When Voyager 1 revealed lightning on Jupiter in 1979, something about the flashes didn’t make sense. From a distance, it seemed like the radio waves from the massive planet’s lightning bolts didn’t reach the high frequency emitted by lightning on Earth.
But the Juno spacecraft, which has been orbiting much closer to Jupiter’s surface for the last two years, has helped solve the mystery...
Time is out of joint on Venus. The planet’s thick air, which spins much faster than the solid globe, may push against the flanks of mountains and change Venus’ rotation rate.
Computer simulations show that the thick Venusian atmosphere, whipping around the planet at 100 meters per second, exerts enough push against a mountain on one side and suction on the other side to speed the planet’...
News in Brief
The veteran Opportunity rover isn’t dead yet. Currently, the craft is in a deep sleep to ride out a massive Martian dust storm, NASA officials said in a briefing on June 13. The rover may wake itself up when the storm ends.
Opportunity is enveloped in a vast dust storm that grew from a small patch spotted on May 30 to cover a quarter of the planet by June 12 (SN Online: 6/11/18). Too...
NASA’s Opportunity rover has gone into survival mode while waiting for a historically large dust storm on Mars to pass — or for the vehicle’s batteries to run out.
Opportunity charges its batteries with solar panels, so a storm such as this that blocks the sun and turns the Martian day to night poses a threat to the rover’s survival. A Mars orbiter first spotted the storm on June 1, and...
To Martian methane, there is a season.
NASA’s Curiosity rover has found evidence that methane in Mars’ thin atmosphere varies during the year. Higher concentrations appear in late summer and early autumn in the northern hemisphere and lower concentrations in the winter and spring, researchers report in the June 8 Science.
What’s more, Curiosity also spotted organic molecules...
The spacecraft that raced past Pluto is back and ready to explore a whole new world.
NASA’s New Horizons probe woke up at 10:55 p.m. EDT on June 4 after a nearly six-month slumber, and news of the event reached Earth several hours later. The craft is now getting ready to fly past a small Kuiper Belt object called Ultima Thule (SN Online: 3/14/18).
New Horizons went into the last of...
Pluto’s heart-shaped plains are striped with sand dunes, where the sand is made of solid methane ice, a new study finds.
Images from the New Horizons spacecraft’s July 2015 flyby of Pluto show 357 linear ridges that planetary scientist Matt Telfer of the University of Plymouth in England and colleagues interpret as dunes that have been shaped by a novel process, the team reports in the...
LEESBURG, Va. — Astronomers watching the 2017 solar eclipse from the ground and from the air witnessed new, tantalizing features of the sun’s outer atmosphere.
Three teams have recently presented their first science results from the Great American Eclipse. Combined, the findings could help disentangle lingering solar puzzles, such as how bursts of plasma leave the sun, why the outer...
If Dr. Seuss had been an astronomer, Horton the Elephant (who heard a Who) would have said “a planet’s a planet, no matter how small.”
But don’t quote Dr. Seuss to the International Astronomical Union. In 2006, the IAU declared Pluto a planet not.
IAU Resolution B5 (not to be confused with Le Petit Prince’s asteroid B 612) declared that in order to be considered...
A space ravioli. A planetary baguette. A cosmic Kaiser roll. Some of Saturn’s moons have shapes that are strangely reminiscent of culinary concoctions.
Images of the oddball moons, mostly from the now-defunct Cassini spacecraft (SN Online: 9/15/17), got planetary scientists wondering how these satellites ended up with such strange shapes. Now, researchers suggest that collisions between...