Planetary Science News

New SOFIA Observations Show Ceres’ True Composition

January 20, 2017

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Mid-infrared Data from SOFIA Shows Ceres’ True Composition

New SOFIA observations show the true composition of Ceres, revealing that it does not appear to have the carbon-rich surface composition that telescopes previously indicated. Using data primarily from NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, a team of astronomers has detected the presence of substantial amounts of material on the surface of Ceres that […]

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New Horizons Spacecraft Reveals a Colorful ‘Landing’ on Pluto

January 20, 2017

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Slushy Ocean Beneath Pluto’s Surface

A new NASA video uses more than 100 images taken by the New Horizons Spacecraft to reveal a trip to Pluto’s informally named Sputnik Planitia. What would it be like to actually land on Pluto? This movie was made from more than 100 images taken by NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft over six weeks of approach […]

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New Cassini Image of Small Moon Daphnis

January 19, 2017

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New Cassini Image of Daphnis

This new Cassini image features one of Saturn’s small moons. The wavemaker moon, Daphnis, is featured in this view, taken as NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made one of its ring-grazing passes over the outer edges of Saturn’s rings on January 16, 2017. This is the closest view of the small moon obtained yet. Daphnis (5 miles […]

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New Cassini Image – Peeking Over Saturn’s Shoulder

January 18, 2017

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Cassini Peeks Over Saturn's Shoulder

This newly released Cassini image shows Saturn in a way no Earth-based telescope ever could. No Earth-based telescope could ever capture a view quite like this. Earth-based views can only show Saturn’s daylit side, from within about 25 degrees of Saturn’s equatorial plane. A spacecraft in orbit, like Cassini, can capture stunning scenes that would […]

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover Examines Possible Mud Cracks

January 18, 2017

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Curiosity Rover Examines Possible Mud Cracks

NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover has examined slabs of rock cross-hatched with shallow ridges that likely originated as cracks in drying mud. “Mud cracks are the most likely scenario here,” said Curiosity science team member Nathan Stein. He is a graduate student at Caltech in Pasadena, California, who led the investigation of a site called “Old […]

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A Catalog of Kepler Habitable Zone Exoplanet Candidates

January 18, 2017

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Catalog of Habitable Zone Exoplanets

A newly published study provides a list of habitable zone exoplanet candidates from the Kepler Data Release 24 Q1-Q17 data vetting process. In our solar system, the Earth is cozily situated in the middle of the habitable zone which, depending on the model, extends roughly from Venus to Mars. The Kepler mission has as one […]

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Juno Spacecraft Image Shows Crescent Jupiter with the Great Red Spot

January 16, 2017

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Juno Image Shows Jupiter with the Great Red Spot

Using data from Juno’s JunoCam instrument, citizen scientist Roman Tkachenko created this image of a crescent Jupiter and the iconic Great Red Spot. The image also shows a series of storms shaped like white ovals, known informally as the ‘string of pearls.’ Below the Great Red Spot a reddish long-lived storm known as Oval BA […]

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Video Shows Images of Titan’s Surface from Huygens Probe

January 13, 2017

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Cassini Finds Monstrous Ice Cloud in Titan’s South Polar Region

On January 14, 2005, ESA’s Huygens probe made its descent to the surface of Saturn’s hazy moon, Titan. Carried to Saturn by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, Huygens made the most distant landing ever on another world, and the only landing on a body in the outer solar system. This video uses actual images taken by the […]

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UCLA Study Shows the Moon is Older Than Previously Thought

January 12, 2017

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Study Shows the Moon is Older Than Prevoiusly Thought

By analyzing minerals brought back by the 1971 Apollo mission, a new study from UCLA shows that the moon is 40 million to 140 million years older than scientists previously thought. A UCLA-led research team reports that the moon is at least 4.51 billion years old, or 40 million to 140 million years older than […]

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Cassini Views Mimas’ Mountain

January 10, 2017

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New Cassini Image of Mimas' Mountain

This newly released Cassini image shows Herschel Crater on Saturn’s Moon Mimas, revealing an indication of the size of the crater’s towering walls and central peak. Named after the icy moon’s discoverer, astronomer William Herschel, the crater stretches 86 miles (139 kilometers) wide — almost one-third of the diameter of Mimas (246 miles or 396 […]

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Scientists Provide New Insight into Pluto’s Bladed Terrain

January 5, 2017

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Scientists Offer Sharper Insight into Pluto’s Bladed Terrain

A team of researchers used a model similar to what meteorologists use to forecast weather and a computer simulation of the physics of evaporating ices to find evidence of snow and ice features on Pluto. Formed by erosion, the features, known as “penitentes,” are bowl-shaped depressions with blade-like spires around the edge that rise several […]

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Dawn Probe Discovers Water Ice in Ceres’ Polar Region

January 2, 2017

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Dawn Spacecraft Discovers Water Ice in Ceres’ Polar Region

The Herschel Telescope and the Dawn Spacecraft have observed the release of water vapor from Ceres and the Dawn Spacecraft has discovered water ice in Ceres’ polar region. The American Dawn space probe has been orbiting the asteroid Ceres between Mars and Jupiter since March 2015. Thanks to the two identical onboard cameras from the […]

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ESO Image of the Week – Planets in the Making

December 29, 2016

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Planets in the Making Around Young Star HD 163296

This newly released ESO image shows a disc of rotating, leftover material surrounding the young star HD 163296. Our Solar System formed out of a huge, primordial cloud of gas and dust. The vast majority of that cloud formed the Sun, while the leftover disc of rotating material around it eventually coalesced into the orbiting […]

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Captures New Image of Jupiter

December 14, 2016

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New Image of Jupiter from Juno

This newly released Juno image highlights the seventh of eight features forming a ‘string of pearls’ on Jupiter. This image, taken by the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft, highlights the seventh of eight features forming a ‘string of pearls’ on Jupiter — massive counterclockwise rotating storms that appear as white ovals in the gas […]

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Juno Mission Prepares for Jupiter Flyby

December 9, 2016

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Juno Prepares for December 11 Jupiter Flyby

NASA’s Juno spacecraft will make its third science flyby of Jupiter on Sunday, December 11, at 9:04 a.m. PST. At the time of closest approach (called perijove), Juno will be about 2,580 miles (4,150 kilometers) above the gas giant’s roiling cloud tops and traveling at a speed of about 129,000 mph (57.8 kilometers per second) […]

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft Reveals First Images from New Orbit

December 7, 2016

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Cassini Spacecraft Shows Saturn's Northern Hemisphere

New images from NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft from its new orbit of Saturn. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has sent to Earth its first views of Saturn’s atmosphere since beginning the latest phase of its mission. The new images show scenes from high above Saturn’s northern hemisphere, including the planet’s intriguing hexagon-shaped jet stream. Cassini began its new […]

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Cassini Spacecraft Makes First Ring-Grazing Plunge

December 6, 2016

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NASA's Cassini Makes First Ring-Grazing Plunge

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made its first close dive past the outer edges of Saturn’s rings since beginning its penultimate mission phase on November 3o. Cassini crossed through the plane of Saturn’s rings on December 4 at 5:09 a.m. PST (8:09 a.m. EST) at a distance of approximately 57,000 miles (91,000 kilometers) above Saturn’s cloud tops. […]

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Astronomers Probe Mystery of Pluto’s Icy Heart

December 1, 2016

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Researchers Probe Mystery of Pluto’s Icy Heart

New research looks to solve the many mysteries of Pluto’s icy heart-shaped feature. Was Pluto’s frozen heart formed in an ancient impact basin and was it once closer to the north pole? And does the icy heart conceal a subsurface ocean? Scientists are offering several new scenarios to explain the formation of Pluto’s frozen heart-shaped […]

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