Planets

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

Planets

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

Planets

NASA’s Curiosity Rover Sharpens Paradox of Ancient Mars

Mars scientists are wrestling with a problem. Ample evidence says ancient Mars was sometimes wet, with water flowing and pooling on the planet’s surface. Yet, the ancient sun was about one-third less warm and climate modelers struggle to produce scenarios that get the surface of Mars warm enough for keeping water unfrozen. A leading theory Read More

Planets

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

Planets

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

Planets

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

Planets

New Horizons Refines Course for Next Flyby

Artist’s impression of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft conducting a flyby study of its next target – 2014 MU69, a Kuiper Belt object orbiting a billion miles beyond Pluto – on Jan. 1, 2019. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI/Steve Gribben Telemetry confirming that the engine burn went as planned reached the New Horizons mission operations center at the Johns Read More

Planets

NASA Orbiter Steers Clear of Mars Moon Phobos

NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft performed a previously unscheduled maneuver this week to avoid a collision in the near future with Mars’ moon Phobos. The Mars Atmosphere and VolatileEvolutioN (MAVEN)spacecraft has been orbiting Mars for just over two years, studying the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere, ionosphere and interactions with the sun and solar wind. On Tuesday the Read More

Planets

A Colorful ‘Landing’ on Pluto

To create a movie that makes viewers feel as if they’re diving into Pluto, mission scientists had to interpolate some of the panchromatic (black and white) frames based on what they know Pluto looks like to make it as smooth and seamless as possible. Low-resolution color from the Ralph color camera aboard New Horizons was Read More

Planets

Similar-Looking Ridges on Mars Have Diverse Origins

Thin, blade-like walls, some as tall as a 16-story building, dominate a previously undocumented network of intersecting ridges on Mars, found in images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The simplest explanation for these impressive ridges is that lava flowed into pre-existing fractures in the ground and later resisted erosion better than material around them. A Read More