Planetary Science News

A Geologic History of an Ancient Martian Lake System in Jezero Crater

March 26, 2015

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Ancient Martian Lake System Records Two Water-Related Events

Using NASA data, researchers from Brown University created a geologic history of flowing water on the surface of Mars. Providence, Rhode Island (Brown University) — Researchers from Brown University have completed a new analysis of an ancient Martian lake system in Jezero Crater, near the planet’s equator. The study finds that the onslaught of water […]

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Curiosity Finds Evidence of Nitrates on Mars

March 24, 2015

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Curiosity Finds Biologically Useful Nitrogen on Mars

NASA’s Curiosity rover has discovered evidence of nitrates in scooped samples of windblown sand and dust at the “Rocknest” site, providing further evidence that the ingredients needed for life were present on Mars billions of years ago. Nitrogen is essential for all known forms of life, since it is used in the building blocks of […]

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Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite – The Search for Planets Outside Our Solar System

March 23, 2015

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TESS — Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is set to discover thousands of exoplanets in orbit around the brightest stars in the sky. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is an Explorer-class planet finder. In the first-ever spaceborne all-sky transit survey, TESS will identify planets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, orbiting a wide range of […]

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“Chemical Fingerprints” Could Help Scientists Recognize Life on the Surface of Exoplanets

March 20, 2015

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Surface Biosignatures of Exoplanets May Help Detect Extraterrestrial Life

A new catalog of reflectance spectra for a diverse range of pigmented microorganisms may help scientists recognize life on the surface of planets orbiting stars beyond our solar system. A team of astronomers and biologists has recorded the “chemical fingerprints” of 137 different species of microorganism. In future, this could help to recognize life on […]

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SOFIA Reveals Missing Link Between Supernovae and Planet Formation

March 20, 2015

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Missing Link Between Supernovae and Planet Formation

A newly published study reveals that supernovae are capable of producing enough material to form planets. Using NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), an international scientific team discovered that supernovae are capable of producing a substantial amount of the material from which planets like Earth can form. These findings are published in the March […]

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Research Shows Billions of Planets in the Milky Way Have the Potential for Life

March 19, 2015

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Planets in the Habitable Zone around Most Stars

Astronomers reveal that billions of the stars in the Milky Way will have one to three planets in the habitable zone, where there is the potential for liquid water and life to exist. Astronomers have discovered thousands of exoplanets in our galaxy, the Milky Way, using the Kepler satellite and many of them have multiple […]

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MAVEN Spacecraft Detects Aurora and Mysterious Dust Cloud around Mars

March 19, 2015

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MAVEN Detects Aurora and Mysterious Dust Cloud around Mars

New research being presented at the 46th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference details the discovery of an unexplained high-altitude dust cloud and aurora that reaches deep into the Martian atmosphere. NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft has observed two unexpected phenomena in the Martian atmosphere: an unexplained high-altitude dust cloud and aurora that […]

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Chiron May Possess Saturn-Like Rings

March 16, 2015

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Chiron May Have Saturn-like Rings

Using data from NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility and the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, astronomers reveal features around Chiron that may signal rings, jets, or a shell of dust. There are only five bodies in our solar system that are known to bear rings. The most obvious is the planet Saturn; to a lesser […]

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New Surface Composition Maps of Mercury Provide Clues to the Planet’s History

March 16, 2015

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New Surface Composition Maps of Mercury

Using data from the MESSENGER spacecraft, scientists reveal previously unrecognized geochemical terranes of Mercury. Washington, D.C. – Two new papers from members of the MESSENGER Science Team provide global-scale maps of Mercury’s surface chemistry that reveal previously unrecognized geochemical terranes — large regions that have compositions distinct from their surroundings. The presence of these large […]

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Habitable Exoplanets Could Experience a Wide Range of Climates

March 13, 2015

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Habitable Exoplanets Could Experience Chaotic Resonance

New research from astronomers at the University of Washington details how some habitable exoplanets could experience wildly unpredictable climates. As telescopes of ever-greater power scan the cosmos looking for life, knowing where to look — and where not to waste time looking — will be of great value. New research by University of Washington astronomer […]

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Curiosity Rover Delivers Rock Powder Sample

March 13, 2015

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Rover Delivers Mars Rock Powder Sample

After a temporary delay, the Curiosity Mars rover used its robotic arm to sieve and deliver a rock-powder sample to an onboard instrument. The Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) analytical instrument inside the rover received the sample powder. This sample comes from a rock target called “Telegraph Peak,” the third target drilled during about six months […]

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Hubble Reveals Underground Ocean on Jupiter’s Moon Ganymede

March 12, 2015

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Interior of Jupiter’s Largest Moon Ganymede

By watching the rocking motion of the two aurorae, astronomers have determined that a large amount of saltwater exists beneath Jupiter’s moon Ganymede. NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has the best evidence yet for an underground saltwater ocean on Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon. The subterranean ocean is thought to have more water than all the water […]

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Saturn’s Moon Enceladus Exhibits Signs of Hydrothermal Activity

March 12, 2015

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Data Suggest Saturn Moon's Ocean May Harbor Hydrothermal Activity

Using data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, two newly published studies reveal the first clear evidence that Saturn’s moon Enceladus exhibits signs of present-day hydrothermal activity which may resemble that seen in the deep oceans on Earth. The implications of such activity on a world other than our planet open up unprecedented scientific possibilities. “These findings […]

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NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft Achieves Orbit Around Ceres

March 6, 2015

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Dawn Spacecraft Becomes First to Orbit a Dwarf Planet

At 5:36 a.m. PST on March 6th, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft became the first mission to achieve orbit around a dwarf planet. The spacecraft was approximately 38,000 miles (61,000) kilometers from Ceres when it was captured by the dwarf planet’s gravity at about 4:39 a.m. PST (7:39 a.m. EST) Friday. Mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion […]

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New Isotopic Measurements Reveal Mars Once Had More Water than Earth’s Arctic Ocean

March 6, 2015

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Mars Had More Water than the Arctic Ocean

New measurements by researchers at NASA reveal that an ocean once covered approximately twenty percent of the Martian surface, making Mars is considerably wetter than many previous estimates and raising the odds for the ancient habitability of the Red Planet. A primitive ocean on Mars held more water than Earth’s Arctic Ocean, according to NASA […]

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The Senkyo Region of Titan

March 5, 2015

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New Cassini Image of Titan

This new Cassini image was acquired at a distance of approximately 1.2 million miles and looks toward the Saturn-facing side of Titan. Named after a Japanese paradise, the Senkyo region of Titan (the dark area below and to the right of center) is a bit less welcoming than its namesake. With a very inhospitable average […]

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Astronomers Identify a Quadruple Star System, 30 Ari

March 5, 2015

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Researchers Identify a Quadruple Star System

Using the Robo-AO adaptive optics system and the PALM-3000 adaptive optics system, astronomers have identified a planet in a quadruple star system for only the second time. Growing up as a planet with more than one parent star has its challenges. Though the planets in our solar system circle just one star — our sun […]

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