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Planetary Science

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Syrtis Major

ANCIENT FEATURES  Northeast Syrtis Major (shown) is a candidate landing site for the Mars 2020 mission. The bedrock in the region is more than 4 billion years old. Certain ridges there may be the result of ancient hot springs, a new study of similar features elsewhere on Mars suggests.

microlensing illustration

QUICK FLASH  The light from a distant star may temporarily brighten when a free-floating planet passes in front of the star. This artist’s illustration shows how a rogue planet’s gravity distorts and focuses distant starlight as a ring around the planet.

synestia illustration

PUFFED UP  Early in its development, a rocky planet may turn into a synestia (illustrated), a spinning disk of vaporized rock that looks like a jelly-filled doughnut with a small, solid core (gray).

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