Planetary Science News

Scientists Find Evidence of Previously Unrecognized Water Reservoir on Mars

December 19, 2014

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Scientists Find Meteoritic Evidence of Mars Water Reservoir

A newly published study provides evidence for a previously unrecognized hydrogen reservoir on Mars, which could account for a large part of the initial water budge of Mars. NASA and an international team of planetary scientists have found evidence in meteorites on Earth that indicates Mars has a distinct and global reservoir of water or […]

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Europa Plumes Remain Elusive

December 19, 2014

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Cassini Helps Hunt for Plumes on Europa

Data NASA’s Cassini spacecraft reveals that Europa contributes less material to its surrounding environment than previously thought. A fresh look at data collected by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft during its 2001 flyby of Jupiter shows that Europa’s tenuous atmosphere is even thinner than previously thought and also suggests that the thin, hot gas around the moon […]

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MESSENGER Reveals Possible Source of Surge of Calcium in Mercury Exosphere

December 17, 2014

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MESSENGER Observations Suggest Recurring Meteor Shower on Mercury

New data from NASA’s MESSENGER has revealed seasonal surges of calcium in the exosphere of Mercury, suggesting that a periodic meteor shower from the debris trail left by comet Encke is the source. The closest planet to the sun appears to get hit by a periodic meteor shower, possibly associated with a comet that produces […]

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A High-Obliquity Planet Could Be Habitable

December 17, 2014

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High Obliquity Planet Could Be Habitable

A newly published study from scientists at MIT reveals that even a high-obliquity planet with a nearly horizontal axis could potentially support life, so long as the planet were completely covered by an ocean. Nearly 2,000 planets beyond our solar system have been identified to date. Whether any of these exoplanets are hospitable to life […]

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NASA’s Curiosity Rover Discovers Organic Chemistry on Mars

December 17, 2014

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Rover Finds Active Ancient Organic Chemistry on Mars

Using the Tunable Laser Spectrometer instrument in Curiosity’s onboard Sample Analysis at Mars laboratory, astronomers have detected a tenfold spike in the abundance of methane in the Martian atmosphere. NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has measured a tenfold spike in methane, an organic chemical, in the atmosphere around it and detected other organic molecules in a […]

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MAVEN Identifies Links to Atmospheric Loss on Mars

December 16, 2014

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MAVEN Identifies Links to Atmospheric Loss on Mars

New findings from NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission reveal a new process by which the solar wind can penetrate deep into a planetary atmosphere, leading to atmospheric loss. Early discoveries by NASA’s newest Mars orbiter are starting to reveal key features about the loss of the planet’s atmosphere to space over time. […]

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New Map of Mars Shows Signs of Ancient Lakes and Quakes

December 15, 2014

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Signs of Ancient Mars Lakes and Quakes Seen in New Map

A new geological map based on NASA images shows signs of ancient lakes and quakes on Mars. This animation simulates a flyover of a portion of a Martian canyon detailed in a geological map produced by the U.S. Geological Survey and based on observations by the HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The landforms […]

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Intense Volcanism May Have Played a Role in Dinosaurs Extinction

December 12, 2014

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What Really Killed the Dinosaurs

MIT scientists used precisely dated rocks from the Deccan Traps to reveal evidence that a major volcanic eruption began just before the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs, possibly playing a role in the extinction. Sixty-six million years ago, an asteroid more than five miles wide smashed into the Earth at 70,000 miles per […]

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Rosetta Data Reignite Debate on the Origin of Earth’s Oceans

December 11, 2014

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New Research Reignites Debate on Earth's Oceans

The Rosetta spacecraft has discovered that the composition of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko’s water vapor is significantly different from that found on Earth, reigniting the debate on the origin of Earth’s oceans. The question about the origin of oceans on Earth is one of the most important questions with respect to the formation of our planet and […]

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Cassini Creates New Maps of Saturn’s Moons

December 10, 2014

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Cassini Creates New Maps of Saturn Moons

Using data collected over a ten year period, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has created new maps of Saturn’s six major icy moons. Almost immediately after NASA’s twin Voyager spacecraft made their brief visits to Saturn in the early 1980s, scientists were hungry for more. The Voyagers had offered them only a brief glimpse of a family […]

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New NASA Goddard Video: Moon Phase and Libration, 2015

December 9, 2014

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Moon Phase and Libration 2015

This new five minute video from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center shows the upcoming moon phases for 2015 as viewed from the northern hemisphere. NASA | Moon Phases 2015, Northern Hemisphere This visualization shows the Moon’s phase and libration at hourly intervals throughout 2015, as viewed from the northern hemisphere. Each frame represents one […]

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Curiosity Reveals Clues to How Water Helped Shape the Landscape of Mars

December 9, 2014

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How-Water-Helped-Shape-Martian-Landscape

New data from NASA’s Curiosity Rover indicate that Mount Sharp on Mars was built by sediments deposited in a large lake bed over tens of millions of years, suggesting ancient Mars maintained a climate that could have produced long-lasting lakes at many locations on the Red Planet. “If our hypothesis for Mount Sharp holds up, […]

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New Horizons Spacecraft Awakens for Encounter with Pluto System

December 8, 2014

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New Horizons Spacecraft Awakens for Encounter with Pluto

After nearly nine years and three billion miles, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has come out of hibernation for its long-awaited 2015 encounter with the Pluto system. Operators at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, confirmed at 9:53 p.m. (EST) that New Horizons, operating on pre-programmed computer commands, had switched from hibernation […]

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Dawn Captures New Image of Dwarf Planet Ceres

December 5, 2014

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Dawn Snaps Its Best-Yet Image of Ceres

This new image from the Dawn spacecraft was acquired as part of a final calibration of the science camera before Dawn’s arrival at Ceres. The image was taken at a distance of roughly 740,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from Ceres. The Dawn spacecraft has delivered a glimpse of Ceres, the largest body in the main […]

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Small Impacts Likely Erased Much of Earth’s Primordial Atmosphere

December 2, 2014

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Small Impacts Likely Erased Much of the Earth’s Primordial Atmosphere

A newly published study reveals that small space rocks, or planetesimals, may have bombarded Earth around the time the moon was formed, kicking up clouds of gas with enough force to permanently eject small portions of the atmosphere into space. Today’s atmosphere likely bears little trace of its primordial self: Geochemical evidence suggests that Earth’s […]

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