Planets and space bodies

Unusual red arcs spotted on the surface of Saturn's icy moon Tethys

New enhanced-color images from NASA's Cassini spacecradr revealed unexplained arc-shaped, reddish streaks on the surface of Saturn's icy moon Tethys. The red arcs are narrow, curved lines on the moon's surface, and are among the most unusual color features o

July 31, 2015

Pluto sends planetary scientists back to the drawing board

Today, physicist Wal Thornhill continues his discussion of NASA’s New Horizons mission to the dwarf planet Pluto. The mission has already provided a number of surprises for planetary scientists.The tiny planet’s geological activity, its apparent age, the stu

July 29, 2015

Istok crater on Mars hints at Earth-like climate

A new study of young Istok crater led by Tjalling de Haas of Utrecht University in the Netherlands reveals that Mars, a planet of paradoxes, may have had a climate that resembles that of our own in the recent past.Istok crater, located in the Aonia Terra region of Mars,

July 10, 2015

Auroral substorms on Jupiter are not caused by the solar wind, alone

A previous Picture of the Day published in late 2012 quoted Jonathan Nichols from the University of Leicester:“The main aurora oval on Jupiter we think should dim when the solar wind blows harder, but what we see is that actually gets brighter, which is totally

July 07, 2015

After anomaly and temporary loss of communications New Horizons stays on course to Pluto

After NASA's New Horizons spacecraft suffered an anomaly on July 4, which caused temporary loss of communications, mission control announced today the spacecraft is healthy and it continues on its course toward Pluto for a historic July 14 flyby.Contact with the spa

July 06, 2015

Final 'all clear' for historic July 14 Pluto flyby

Having found no potential threats on the way, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft stays course to Pluto, as it speeds closer to it's historic July 14, 2015 flyby of Pluto and it's five moons. Launched from Cape Canaveral on January 19, 2006, New Horizons woke up

July 04, 2015

Venus - volcanically active Solar System body?

Scientists working for the ESA's Venus Express mission have recently presented the best evidence yet for existence of active volcanoes on planet Venus. Previous radar missions have revealed Venus to be covered in volcanoes and lava flows and it is long assumed that

July 01, 2015

Mars might have liquid water

Researchers have long known that there was water in the form of ice on Mars. Now, new research from NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity shows that it is possible that there is liquid water close to the surface of Mars. The explanation is that the substance perchlorate

April 22, 2015

Gamma-ray spectrometer prompts researchers to rethink how Mercury formed

A versatile instrument developed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists and riding on the first spacecraft to ever orbit Mercury is causing researchers to rethink their theories on the planet’s formation.Known as the Gamma-Ray Spectrometer,

April 19, 2015

Scientists identify missing wave near Jupiter’s equator

In the clouds of Jupiter, scientists have found evidence of a type of atmospheric wave that had long been proposed but had not been identified in images before now.Researchers consider this kind of wave, called a Kelvin wave, a fundamental part of a planetary atmosphere

April 19, 2015

Dawn's new Ceres color map reveals surface diversity

A new color map of dwarf planet Ceres, which NASA's Dawn spacecraft has been orbiting since March 2015, reveals the diversity of the surface of this planetary body. Differences in morphology and color across the surface suggest Ceres was once an active body, Dawn

April 14, 2015

Are bright spots on Ceres electric?

In March, the NASA Dawn Spacecraft entered the orbit of the mysterious dwarf planet Ceres, with the craft scheduled to begin sending images to Earth later this month.For several weeks, surprising and unexplained bright spots within a crater on the planet’s surface

April 08, 2015

Unexplained warm layer discovered in Venus’ atmosphere

A group of Russian, European and American scientists have found a warm layer in Venus’ atmosphere, the nature of which is still unknown. The researchers made the discovery when compiling a temperature map of the upper atmosphere on the planet’s night side ba

March 26, 2015

How is Mars rover Opportunity still alive?

Today, we review one of the great ongoing mysteries in the history of Mars exploration. In January of 2004, the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity arrived at the red planet about three weeks apart.Due to the extreme dustiness of the Martian environment, it was believed

March 21, 2015

Large underground ocean on Ganymede, Jupiter's largest moon

Hubble Space Telescope has the best evidence yet for an underground saltwater ocean on Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon. The subterranean ocean is thought to have more water than all the water on Earth's surface. Identifying liquid water is crucial in the

March 21, 2015

MAVEN detects unexpected aurora and mysterious dust cloud around Mars

Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft has observed two unexpected phenomena in the Martian atmosphere: an unexplained high-altitude dust cloud and aurora that reaches deep into the Martian atmosphere.The presence of the dust at orbital altitudes from

March 19, 2015

Saturn's moon Enceladus exhibits signs of hydrothermal activity

Data obtained by NASA's Cassini spacecraft provided first clear evidence that Saturn's moon Enceladus exhibits signs of present-day hydrothermal activity which may resemble that seen in the deep oceans on Earth. The implications of such activity on a world

March 15, 2015

"Baffling" Mars plumes are electric

Science news headlines around the world tell of a baffling mystery on the planet Mars. In March of 2012, amateur astronomers spotted enormous plumes jetting from the Martian surface. The plumes were more than 250 km high and several hundreds of kilometers in length.Simi

March 15, 2015

Research suggests Mars had an ocean that covered approximately 20% of the planet

Isotopic measurements by researchers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center reveal that Mars once had an ocean that covered approximately twenty percent of the planet.Geronimo Villanueva, scientists at Goddard, said their study provides a solid estimate of how much w

March 06, 2015

Dawn spacecraft arrives at dwarf planet Ceres

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has reached dwarf planet Ceres and achieved orbit around it on Friday, March 6, 2015. Dawn was approximately 61 000 km (38 000 miles) away from Ceres when it was captured by its gravity at about 12:39 UTC.Mission controllers at NASA’s Je

March 06, 2015

Giant methane storms on Uranus

Most of the times we have looked at Uranus, it has seemed to be a relatively calm place. Well, yes its atmosphere is the coldest place in the solar system. But, when we picture the seventh planet in our solar system invariably the image of a calming blue hazy disc that

March 02, 2015

Earth’s other ‘moon’ and its crazy orbit could reveal mysteries of the solar system

We all know and love the moon. We’re so assured that we only have one that we don’t even give it a specific name. It is the brightest object in the night sky, and amateur astronomers take great delight in mapping its craters and seas. To date, it is the only

February 25, 2015

New Horizons spots small moons orbiting Pluto

Exactly 85 years after Clyde Tombaugh’s historic discovery of Pluto, the New Horizons spacecraft set to encounter the icy dwarf planet this summer is providing its first views of the small moons orbiting Pluto. The moons Nix and Hydra are visible in a series of im

February 19, 2015

Massive clouds erupted 260 km into Martian atmosphere - and no one knows why

Enormous cloud-like plumes reaching 260km above the surface of Mars have left scientists baffled. This is way beyond Mars’s normal weather, reaching into the exosphere where the atmosphere merges with interplanetary space. None of the conventional explanations

February 17, 2015

Swarm of scientific microprobes to the clouds of Jupiter in 2030

A swarm of tiny probes each equipped with a different sensor could be fired into the clouds of Jupiter and grab data as they fall before burning up in the gas giant planet's atmosphere, according to a recently presented concept in International Journal of Space Scie

January 26, 2015

New Horizons wakes up for historic Pluto encounter

New Horizons woke up from hibernation on December 6, 2014 after a 4.8 billion km voyage (3 billion miles) and almost nine years after launch. The spacecraft is now preparing for a six-month encounter with Pluto that begins in January 2015. This mission will complete

December 08, 2014

Smallest exoplanet found to have water vapour

The smallest exoplanet (about the size of Neptune) HAT-P-11b have been discovered to have clear skies and steamy water vapors as observed by astronomers using data from three of NASA's space telescopes - Hubble, Spitzer and Kepler.John Grunsfeld, assistant administr

October 05, 2014

Curiosity rover takes first sample of Mount Sharp

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover has collected its first sample of the layered mountain whose scientific allure drew the mission to choose this part of Mars as a landing site.Late Wednesday, September 24, the rover's hammering drill chewed about 6.7 centimeters (2.6

September 27, 2014

MAVEN returns its first Mars observations

Just after arrival, NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN), the first spacecraft sent to explore the tenuous upper atmosphere of Mars, has started working on it's mission. Within 24 hours of being placed in the Red Planet's orbit, the spacec

September 26, 2014

Martian geology continues to baffle scientists

The official geological history of the planet Mars is a confused and murky tale filled with contradictions and shifting narratives. Astonishing scientific data obtained in the last decade has only deepened the storyteller’s confusion. At the recent 8th Internation

September 02, 2014

Colliding atmospheres - Mars vs Comet Siding Spring

It's a known fact that planets have atmospheres, but the same can't be said for comets. The atmosphere of a comet, called its "coma," is made of gas and dust that spew out of the sun-warmed nucleus and it's typically wider than Jupiter.La

August 13, 2014

Observations suggest frequent massive eruptions on Jupiter’s moon Io

Observations made using Keck and Gemini observatories, Hawaii, revealed three massive volcanic eruptions on Jupiter's moon Io within a two-week period in August 2013, leading astronomers to speculate that these presumed rare "outbursts" migh

August 09, 2014

Massive storm systems formed on planet Uranus

As hurricanes threaten the Aloha State, astronomers working at W. M. Keck Observatory on the island of Hawaii were surprised by the appearance of gigantic swirling storm systems on the distant planet Uranus.During the Voyager encounter with Uranus in 1986, only a scant

August 07, 2014

Asteroid vesta shatters planet formation theory

In the previous Space News, we discussed astronomer's recent admission that they now need a whole new theory to explain about how planets form. Today yet another discovery has shattered conventional ideas about planet formation and the so-called early solar system.

July 29, 2014

The most thorough map of the Martian surface to date

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has released the most thorough map of the Martian surface to date. The data for the new map was collected by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and

July 16, 2014