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  • News in Brief

    Mercury has a massive solid inner core

    The smallest planet in our solar system has a massive solid inner core.

    In its final trip around Mercury before crash-landing in 2015, NASA’s MESSENGER mission zoomed in close to the planet, enabling scientists to make detailed measurements of its gravity, spin and internal structure. Those data, researchers report April 10 in Geophysical Research Letters, suggest Mercury has a solid...

    04/22/2019 - 09:58 Planetary Science
  • News

    A 2014 meteor may have come from another solar system

    Earth may already have been visited by an object from outside our solar system — a meteor that burned up in the planet’s atmosphere in 2014, astronomers claim. If confirmed, it would be the first known interstellar object to have entered the atmosphere.

    The first interstellar visitor known to have come close to Earth was the roughly 400-meter-wide asteroid named ‘Oumuamua. It swooped...

    04/16/2019 - 14:29 Planetary Science
  • News

    Meteor showers dig up water on the moon

    Meteor showers bring moon geysers. A lunar orbiter spotted extra water around the moon when the moon passed through streams of cosmic dust that can cause meteor showers on Earth.

    The water was probably released from lunar soil by tiny meteorite impacts, planetary scientist Mehdi Benna of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and colleagues report April 15 in in Nature...

    04/15/2019 - 13:14 Planetary Science
  • News in Brief

    Saturn’s moon Titan sports phantom hydrocarbon lakes

    Three lakes on Saturn’s moon Titan have up and vanished.

    Researchers previously had seen evidence that Titan’s lakes, filled with hydrocarbons like methane and ethane, shrink during the moon’s summer. But a new analysis of data from the defunct Cassini spacecraft offers the first glimpse of lakes completely disappearing off the face of the moon. The discovery of these phantom lakes...

    04/15/2019 - 11:00 Planetary Science
  • News in Brief

    Israel’s first moon mission lost moments before landing

    Israel’s first lunar lander, Beresheet, appears to have crash-landed on the moon.

    The spacecraft, launched by the Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL, was scheduled to touch down on the lunar surface on April 11. But in the final few minutes of its descent, the spacecraft’s engine stalled. Mission control reset Beresheet to bring its engine back online, but then communication with the lander cut...

    04/11/2019 - 17:06 Planetary Science
  • Editor's Note

    The delight of discovering an asteroid that spits

    These are wondrous times for space exploration. Just when you think exploring the cosmos couldn’t possibly get more fun, another discovery delivers a new “oh wow” moment.

    Consider the asteroid Bennu. It’s an unprepossessing space rock that drew scientists’ curiosity because it is among the most pristine objects in our solar system, and it might provide clues to the origins of life....

    04/07/2019 - 07:15 Science & Society, Astronomy, Planetary Science
  • News in Brief

    Hayabusa2 has blasted the surface of asteroid Ryugu to make a crater

    Hayabusa2 has blasted the asteroid Ryugu with a projectile, probably adding a crater to the small world’s surface and stirring up dust that scientists hope to snag.

    The projectile, a two-kilogram copper cylinder, separated from the Hayabusa2 spacecraft at 9:56 p.m. EDT on April 4, JAXA, Japan’s space agency, reports.

    Hayabusa2 flew to the other side of the asteroid to hide from...

    04/05/2019 - 13:44 Planetary Science
  • News

    This planetary remnant somehow survived the death of its sun

    Against all odds, a small planetary body called a planetesimal has survived the infernal death of its sunlike star and now orbits the white dwarf that remains.

    When most planet-hosting stars run out of hydrogen fuel, they blow out their outer shells of gas, obliterating anything within their inner solar systems and leaving behind a dead star called a white dwarf. Planets orbiting farther...

    04/04/2019 - 14:00 Exoplanets, Planetary Science, Astronomy
  • News

    Metal asteroids may have once had iron-spewing volcanoes

    Imagine a metal asteroid spewing molten iron, and you’ve got the gist of ferrovolcanism — a new type of planetary activity proposed recently by two research teams.

    When NASA launches a probe to a metal asteroid called Psyche in 2022, planetary scientists will be able to search for signs of such volcanic activity in the object’s past. The new research “is the first time anyone has worked...

    04/03/2019 - 13:23 Planetary Science
  • News

    Saturn’s rings paint some of its moons shades of blue and red

    Saturn’s rings are painting its innermost moons.

    Data from NASA’s now-defunct Cassini spacecraft show that five odd-shaped moons embedded in Saturn’s rings are different colors, and that the hues come from the rings themselves, researchers report. That observation could help scientists figure out how the moons were born.

    “The ring moons and the rings themselves are kind of one and...

    03/28/2019 - 14:00 Planetary Science