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  • News in Brief

    First global maps of Pluto and Charon show the worlds’ highs and lows

    The first global maps of Pluto and its moon Charon are now available, putting a bookend on NASA’s New Horizons mission.

    “From a completionist’s point of view, they are all the good data we have, stitched together into a coherent, complete mosaic,” says planetary scientist Ross Beyer of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

    The charts focus on the 42 percent of Pluto...

    07/13/2018 - 16:50 Planetary Science
  • News in Brief

    Astronomers snap the first baby pictures of a planet

    Behold, the sharpest view yet of a planet-in-progress.

    New infrared telescope observations reveal an exoplanet that appears to be growing inside the disk of gas and dust around a star about 370 light-years away. Astronomers have indirectly identified other exoplanet embryos by observing the paths that these young worlds cleared through the dusty disks around their parent stars (SN Online...

    07/02/2018 - 15:24 Exoplanets, Planetary Science, Astronomy
  • Science Ticker

    Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft arrives at the asteroid Ryugu

    After more than three years’ lonely travel through the solar system, the Japanese spacefaring robot Hayabusa2 has reached its home-away-from-home for the next 18 months: the near-Earth asteroid Ryugu.

    The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency on June 27 confirmed Hayabusa2's arrival at the kilometer-wide boulder, which circles the sun between Earth and Mars. The spacecraft is now...

    06/27/2018 - 14:58 Astronomy, Planetary Science, Technology
  • News

    Mars got its crust quickly

    Mars was a fully formed planet — crust and all — within just 20 million years of the solar system’s birth. That rapid formation means the Red Planet probably got a 100-million-year jump on Earth in terms of habitability, new research suggests.

    Geochemical analyses of crystals of the mineral zircon extracted from Martian meteorites reveal that Mars had formed its earliest crust by 4.547...

    06/27/2018 - 13:00 Planetary Science, Earth
  • Mystery Solved

    On Jupiter, lightning flashes from storms swirling at the poles

    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...

    06/19/2018 - 12:00 Astronomy, Cosmology, Planetary Science
  • News

    Venus’ thick atmosphere speeds up the planet’s spin

    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’...

    06/18/2018 - 15:44 Planetary Science
  • News in Brief

    The Mars rover Opportunity is sleeping, not dead, NASA says

    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...

    06/13/2018 - 16:45 Planetary Science
  • Science Ticker

    Opportunity rover waits out a huge dust storm on Mars

    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...

    06/11/2018 - 17:56 Planetary Science
  • News

    Curiosity finds that Mars’ methane changes with the seasons

    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...

    06/07/2018 - 14:00 Planetary Science, Astrobiology
  • Science Ticker

    New Horizons wakes up to begin Kuiper Belt exploration

    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...

    06/05/2018 - 10:51 Planetary Science