial observations with its German-built 100-inch telescope. The telescope is enhanced to collect infrared radiation, and is […]

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Ceres Spots Remain a Mystery in Latest Dawn Images

June 22, 2015

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Ceres Spots Remain a Mystery in Latest Dawn Images

Although new images from the Dawn spacecraft provide more clues, the unusual bright spots on Ceres continue to mystify. The closer we get to Ceres, the more intriguing the distant dwarf planet becomes. New images of Ceres from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft provide more clues about its mysterious bright spots, and also reveal a pyramid-shaped peak […]

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New Cassini Images of Saturn’s Moon Dione

June 19, 2015

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Cassini Views of Saturn's Moon Dione

NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft reveals it latest flyby images of Saturn’s moon Dione. The rugged landscape of Saturn’s fracture-faced moon Dione is revealed in images sent back by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft from its latest flyby. Cassini buzzed past Dione on June 16, coming within 321 miles (516 kilometers) of the moon’s surface. Raw, unprocessed images from […]

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Cassini Reveals Titan’s Atmosphere Even More Earth-like Than Previously Thought

June 18, 2015

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PIA18309: Frozen Paradise

New research reveals that Titan’s atmosphere is even more Earth-like than previously thought and provides evidence for why Titan’s atmosphere is losing about seven tonnes of hydrocarbons and nitriles every day. Scientists at UCL have observed how a widespread polar wind is driving gas from the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan. The team analyzed data […]

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Kepler-138b: First Exoplanet Smaller Than Earth to Have Its Mass and Size Measured

June 18, 2015

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 (Click for full image) The artistic concept shows the planetary system harboring Kepler-138b, the first exoplanet smaller than Earth with both a mass and size measurement. The sizes of the planets relative to the star have been exaggerated.

A team of astronomers have measured the mass and size of the smallest exoplanet yet, a Mars-sized planet named Kepler-138b orbiting a red dwarf star about 200 light years from Earth. Determining the size of an Earth-size exoplanet by the amount of starlight it blocks hundreds of light-years away once was the realm of science […]

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Dissolution is a Major Cause of Landscape Evolution on Titan, Possible Origin of Its Lakes

June 17, 2015

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Close-up Image of Ligeia Mare

New research reveals that Titan’s surface dissolves in a similar process that creates sinkholes on Earth, finding that the dissolution process occurs on Titan some 30 times slower than on Earth due to the longer length of Titan’s year and the fact it only rains during Titan summer. Saturn’s moon Titan is home to seas […]

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Study Reveals Ancient Climate of Mars Was Cold and Icy

June 16, 2015

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Early Climate of Mars Was Cold and Icy

Using a three-dimensional atmospheric circulation model to compare a water cycle on Mars under different scenarios 3 to 4 billion years ago, researchers at Harvard believe Mars was cold and icy billions of years ago – not warm, wet and Earth-like. Cambridge, Massachusetts – June 16, 2015 – The high seas of Mars may never […]

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Scientists Propose Possible Mechanism for Saturn’s Polar Cyclones

June 16, 2015

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Model Predicts Cyclone Activity on Other Planets

Atmospheric scientists from MIT have developed a simple model that may predict cyclone activity on other planets. For the last decade, astronomers have observed curious “hotspots” on Saturn’s poles. In 2008, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft beamed back close-up images of these hotspots, revealing them to be immense cyclones, each as wide as the Earth. Scientists estimate […]

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Scientists Discover Evidence of Methane in Martian Meteorites

June 16, 2015

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Scientists Discover Methane in Mars Meteorites

A newly published study details the discovery of methane in Martian meteorites, a possible clue in the search for life on the Red Planet. The researchers examined samples from six meteorites of volcanic rock that originated on Mars. The meteorites contain gases in the same proportion and with the same isotopic composition as the Martian […]

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Helium-Shrouded Planets May Be Common around Other Stars in Our Galaxy

June 12, 2015

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Spitzer Reveals Helium-Shrouded Planets May Be Common in Our Galaxy

Using data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers propose that helium atmospheres may be found on thousands of warm Neptune- and sub-Neptune-sized exoplanets in our galaxy. They wouldn’t float like balloons or give you the chance to talk in high, squeaky voices, but planets with helium skies may constitute an exotic planetary class in our […]

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Hubble Detects Stratosphere on Distant Planet WASP-33b

June 12, 2015

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Hubble Telescope Detects Stratosphere on Distant Planet

Using NASA’s Hubble Telescope, a team of researchers has detected a stratosphere on the planet WASP-33b. A stratosphere occurs when molecules in the atmosphere absorb ultraviolet and visible light from the star. This absorption warms the stratosphere and acts as a kind of sunscreen layer for the planet below. NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has detected […]

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Newest Dawn Images View Bright Spots on Ceres

June 10, 2015

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New Image of Bright Spots on Ceres

New images taken on June 6, 2015 get a closer look at the mysterious bright spots on dwarf planet Ceres. New images of dwarf planet Ceres, taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, show the cratered surface of this mysterious world in sharper detail than ever before. These are among the first snapshots from Dawn’s second mapping […]

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Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Detects Impact Glass on Mars

June 9, 2015

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Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Detects Impact Glass on Surface of Mars

Newly detected deposits of glass within impact craters on Mars could provide details into the possibility of past life on the Red Planet. NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has detected deposits of glass within impact craters on Mars. Though formed in the searing heat of a violent impact, such deposits might provide a delicate window […]

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How Hubble Has Helped Scientists Study Exoplanets

June 8, 2015

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Hubble 25th Anniversary Video

This sixth video in a series celebrating Hubble’s 25th anniversary explains how Hubble has helped scientists study exoplanets, or planets outside our solar system, as never before. “Oh Planet, What Art Thou?” This episode of “Hubble at 25″ uncovers Hubble’s key role in the study of planets beyond our own solar system. Thousands of “exoplanet” […]

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New Fly Over Video Shows a Unique Perspective of Ceres

June 8, 2015

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New Fly Over Video of Ceres

Based on observations of Ceres that were taken from NASA’s Dawn’s Spacecraft, a new animated video reveals a unique perspective of this heavily cratered, mysterious world. A new video animation of dwarf planet Ceres, based on images taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, provides dramatic flyover views of this heavily cratered, mysterious world. The images come […]

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New HiRISE Image of a “Fresh” Crater Near Sirenum Fossae

June 5, 2015

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A Fresh Crater Near Sirenum Fossae

This new image from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows a 1-kilometer wide impact crater in the Sirenum Fossae region of Mars. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter acquired this closeup image of a “fresh” (on a geological scale, though quite old on a human scale) impact crater in […]

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Hubble Reveals That Two of Pluto’s Moons Wobble Unpredictably

June 4, 2015

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Hubble Shows Pluto’s Moons Tumbling in Absolute Chaos

New research provides important constraints on the sequence of events that led to the formation of the Pluto system, revealing the resonant interactions and chaotic rotation of Pluto’s small moons. If you lived on one of Pluto’s moons, you might have a hard time determining when, or from which direction, the sun will rise each […]

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