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DSCOVR's Halo

Posted by Dave Doody on 2015/07/28 09:04 CDT | 1 comments

The Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) has begun sending us fresh, whole-hemisphere images of our own fragile planet. Some sources say that the spacecraft is "orbiting" the L1 point. Dave Doody thinks this warrants some scrutiny.

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Looking back at Pluto

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/07/24 07:12 CDT | 17 comments

I don't think anyone was prepared for the beauty -- or the instant scientific discoveries -- in this "lookback" image of Pluto, captured by New Horizons shortly after it flew by.

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What in the world(s) are tholins?

Posted by Sarah Hörst on 2015/07/22 07:00 CDT | 9 comments

The question “why is Pluto red” has been answered with a word that most people have never heard of and perhaps even fewer people can actually define—“tholins”.

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Dawn at Ceres: A haze in Occator crater?

Posted by Andrew Rivkin on 2015/07/21 05:54 CDT | 17 comments

While Pluto deservedly stole the headlines last week, Chris Russell’s Dawn update at the Exploration Science Forum at NASA Ames reminded us that the other dwarf planets are also sharing their secrets with eager scientists.

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First look at New Horizons' Pluto and Charon images: "baffling in a very interesting and wonderful way"

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/07/15 04:42 CDT | 33 comments

Today's press briefing at the Applied Physics Laboratory in California was preceded by hours of New Horizons team members cryptically dropping hints on Twitter at astonishing details in the seven images downlinked since the flyby. The images are, in fact, astonishing, as well as beautiful, surprising, and puzzling.

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Pluto minus one day: Very first New Horizons Pluto encounter science results

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/07/13 12:16 CDT | 15 comments

At a press briefing this morning, New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern divulged some extremely preliminary first science results from the New Horizons Pluto encounter. Science results include Pluto's diameter and information on its surface composition and atmospheric escape.

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5 Steps to Preventing Asteroid Impact

Posted by Bruce Betts on 2015/06/30 12:33 CDT | 2 comments

For Asteroid Day, Bruce Betts reviews 5 steps needed to prevent asteroid impact, as well as how The Planetary Society is involved in those.

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Transient hot spots on Venus: Best evidence yet for active volcanism

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/06/18 06:42 CDT | 3 comments

In a paper released in Geophysical Research Letters today, Eugene Shalygin and coauthors have announced the best evidence yet for current, active volcanism on Venus. The evidence comes from the Venus Monitoring Camera, which saw transient hot spots in four locations along a system of rifts near Venus' equator. They saw the hot spots in two distinct episodes in 2008 and 2009.

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OSIRIS-REx – Seeking Answers to the Sweet Mystery of Life

Posted by Jason Dworkin on 2015/05/07 12:21 CDT | 2 comments

The nature of the origin of life is a topic that has engaged people since ancient times. The samples to be collected by OSIRIS-REx, returned to the Earth in 2023 and archived for decades beyond that, may indeed hide the secrets to the origin of life.

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The Cosmic Microwave Oven Background

Posted by David Wilson on 2015/04/17 03:03 CDT | 2 comments

Over the past couple of decades the Parkes Radio Telescope in Australia has been picking up two types of mysterious signals, each lasting just a few milliseconds. The source of one of these signals may have finally been found—and an unexpected source at that.

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Planetary Defense Conference: Steps to Prevent Asteroid Impact

Posted by Bruce Betts on 2015/04/13 07:23 CDT | 1 comments

From Italy, Bruce Betts gives background and information at the start of the Planetary Defense Conference, which addresses the asteroid threat. Bruce summarizes steps to prevent asteroid impact.

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A moon with atmosphere

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/04/08 01:27 CDT | 10 comments

What is the solar system moon with the densest atmosphere? Most space fans know that the answer is Titan. A few of you might know that Triton's is the next densest. But what's the third? Fourth? Do any other moons even have atmospheres? In fact, they do; and one such atmosphere has just been discovered.

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Revitalized 0.81m telescope studying properties of NEOs

Posted by Bruce Betts on 2015/03/31 11:04 CDT

Thanks to a new focal reducer and re-aluminized mirror from a Shoemaker NEO grant, a 0.81-meter telescope in Italy is performing astrometric follow-up observations and physical studies of asteroids.

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Ceres Gets Real; Pluto Lurks

Posted by Paul Schenk on 2015/03/27 04:10 CDT

Although we are still along way from understanding this fascinating little body, Ceres is finally becoming a real planet with recognizable features! And that's kinda cool.

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LPSC 2015: MESSENGER's low-altitude campaign at Mercury

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/03/25 07:55 CDT | 3 comments

At last week's Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, the MESSENGER team held a press briefing to share results from the recent few months of incredibly low-altitude flight over Mercury's surface. The mission will last only about five weeks more.

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LPSC 2015: First results from Dawn at Ceres: provisional place names and possible plumes

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/03/19 06:29 CDT | 6 comments

Three talks on Tuesday at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference concerned the first results from Dawn at Ceres. Chris Russell showed a map of "quads" with provisional names on Ceres, Andreas Nathues showed that Ceres' bright spot might be an area of plume-like activity, and Francesca Zambon showed color and temperature variations across the dwarf planet.

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How Do We Know When We Have Collected a Sample of Bennu?

Posted by Kevin Walsh on 2015/03/17 04:19 CDT | 1 comments

A huge amount of effort goes into deciding where to try to collect a sample on Bennu. There are roughly nine months to survey, map and model the asteroid to help make this decision.

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An internal ocean on Ganymede: Hooray for consistency with previous results!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/03/12 07:25 CDT | 8 comments

A newly published paper confirms a subsurface ocean at Ganymede. An ocean there was already suspected from its magnetic field and predicted by geophysics; new Hubble data confirms it, and even says it is in the same place we thought it was before. Such consistency is rare enough in planetary science to be worth celebration.

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Planet Formation and the Origin of Life

Posted by Dante Lauretta on 2015/02/09 10:47 CST | 4 comments

To understand the possible distribution of life in the Universe it is important to study planet formation and evolution. These processes are recorded in the chemistry and mineralogy of asteroids and comets, and in the geology of ancient planetary surfaces in our Solar System.

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A second ringed centaur? Centaurs with rings could be common

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/01/27 12:43 CST | 2 comments

Chiron, which is both a centaur and a comet, may also have rings.

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