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Stories, updates, insights, and original analysis from The Planetary Society.

Yoshihide Kozai (1928 - 2018)

Caltech planetary scientist Konstantin Batygin pays tribute to a pioneer in celestial mechanics.

#AGU17: Spherical harmonics, gravity, and the depth of winds at Jupiter

Results from the Juno gravity science experiment presented at last week's American Geophysical Union meeting suggest Jupiter's winds penetrate only to 3000 kilometers deep.

#DPS17: The Moon's Giordano Bruno crater through many eyes

Today's story from the Division for Planetary Sciences meeting looks at one youthful rayed crater on the Moon from many different spacecraft.

#DPS17: Wobbling the Moon and art by James Tuttle Keane

James Tuttle Keane is increasingly famous (among planetary scientists anyway) for his remarkable illustrated notes from conferences. Here's his work from the Division for Planetary Sciences meeting, illustrating both his own and others' research.

#DPS2017: Progress report on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter images of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring

Three years ago, on October 19, 2014, comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring passed within 138,000 kilometers of Mars. At the 2017 meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society, we heard a progress report on Mars orbiter imaging of the comet's nucleus.

In total eclipse of a star, New Horizons' future flyby target makes its presence known

The team reported two weeks ago that the first attempts at observing 2014 MU69 were unsuccessful. But in their third try, on July 17, astronomers in Argentina saw the telltale sign of MU69's presence: a stellar wink.

Geology on Mars: Using stratigraphic columns to tell the story of Gale Crater

Stratigraphic columns are a basic tool in geology, used on both Earth and Mars to tell the story of a location. But what are they really?

Radar in Earth and Planetary Science, Part 2

Heather Hunter brings us the next installment in her series on radio detection and ranging.

Radar in Earth and Planetary Science: An Intro

Heather Hunter explains how radar works and what it's used for on Earth and beyond.

Subsurface Water Ice in Utopia Planitia, Mars

Martian radar expert Cassie Stuurman explains how the SHARAD instrument aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was used to detect buried ice deposits.

DPS/EPSC update on New Horizons at the Pluto system and beyond

Last week's Division for Planetary Sciences/European Planetary Science Congress meeting was chock-full of science from New Horizons at Pluto.

DPS/EPSC update: 2007 OR10 has a moon!

The third-largest object known beyond Neptune, 2007 OR10, has a moon. The discovery was reported in a poster by Gábor Marton, Csaba Kiss, and Thomas Mueller at the joint meeting of the European Planetary Science Congress and the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society (DPS/EPSC) on Monday.

Rosetta spacecraft may be dying, but Rosetta science will go on

The Rosetta mission will end tomorrow when the spacecraft impacts the comet. ESA took advantage of the presence of hundreds of members of the media to put on a showcase of Rosetta science. If there’s one thing I learned today from all the science presentations, it’s this: Rosetta data will be informing scientific work for decades to come.

Gaia's first galaxy map

The astronomy world is abuzz today because of ESA's announcement of the first release of data from the Gaia mission. Gaia is a five-year mission that will eventually measure the positions and motions of billions of stars; this first data release includes positions for 1.1 billion of them, and proper motions for 2 million.

Let’s be careful about this “SETI” signal

Several readers have contacted me recently about reports that a group of international astronomers have detected a strong signal coming from a distant star that could be a sign of a high-technology civilization. Here’s my reaction: it’s interesting, but it’s definitely not the sign of an alien civilization—at least not yet.

Proxima Centauri b: Have we just found Earth’s cousin right on our doorstep?

What began as a tantalizing rumor has just become an astonishing fact. Today a group of thirty-one scientists announced the discovery of a terrestrial exoplanet orbiting Proxima Centauri. The discovery of this planet, Proxima Centauri b, is a huge breakthrough not just for astronomers but for all of us. Here’s why.

Gullies on Mars: Wet or Dry (Ice)?

Martian gullies were in the spotlight last week thanks to a NASA press release stating they were

Oppositions, conjunctions, seasons, and ring plane crossings of the giant planets

When are the solstices and equinoxes on the giant planets, and when are they best positioned for view from Earth? I ask these questions a lot as I write about Earth photos of giant planets, and I finally decided to gather the answers to those questions in a single post.

Atmospheric Waves Awareness: An Explainer

There are two types of atmospheric waves that are critically important on Earth and other planets: gravity waves and planetary waves.

Favorite Astro Plots #4: Classifying Exoplanets

Until just a few years ago, a plot of mass versus size of other worlds would have looked pretty sparse and uninformative. But thanks to the tireless efforts of exoplanet astronomers, we now know fairly precise masses and radii for hundreds of distant worlds.

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