Planetary Science News

New Horizons Reveals a Distinct Water-Ice Signature on the Surface of Hydra

May 6, 2016

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New Horizons Reveals Water-Ice Signature on the Surface of Hydra

NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft reveals a distinct water-ice signature on the surface of Pluto’s outermost moon, Hydra. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has sent home the first compositional data about Pluto’s four small satellites. The new data show the surface of Hydra, Pluto’s outermost small moon, is dominated by nearly pristine water ice – confirming hints […]

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Astronomers Discover Three Potentially Habitable Worlds

May 3, 2016

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Three Potentially Habitable Worlds Found Around Nearby Ultracool Dwarf Star TRAPPIST-1

Astronomers have discovered three planets with sizes and temperatures similar to those of Venus and Earth, orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth. Astronomers using the TRAPPIST telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory have discovered three planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth. These worlds have sizes and […]

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Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Reveals Clues about Volcanoes Under Ice on Ancient Mars

May 3, 2016

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Clues about Volcanoes Under Ice on Ancient Mars Revealed

New evidence from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter suggests that volcanoes erupted beneath an ice sheet on Mars billions of years ago. The research about these volcanoes helps show there was extensive ice on ancient Mars. It also adds information about an environment combining heat and moisture, which could have provided favorable conditions for microbial life. […]

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Evidence Points to Planet Nine Existing, But How Was it Produced?

May 3, 2016

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Update on Planet Nine

New research examines Planet Nine and the mystery behind its existence. Earlier this year scientists presented evidence for Planet Nine, a Neptune-mass planet in an elliptical orbit 10 times farther from our Sun than Pluto. Since then theorists have puzzled over how this planet could end up in such a distant orbit. New research by […]

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Newly Released Cassini Image – The Dew Drop of Saturn

May 2, 2016

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New Cassini Image Dew Drop of Saturn

This newly released image of Saturn and Enceladus was taken by NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft last May. The water-world Enceladus appears here to sit atop Saturn’s rings like a drop of dew upon a leaf. Even though it appears like a tiny drop before the might of the giant Saturn, Enceladus reminds us that even small […]

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New Elevation Map of Pluto’s ‘Heart’ from New Horizons

May 2, 2016

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New Elevation Map of Pluto from New Horizons

NASA releases a new elevation map of Pluto’s heart-shaped surface area. This newest shaded relief view of the region surrounding the left side of Pluto’s heart-shaped feature – informally named Sputnik Planum – shows that the vast expanse of the icy surface is on average 2 miles (3 kilometers) lower than the surrounding terrain. Angular […]

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Astronomers Discover Moon Orbiting the Dwarf Planet Makemake

April 26, 2016

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Hubble Space Telescope Discovers Moon Orbiting the Dwarf Planet Makemake

Using the Hubble Space Telescope a team of astronomers just discovered a moon orbiting dwarf planet Makemake — the third largest known object past the orbit of Neptune, about two thirds the size of Pluto. Peering to the outskirts of our solar system, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has spotted a small, dark moon orbiting Makemake, […]

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New Horizons Image Shows Pluto’s ‘Halo’ Craters

April 21, 2016

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New Horizons Views Pluto’s ‘Halo’ Craters

This newly released image from the New Horizons Spacecraft looks within Pluto’s informally named Vega Terra region, showing a field of eye-catching craters that looks like a cluster of bright halos scattered across a dark landscape. The region is far west of the hemisphere NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft viewed during close approach last summer. The […]

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Scientists Identify a Free-Floating, Planetary-Mass Object in TW Hydrae

April 20, 2016

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Astronomers Find Lone Planetary-Mass Object in Family of Stars

New data from WISE and its predecessor, the Two Micron All Sky Survey, reveals the lowest-mass free-floating object in TW Hydrae family — a likely brown dwarf called WISEA J114724.10−204021.3. In 2011, astronomers announced that our galaxy is likely teeming with free-floating planets. In fact, these lonely worlds, which sit quietly in the darkness of […]

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New Images Reveal More Details on Ceres’ Craters

April 19, 2016

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New Ceres Images Reveal Bright Craters

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has revealed marvelous sights on dwarf planet Ceres during its first year in orbit, including the mysterious bright spots in Occator Crater. Craters with bright material on dwarf planet Ceres shine in new images from NASA’s Dawn mission. In its lowest-altitude mapping orbit, at a distance of 240 miles (385 kilometers) from […]

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New Horizons Shows Pluto’s Haze Varies in Brightness

April 18, 2016

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New Research Shows Pluto’s Haze Varies in Brightness

New images from NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft reveal that Pluto’s haze varies in brightness. Scientists on NASA’s New Horizons mission team are learning more about the structure and behavior of Pluto’s complex atmosphere by discovering new attributes of its extensive haze layers. The hazes were first discovered by New Horizons in July, as the spacecraft […]

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Cassini Y-Shaped Discontinuity on Enceladus

April 18, 2016

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Cassini Spacecraft Views Enceladus' South Pole

NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft views a Y-shaped discontinuity on Enceladus’ south pole. A sinuous feature snakes northward from Enceladus’ south pole like a giant tentacle. This feature, which stretches from the terminator near center, toward upper left, is actually tectonic in nature, created by stresses in Enceladus’ icy shell. Geologists call features like these on Enceladus […]

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Stars Strip Away the Atmosphere of Super-Earths

April 13, 2016

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Stars Strip Away the Atmosphere of Nearby Super-Earths

Even a super-Earth can fly too close to the sun, according to a new study from Yale University. An international team of astronomers has found a new category of planets beyond our solar system whose atmosphere has been stripped bare by the radiation from their own sun. The findings will appear in the journal Nature […]

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New Cassini View of Saturn’s Rings

April 11, 2016

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New Image of Saturn's Rings

Cassini gets a closer look at Saturn’s rings. It’s difficult to get a sense of scale when viewing Saturn’s rings, but the Cassini Division (seen here between the bright B ring and dimmer A ring) is almost as wide as the planet Mercury. The 2,980-mile-wide (4,800-kilometer-wide) division in Saturn’s rings is thought to be caused […]

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Hubblecast 91 Video: The Future of Hubble

April 11, 2016

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Hubblecast 91 Video

In April 2016 the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope celebrates its 26th year in orbit. During this time the telescope has made many remarkable discoveries. But what comes next? In this first episode about the future of Hubble scientists and staff share with us their view on what Hubble still has to offer. Credit: NASA & […]

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Cassini Spacecraft Not Affected by Hypothetical Planet 9

April 8, 2016

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NASA Reports Cassini Spacecraft Not Affected by Hypothetical Planet 9

According to mission managers and orbit determination experts at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Cassini Spacecraft is not experiencing unexplained deviations in its orbit around Saturn. Several recent news stories have reported that a mysterious anomaly in Cassini’s orbit could potentially be explained by the gravitational tug of a theorized massive new planet in our […]

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Hot Jupiter KELT-4Ab Boasts Rare Triple Suns

April 6, 2016

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Newly Discovered Hot Jupiter KELT-4Ab Boasts Rare Triple Suns

Using the Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope, a team of astronomers has discovered an alien planet that has three suns in its sky. Eat your heart out, Tatooine: A newly discovered alien planet has not one, not two, but three suns in its sky. While scientists know of many planets with two suns, a planet with […]

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Newly Released Cassini Image – Saturn Askew

April 5, 2016

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New Image of Saturn from Cassini

Another great image of Saturn from NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft. As a convention for public release, Cassini images of Saturn are generally oriented so that Saturn appears north up, but the spacecraft views the planet and its expansive rings from all sorts of angles. Here, a half-lit Saturn sits askew as tiny Dione (698 miles or […]

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