Planetary Science News

Astronomers Discover Unexpectedly Cold Grains in a Planet-Forming Disc

February 4, 2016

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Unexpectedly Cold Grains in Planet-Forming Disc Discovered

Using the ALMA and IRAM telescopes, a team of astronomers has made the first direct measurement of the temperature of the large dust grains in the outer parts of a planet-forming disc around a young star. By applying a novel technique to observations of an object nicknamed the Flying Saucer they find that the grains […]

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Adjusts Flight Path for Jupiter

February 4, 2016

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Burns for Jupiter

Launched in 2011, the Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter in 2016 to study Jupiter from an elliptical, polar orbit. NASA’s solar-powered Juno spacecraft successfully executed a maneuver to adjust its flight path today, February 3. The maneuver refined the spacecraft’s trajectory, helping set the stage for Juno’s arrival at the solar system’s largest planetary […]

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Cassini Reveals Saturn’s Rings Less Dense Than They Appear

February 3, 2016

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Saturn's B Rings Less than Meets the Eye

New data from NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft reveals that there is little correlation between how dense the rings of Saturn might appear to be — in terms of its opacity and reflectiveness — and the amount of material they contain. It seems intuitive that an opaque material should contain more stuff than a more translucent substance. […]

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New Horizons Spacecraft Reveals More Water Ice on Pluto’s Surface Than Previously Thought

February 1, 2016

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Astronomers Find More Water Ice on Pluto’s Surface Than Previously Thought

New data from the New Horizons Spacecraft reveals more water ice on Pluto’s surface than previously thought. This false-color image, derived from observations in infrared light by the Ralph/Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA) instrument, shows where the spectral features of water ice are abundant on Pluto’s surface. It is based on two LEISA scans […]

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New Animation Shows a Simulated Flight Over the Surface of Dwarf Planet Ceres

February 1, 2016

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New Animation Takes a Colorful Flight Over Ceres

Take a flight over dwarf planet Ceres in this video made with images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. The simulated flyover was made by the mission’s camera team at Germany’s national aeronautics and space research center. A colorful new animation shows a simulated flight over the surface of dwarf planet Ceres, based on images from NASA’s […]

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New Cassini Image Shows Methane in Saturn’s Atmosphere

February 1, 2016

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Cassini Image of Methane in Saturn's Atmosphere

The soft, bright-and-dark bands revealed in this new image from the Cassini Spacecraft are the signature of methane in Saturn’s atmosphere. This image was taken in wavelengths of light that are absorbed by methane on Saturn. Dark areas are regions where light travels deeper into the atmosphere (passing through more methane) before reflecting and scattering […]

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Planet 2MASS J2126 is 1 Trillion Kilometers Away from Its Parent Star

January 26, 2016

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Astronomers Find a Lonely Planet and Its Distant Star

New research reveals that planet 2MASS J2126 and the star TYC 9486-927-1 are moving through space together, implying that they are associated. A team of astronomers in the UK, USA and Australia have found a planet, until now thought to be a free floating or lonely planet, in a huge orbit around its star. Incredibly […]

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NASA Takes a Closer Look at Planet Nine

January 25, 2016

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Astronomers Reveal Evidence of Distant Gas Giant Planet in Our Solar System

What is Planet 9? NASA scientists take a closer look at the newly discovered evidence from Caltech. Caltech researchers have found evidence suggesting there may be a “Planet X” deep in the solar system. This hypothetical Neptune-sized planet orbits our sun in a highly elongated orbit far beyond Pluto. The object, which the researchers have […]

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Cassini Spacecraft Captures a Half-Lit View of Enceladus

January 25, 2016

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Cassini Captures a Half-Lit View of Enceladus

NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft delivers another great image of Enceladus. This half-lit view of Enceladus bears a passing resemblance to similar views of Earth’s own natural satellite, but the similarities end there. Earth’s rocky moon is covered in dark, volcanic basins and brighter, mountainous highlands — both exceedingly ancient. The surface of icy Enceladus is uniformly […]

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Astronomers Discover a Giant Exoplanet and Four New Companion Stars

January 22, 2016

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The Pan-Pacific Planet Search III Five Companions Orbiting Giant Stars

Using a new systematic radial velocity search for brown dwarf and stellar-mass companions to stars, astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have discovered one new giant exoplanet and four new companion stars. The search for exoplanets via the radial velocity technique has been underway for nearly 30 years. The method searches for wobbles in […]

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Curiosity Rover Continues to Gather Martian Soil Samples

January 22, 2016

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Rover Curiosity Tastes Scooped, Sieved Sand

NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover continues its campaign to study active sand dune on Mars, scooping and analyzing samples. At its current location for inspecting an active sand dune, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is adding some sample-processing moves not previously used on Mars. Sand from the second and third samples the rover is scooping from “Namib […]

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Planet Nine – Astronomers Find Evidence of a Real Ninth Planet in Our Solar System

January 21, 2016

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Astronomers Reveal Evidence of Distant Gas Giant Planet in Our Solar System

Scientists at the California Institute of Technology have discovered evidence of a giant planet tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the outer solar system. The newly discovered object, which the researchers have nicknamed Planet Nine, has a mass about 10 times that of Earth and orbits about 20 times farther from the sun on […]

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Cassini Spacecraft Image Shows the Difference between Janus and Tethys

January 20, 2016

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New Cassini View of Janus and Tethys

This image from the Cassini Spacecraft demonstrates the main difference between small moons and large ones. It’s all about the moon’s shape. Moons like Tethys (660 miles or 1,062 kilometers across) are large enough that their own gravity is sufficient to overcome the material strength of the substances they are made of (mostly ice in […]

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Hubble at 25 Series: How Hubble Has Helped Pave the Way for Interplanetary Missions

January 19, 2016

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Hubble at 25 Series Paving the Way

This new segment of the Hubble at 25 series discusses how the Hubble Space Telescope has not only given us a better understanding of our solar system, but it has also helped pave the way for interplanetary missions to be successful. By monitoring target destinations, Hubble has enabled spacecraft mission planners to optimize the science […]

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New Horizons Spacecraft Reveals Possible Ice Volcano on Pluto

January 15, 2016

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New Horizons Discovers Possible Ice Volcano on Pluto

A new image from the New Horizons Spacecraft reveals more of Pluto’s surface features. Scientists with NASA’s New Horizons mission have assembled this highest-resolution color view of one of two potential cryovolcanoes spotted on the surface of Pluto by the New Horizons spacecraft in July 2015. This feature, known as Wright Mons, was informally named […]

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Cassini Spacecraft Provides Close-up of Enceladus Terrain

January 14, 2016

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Cassini Close-up of Enceladus Dalmatian Terrain

This new image taken by the Cassini Spacecraft on December 19, 2015 provides a close-up of Enceladus. This terrain is on the moon’s Saturn-facing side, a few degrees south of the equator. The view has been rotated so that north on Enceladus is up. During its final close flyby of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, NASA’s Cassini […]

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Dawn Images Reveal New Details on Dwarf Planet Ceres

January 12, 2016

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Dawn ImagesShow New Details On Ceres

New images NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft reveal surface features of dwarf planet Ceres in exquisite detail. Dawn took these images near its current altitude of 240 miles (385 kilometers) from Ceres, between December 19 and 23, 2015. Kupalo Crater, one of the youngest craters on Ceres, shows off many fascinating attributes at the high image resolution […]

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Views Seasonal Terrain on Mars

January 12, 2016

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New NASA Image Shows the Surface of Mars

This newly released image shows radial troughs on the surface of Mars. Mars’ seasonal cap of carbon dioxide ice has eroded many beautiful terrains as it sublimates (goes directly from ice to vapor) every spring. In the region where the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took this image, […]

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