Planetary Science News

A Billion or More Jupiter-Like Worlds Could Be Orbiting Stars in the Milky Way

August 26, 2016

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Scientists Compare Jupiter with Jupiter-like Planets

Using data from NASA’s Juno probe, astronomers hope to gain a better understanding of Jupiter and the the many Jupiter-like planets in our galaxy. Our galaxy is home to a bewildering variety of Jupiter-like worlds: hot ones, cold ones, giant versions of our own giant, pint-sized pretenders only half as big around. Astronomers say that […]

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Earth-Sized Planet Proxima b Might be Habitable

August 25, 2016

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Planet Found in Habitable Zone Around Nearest Star

Scientists reveal that a newly discovered, roughly Earth-sized planet orbiting our nearest neighboring star might be habitable. Astronomers using ESO telescopes and other facilities have found clear evidence of a planet orbiting the closest star to Earth, Proxima Centauri. The long-sought world, designated Proxima b, orbits its cool red parent star every 11 days and […]

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Study Suggests Habitable Zone Alone Isn’t Sufficient to Support Life

August 22, 2016

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Planetary Habitability Depends on Internal Planet Temperature

New research from Yale University suggests that simply being in the habitable zone isn’t sufficient to support life. A planet also must start with an internal temperature that is just right. The search for habitable, alien worlds needs to make room for a second “Goldilocks,” according to a Yale University researcher. For decades, it has […]

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Exoplanet GJ 1132b Might Have a Thin Oxygen Atmosphere

August 18, 2016

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Venus-like Exoplanet GJ 1132b Might Have Oxygen Atmosphere

New research from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics reveals that the Venus-like Exoplanet GJ 1132b might possess a thin, oxygen atmosphere – but no life due to its extreme heat. The distant planet GJ 1132b intrigued astronomers when it was discovered last year. Located just 39 light-years from Earth, it might have an atmosphere despite […]

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New Research From NASA Suggests Venus May Have Been Habitable

August 11, 2016

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NASA Suggests Venus May Have Been Habitable

New research from NASA suggests that Venus may have had a shallow liquid-water ocean and habitable surface temperatures for up to 2 billion years of its early history. The findings, published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, were obtained with a model similar to the type used to predict future climate change on […]

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What’s Inside Ceres? New Research Suggests That Ceres Has a Weak Interior

August 8, 2016

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New Data Suggest That Ceres Has a Weak Interior

New research reveals that Ceres has a weak interior, and that water and other light materials partially separated from rock during a heating phase early in its history. In the tens of thousands of photos returned by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, the interior of Ceres isn’t visible. But scientists have powerful data to study Ceres’ inner […]

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Long Divisions – New Cassini Image of Saturn and Mimas

August 8, 2016

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New Cassini Image of Saturn with Mimas

This newly released image form the Cassini Spacecraft shows Saturn and Mimas. The shadow of Saturn on the rings, which stretched across all of the rings earlier in Cassini’s mission, now barely makes it past the Cassini division. The changing length of the shadow marks the passing of the seasons on Saturn. As the planet […]

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Astronomers Reveal Fluctuating Atmosphere of Jupiter’s Volcanic Moon Io

August 3, 2016

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Astronomers Reveal Fluctuating Atmosphere of Jupiter’s Volcanic Moon

A newly published study from NASA reveals that Jupiter’s volcanic moon Io has a thin atmosphere that collapses in the shadow of Jupiter, condensing as ice. The study shows the freezing effects of Jupiter’s shadow during daily eclipses on the moon’s volcanic gases. “This research is the first time scientists have observed this remarkable phenomenon […]

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Is Life on Earth Premature from a Cosmic Perspective?

August 3, 2016

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Is Life on Our Planet Premature from a Cosmic Perspective?

New research from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics examines the possibility that present-day life is actually premature from a cosmic perspective. The universe is 13.8 billion years old, while our planet formed just 4.5 billion years ago. Some scientists think this time gap means that life on other planets could be billions of years older […]

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Mars Orbiter Shows Gullies on Mars Not Likely Formed by Liquid Water

July 29, 2016

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New Study Shows Mars Gullies Not Formed by Liquid Water

Using data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, astronomers show that gullies on modern Mars are likely not being formed by flowing liquid water. This new evidence will allow researchers to further narrow theories about how Martian gullies form, and reveal more details about Mars’ recent geologic processes. Scientists use the term “gully” for features on […]

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Researchers Investigate the Lack of Large Impact Craters on Ceres

July 27, 2016

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The Missing Large Impact Craters on Ceres

Ceres’ lack of giant impact basins presents a puzzle to scientists. They expected to observe more large craters on the dwarf planet than have been found by NASA’s Dawn mission. Researchers are investigating a variety of processes that might have caused the appearance of the largest basins to be softened or erased over time. Ceres […]

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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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