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Cassini Spacecraft Makes Its Final Approach to Saturn

Cassini has begun transmitting data — including the final images taken by its imaging cameras — in advance of its final plunge into Saturn on Sept. 15. The spacecraft is in the process of emptying its onboard solid-state recorder of all science data, prior to reconfiguring for a near-real-time data relay during the final plunge. Read More

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Cassini Looks on as Solstice Arrives at Saturn

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft still has a few months to go before it completes its mission in September, but the veteran Saturn explorer reaches a new milestone today. Saturn’s solstice — that is, the longest day of summer in the northern hemisphere and the shortest day of winter in the southern hemisphere — arrives today for Read More

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NASA’s New Horizons, IAU Set Pluto Naming Themes

From NASA: In 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft delivered the first close-up views of Pluto and its five moons – amazing images of distant and surprisingly complex worlds, showing a vast nitrogen glacier as well as ice mountains, canyons, cliffs, craters and more. The IAU’s action clears the way for the mission team to propose Read More

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NASA’s New Horizons, IAU Set Pluto Naming Themes

n 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft delivered the first close-up views of Pluto and its five moons – amazing images of distant and surprisingly complex worlds, showing a vast nitrogen glacier as well as ice mountains, canyons, cliffs, craters and more. The IAU’s action clears the way for the mission team to propose formal names Read More

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Astronomers Confirm Orbital Details of TRAPPIST-1’s Least Understood Planet

cientists using NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope identified a regular pattern in the orbits of the planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system that confirmed suspected details about the orbit of its outermost and least understood planet, TRAPPIST-1h. TRAPPIST-1 is only eight percent the mass of our sun, making it a cooler and less luminous star. It’s home Read More

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NASA Spacecraft Dives Between Saturn and Its Rings

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is back in contact with Earth after its successful first-ever dive through the narrow gap between the planet Saturn and its rings on April 26, 2017. The spacecraft is in the process of beaming back science and engineering data collected during its passage, via NASA’s Deep Space Network Goldstone Complex in California’s Read More

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NASA’s MAVEN Reveals Mars Has Metal in its Atmosphere

“MAVEN has made the first direct detection of the permanent presence of metal ions in the ionosphere of a planet other than Earth,” said Joseph Grebowsky of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Because metallic ions have long lifetimes and are transported far from their region of origin by neutral winds and electric Read More

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Asteroid to Fly Safely Past Earth on April 19

A relatively large near-Earth asteroid discovered nearly three years ago will fly safely past Earth on April 19 at a distance of about 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers), or about 4.6 times the distance from Earth to the moon. Although there is no possibility for the asteroid to collide with our planet, this will Read More

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Saturn’s ‘Watercolor’ Swirls

From NASA: Saturn’s north polar region displays its beautiful bands and swirls, which somewhat resemble the brushwork in a watercolor painting. Each latitudinal band represents air flowing at different speeds, and clouds at different heights, compared to neighboring bands. Where they meet and flow past each other, the bands’ interactions produce many eddies and swirls. Read More

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Studies Find Echoes of Black Holes Eating Stars

Supermassive black holes, with their immense gravitational pull, are notoriously good at clearing out their immediate surroundings by eating nearby objects. When a star passes within a certain distance of a black hole, the stellar material gets stretched and compressed — or “spaghettified” — as the black hole swallows it. A black hole destroying a Read More