Planetary Science News

Researchers Predicted Blue, Red and Green Aurorae at Mars

May 29, 2015

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Blue Aurorae Visible in Martian Sky

Astronomers believe glowing aurorae of blue, with red and green hues would be visible to astronauts walking on Mars. For the first time, an international team of scientists from NASA, the Institute of Planetology and Astrophysics of Grenoble (IPAG), the European Space Agency and Aalto University in Finland, have predicted that colorful, glowing aurorae can […]

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A New View of Ceres, Dawn Shows Finer Detail

May 28, 2015

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New Dawn Image of Ceres

This new image from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft shows finer details of the dwarf planet Ceres. The spacecraft snapped the image at a distance of 3,200 miles (5,100 kilometers) with a resolution of 1,600 feet (480 meters) per pixel. The image is part of a sequence taken for navigational purposes. After transmitting these images to Earth […]

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New Cassini View of Rhea’s Horizon

May 27, 2015

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Cassini Views the Surface of Rhea

This newly released Cassini image shows the surface of Saturn’s moon Rhea. Gazing off toward the horizon is thought-provoking no matter what body’s horizon it is. Rhea’s horizon is slightly irregular and battered by craters, so thoughts inevitably turn towards the forces that shape these icy worlds. The surface of Rhea (949 miles or 1527 […]

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Dawn Captures New Images of Ceres Bright Spots

May 21, 2015

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Up Close View of Ceres Bright Spots

New images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft show the closest view to date of the mysterious bright spots on Ceres. NASA’s Dawn mission captured a sequence of images, taken for navigation purposes, of dwarf planet Ceres on May 16, 2015. The image showcases the group of the brightest spots on Ceres, which continue to mystify scientists. […]

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MESSENGER Collects Important Data on Mercury during Its Orbital Decay

May 19, 2015

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MESSENGER Collects Data on Mercury During Its Orbital Decay

NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft collected low-altitude magnetic field measurements during its orbital decay, revealing that magnetism generated by the Mercury’s core dates to the very early history of the planet. Providence, Rhode Island (Brown University) — Though the MESSENGER mission to Mercury ended late last month with a planned collision into the planet’s surface, analysis of […]

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Kepler Observes Neptune and Its Moons Triton and Nereid

May 15, 2015

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Kepler Observes Neptune and Its Moons

Seventy days worth of solar system observations from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, taken during its reinvented “K2″ mission, are highlighted in this sped-up movie. The planet Neptune appears on day 15, followed by its moon Triton, which looks small and faint. Keen-eyed observers can also spot Neptune’s tiny moon Nereid at day 24. Neptune is not […]

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Antarctica’s Larsen B Ice Shelf Will Disintegrate Before the End of the Decade

May 15, 2015

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Antarctica’s Larsen B Ice Shelf Nearing Its Final Act

A newly published NASA study reveals that the last remaining section of Antarctica’s Larsen B Ice Shelf is weakening and will likely to disintegrate completely before the end of the decade. A team led by Ala Khazendar of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, found the remnant of the Larsen B Ice Shelf […]

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Study Shows Europa’s Mystery Dark Material Could Be Sea Salt

May 13, 2015

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Europa's Mystery Material Could Be Sea Salt

New research from NASA reveals that the dark material coating some geological features of Jupiter’s moon Europa is likely sea salt from a subsurface ocean, discolored by exposure to radiation. The presence of sea salt on Europa’s surface suggests the ocean is interacting with its rocky seafloor — an important consideration in determining whether the […]

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LBT Reveals Lava Lake on Jupiter’s Moon Io

May 12, 2015

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LBT Reveals Lava Lake on Io

The Large Binocular Telescope provides the first detailed observations of a lava lake on Jupiter’s moon Io. With the first detailed observations of a lava lake on a moon of Jupiter, the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory in Arizona places itself as the forerunner of the next generation of Extremely Large Telescopes. The applied high-resolution imaging […]

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New Images by NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft Show Mysterious Bright Spots on Ceres

May 11, 2015

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Ceres Animation Showcases Bright Spots

A new sequence of images taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft shows the mysterious bright spots on the dwarf planet Ceres. The images were taken on May 3 and 4, 2015 from a distance of 8,400 miles (13,600 kilometers). In this closest-yet view, the brightest spots within a crater in the northern hemisphere are revealed to […]

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Activity on Enceladus Could Be ‘Curtain Eruptions’

May 7, 2015

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Optical Illusion Responsible for Individual Jets on Saturn's Moon

A newly published study reveals that most of the eruptions from Saturn’s moon Enceladus might be diffuse curtains rather than discrete jets. Many features that appear to be individual jets of material erupting along the length of prominent fractures in Enceladus’ south polar region might be phantoms created by an optical illusion, according to a […]

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NIAC Program Working on Ideas for an Ecosystem on Mars

May 7, 2015

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Planting an Ecosystem on Mars

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Program is funding cutting-edge work that is testing the viability of using ecosystem-building pioneer organisms to churn out oxygen by using Martian regolith. Taming the brutal environment of Mars for future human explorers to survive and thrive there may demand a touch of “ecopoiesis” – the creation of an ecosystem […]

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Scientists Find Evidence of Briny Water at Gale Crater

May 5, 2015

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Transient Liquid Water at Gale Crater

Data from NASA’s Curiosity rover reveals transient liquid water and water activity at Gale Crater on Mars. Fayatteville, Arkansas – Data collected on Mars by NASA’s Curiosity rover and analyzed by University of Arkansas researchers indicate that water, in the form of brine, may exist under certain conditions on the planet’s surface. The finding, published […]

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Surface Features Detected on Pluto, Possible Polar Cap

April 30, 2015

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Possible Polar Cap on Pluto

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has detected surface features on Pluto, revealing bright and dark regions on the surface. The images were captured in early to mid-April from within 70 million miles (113 million kilometers), using the telescopic Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) camera on New Horizons. A technique called image deconvolution sharpens the raw, unprocessed images […]

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New Horizons Spacecraft Views Pluto and Charon Rotation

April 30, 2015

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New Horizons Sees Pluto and Charon

These new images from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft show one complete rotation of Pluto and its largest moon Charon. This series of New Horizons images of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, was taken at 13 different times spanning 6.5 days, starting on April 12 and ending on April 18, 2015. During that time, the […]

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Robotic Telescope Reveals Three Super-Earths Orbiting HD 7924

April 29, 2015

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Astronomers Discover Three Super-Earths Orbiting HD 7924

Using a telescope that robotically searches for planets on clear nights, astronomers have discovered three super-Earth mass planets orbiting HD 7924. A team of astronomers using ground-based telescopes in Hawaiʻi, California and Arizona recently discovered a planetary system orbiting a nearby star that is only 54 light-years away. All three planets orbit their star at […]

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NASA’s MESSENGER Spacecraft Seeks to Unmask the Secrets of Mercury

April 28, 2015

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NASA Unmasking the Secrets of Mercury

Since entering Mercury orbit on March 17, 2011, NASA’s MESSENGER Spacecraft has provided astronomers with over 250,000 images and extensive other data sets. The Mercury Atmosphere and Surface Composition Spectrometer (MASCS) instrument aboard NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft was designed to study both the exosphere and surface of the planet Mercury. To learn more about the minerals […]

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