Planetary Science News

New View of Saturn’s A and F Rings

July 25, 2016

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New Cassini View of Saturn's A and F Rings

The Cassini Spacecraft gives us another interesting view of Saturn. Saturn’s A and F rings appear bizarrely warped where they intersect the planet’s limb, whose atmosphere acts here like a very big lens. In its upper regions, Saturn’s atmosphere absorbs some of the light reflected by the rings as it passes through. But absorption is […]

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Cassini Image Shows Saturn’s Rings with Dione and Epimetheus

July 18, 2016

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New Cassini Image Shows Dione and Epimetheus

This newly released Cassini image shows Saturn’s rings with Dione and Epimetheus off in the distance. Saturn’s main rings, along with its and moons, are much brighter than most stars. As a result, much shorter exposure times (10 milliseconds, in this case) are required to produce an image and not saturate the detectors of the […]

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NASA’s Top 10 Pluto Pics from the New Horizons Spacecraft

July 15, 2016

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Global Mosaic of Pluto in True Color

One year ago, NASA’s New Horizons mission made history by exploring Pluto and its moons – giving humankind our first real look at this fascinating world on the frontier of our solar system. Since those amazing days in July 2015 the New Horizons spacecraft has transmitted numerous images and many other kinds of data home […]

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Kepler Shows Warm Jupiters Not As Lonely As Expected

July 14, 2016

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Warm Jupiters Not As Lonely As Expected

Astronomers have used data from the Kepler Space Telescope to give the clearest understanding yet of a class of exoplanets called Warm Jupiters, revealing that many have unexpected planetary companions. The team’s analysis, published July 10th in the Astrophysical Journal, provides strong evidence of the existence of two distinct types of Warm Jupiters, each with […]

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First In-orbit View from NASA’s Juno Spacecraft

July 13, 2016

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Juno Spacecraft Sends First In-orbit Image

The first high-resolution images of Jupiter are still several weeks away, but NASA’s Juno Spacecraft did capture this new image as it entered orbit around the planet. The JunoCam camera aboard NASA’s Juno mission is operational and sending down data after the spacecraft’s July 4 arrival at Jupiter. Juno’s visible-light camera was turned on six […]

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New Cassini Image – Tethys Tops Saturn

July 11, 2016

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New Cassini Image of Tethys Above Saturn

This newly released Cassini image provides an illusion of perspective, showing Saturn’s moon Tethys above the planet’s north pole. Tethys (660 miles or 1,062 kilometers across) is actually farther away than Saturn in this image. Lacking visual clues about distance, our brains place the moon above Saturn’s north pole. Tethys, like all of Saturn’s major […]

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New Study Adds Clues about Possible Water in Mars Canyons

July 8, 2016

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Mars Canyons Study Adds Clues about Possible Water

A newly published study reveals clues about possible water at seasonally dark streaks on Mars. The study investigated thousands of these warm-season features in the Valles Marineris region near Mars’ equator. Some of the sites displaying the seasonal flows are canyon ridges and isolated peaks, ground shapes that make it hard to explain the streaks […]

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NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft Maps Ceres Craters Where Ice Can Accumulate

July 8, 2016

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Dawn Maps Ceres Craters Where Ice Can Accumulate

Using data from NASA’s Dawn Mission, astronomers have identified permanently shadowed regions on the dwarf planet Ceres. These areas are likely cold enough to have trapped water ice for a billion years, suggesting that ice deposits could exist there now. “The conditions on Ceres are right for accumulating deposits of water ice,” said Norbert Schorghofer, […]

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Astronomers Discover a Planet in a Triple Star System

July 7, 2016

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Newly-Discovered Planet Has 3 Suns

Using direct imaging, a team of astronomers has discovered a young Jovian exoplanet within a triple-star system. If you thought Luke Skywalker’s home planet, Tatooine, was a strange world with its two suns in the sky, imagine this: a planet with either constant daylight or triple sunrises and sunsets each day depending on the seasons […]

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Juno Spacecraft in Orbit Around Jupiter

July 5, 2016

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NASA's Juno Spacecraft Successfully Enters Jupiter’s Orbit

NASA received confirmation that the Juno spacecraft successfully entered Jupiter’s orbit on July 4th. “Independence Day always is something to celebrate, but today we can add to America’s birthday another reason to cheer — Juno is at Jupiter,” said NASA administrator Charlie Bolden. “And what is more American than a NASA mission going boldly where […]

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Recent Hydrothermal Activity May Explain Ceres’ Mysterious Bright Spots

June 30, 2016

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Study Shows Hydrothermal Activity May Explain Ceres' Brightest Area

New research reveals that the Occator Crater on Ceres has the highest concentration of carbonate minerals ever seen outside Earth. The brightest area on Ceres, located in the mysterious Occator Crater, has the highest concentration of carbonate minerals ever seen outside Earth, according to a new study from scientists on NASA’s Dawn mission. The study, […]

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NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft Completes Primary Mission

June 30, 2016

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Dawn Completes Primary Mission

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft completes its primary mission, exceeding all expectations. On June 30, just in time for the global celebration known as Asteroid Day, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft completes its primary mission. The mission exceeded all expectations originally set for its exploration of protoplanet Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres. The historic mission is the first to […]

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Hubble Telescope Views Vivid Auroras in Jupiter’s Atmosphere

June 30, 2016

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Hubble Views Auroras in Jupiter’s Atmosphere

Using the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers view vivid auroras on the poles of Jupiter. Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, is best known for its colorful storms, the most famous being the Great Red Spot. Now astronomers have focused on another beautiful feature of the planet, using Hubble’s ultraviolet capabilities. The extraordinary vivid […]

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MIT Geologists Trace Mercury’s Origins to Rare Meteorite

June 29, 2016

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Astronomers Trace Mercury’s Origins to Rare Meteorite

A newly published study shows that Mercury underwent a period of rapid cooling and that the planet likely has the composition of an enstatite chondrite — a type of meteorite that is extremely rare here on Earth. Around 4.6 billion years ago, the universe was a chaos of collapsing gas and spinning debris. Small particles […]

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Astronomers Prepare for the Arrival of Juno at Jupiter

June 29, 2016

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VLT Image of Jupiter

In preparation for the July arrival of NASA’s Juno spacecraft, astronomers used ESO’s Very Large Telescope to obtain new infrared images of Jupiter. They are part of a campaign to create high-resolution maps of the giant planet. These observations will inform the work to be undertaken by Juno over the coming months, helping astronomers to […]

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New Cassini Image of Saturn’s Rings and the Icy Moon Enceladus

June 27, 2016

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Cassini Views Saturn's Rings and the Icy Moon Enceladus

This newly released Cassini image shows Saturn’s rings and the icy moon Enceladus. At first glance, the most obvious features in this image from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft are Saturn’s rings and the icy moon Enceladus. Upon closer inspection, Saturn’s night side is also visible (near top center), faintly illuminated by sunlight reflected off the rings. […]

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New Horizons Reveals a ‘Super Grand Canyon’ on Charon

June 24, 2016

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Astronomers Discover "Super Grand Canyon" on Pluto’s Moon Charon

Images from NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft reveal an unusual canyon system that’s far longer and deeper than the Grand Canyon. The inset above magnifies a portion of the eastern limb in the global view of Charon at left, imaged by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft several hours before its closest approach on July 14, 2015. A […]

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Hubble Telescope Confirms New Dark Spot on Neptune

June 23, 2016

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New Dark Spot on Neptune Confirmed

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has confirmed the presence of a dark vortex in the atmosphere of Neptune. Though similar features were seen during the Voyager 2 flyby of Neptune in 1989 and by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1994, this vortex is the first one observed on Neptune in the 21st century. The discovery was […]

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