China is about to make space history. In December, the country will launch the first spacecraft ever to land on the farside of the moon. Another craft, slated for takeoff in 2019, will be the first to bring lunar rocks back to Earth since 1976.
These two missions — the latest in China’s lunar exploration series named after the Chinese moon goddess, Chang’e — are at the forefront of...
A thick sphere of icy debris known as the Oort cloud shrouds the solar system. Other star systems may harbor similar icy reservoirs, and those clouds may be visible in the universe’s oldest light, researchers report.
Astronomer Eric Baxter of the University of Pennsylvania and colleagues looked for evidence of such exo-Oort clouds in maps of the cosmic microwave background, the cool...
It’s dusk for Dawn.
The NASA spacecraft that was the first to orbit two worlds in one mission has sent its final messages back to Earth, mission managers announced November 1.
The spacecraft missed two check-ins with NASA’s Deep Space Network on October 31 and November 1, scientists say. That silence likely means Dawn ran out of the hydrazine that fuels its thrusters, which help...
Saturn’s moon Dione is streaked with long bright stripes, and no one knows how they got there.
Planetary scientists first noticed the stripes in pictures taken with NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which orbited Saturn from 2004 to 2017 (SN: 4/14/18, p. 6). Found near the moon’s equator, the long, thin, bright lines run surprisingly parallel to each other for tens to hundreds of kilometers....
Europa’s frozen landscape could be treacherous territory for future lunar landers.
Jagged spires of ice may stud the Jovian moon’s equator, researchers report October 8 in Nature Geosciences. These structures, called penitentes, could reach heights of 15 meters and occur roughly every 7.5 meters, computer simulations show, potentially rendering parts of the moon unnavigable in future...
The “ring rain” of material falling from Saturn’s rings into the planet’s atmosphere is a much more intense, contaminated downpour than scientists thought.
For decades, astronomers have suspected that Saturn’s rings pelt the planet with grains of water ice, but some of the final observations from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft provide the first detailed views of these celestial showers (SN: 4...
Christopher Hamilton, 39Planetary scienceUniversity of Arizona09/26/2018 - 08:32 Earth, Planetary Science
Christopher Hamilton wanted to be an architect.
Yet the planetary scientist at the University of Arizona in Tucson is exploring a very different kind of built environment: the strange structures created by volcanoes on worlds across the solar system, from Earth to Mars to the moon.
And he’s using an unusually...
Letters to the Editor
Life signs09/26/2018 - 07:00 Planetary Science, Pollution, Technology
Scientists estimate that there are roughly 10 billion liters of liquid water beneath a polar glacier on Mars, Lisa Grossman reported in “Mars (probably) has a lake of liquid water” (SN: 8/18/18 & 9/1/18, p. 6).
Some online readers wondered what the detection meant for the possibility of life on the Red Planet.
Grossman wrote about the lake’s implications for life...
News in Brief
Editor’s note: This story has been periodically updated to reflect the rovers' progress on Ryugu.
The first rovers to explore the surface of an asteroid have landed. After touching down September 21, the vehicles took pictures of asteroid Ryugu and at least one hopped around.
Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft, which arrived at the near-Earth asteroid on June 27 after a journey of more...
Scientists have spotted the ghosts of nearly two dozen ice volcanoes on dwarf planet Ceres.
Found using topographic maps from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, the slumped remains of once-grand cones suggest that Ceres has experienced continual eruptions for billions of years, the researchers report September 17 in Nature Astronomy.
When Dawn arrived at Ceres in 2015, scientists noticed just...