This picture, taken by NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft during its 1980 approach to Saturn, is just one of the many beautiful images sent back by that mission and its twin, Voyager 2, during their grand tour of the outer solar system. They show us the beauty of worlds beyond our own and help us reflect on all that humanity has accomplished in the pursuit of peaceful scientific exploration. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Björn Jónsson.
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Curiosity spotted a most curious Martian formation. The NASA rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) recently snapped photos of a coral-looking feature on the surface of the Red Planet. It appears to be the result of minerals precipitating. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.
The European Space Agency (ESA) says its ExoMars mission with Roscosmos is “very unlikely” to launch on time. In a statement, ESA explained the mission — which was set to launch in September 2022 — is likely to be delayed due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “Regarding the ExoMars program continuation, the sanctions and the wider context make a launch in 2022 very unlikely,” ESA said. “ESA’s Director General will analyze all the options and prepare a formal decision on the way forward by ESA Member States.”
Two supermassive black holes appear to be on track to smash into each other — in about 10,000 years. A new study suggests these black hole candidates, located about 9 billion light-years away, are the closest pair of supermassive black holes ever detected. The duo may exist within a quasar — an intensely bright object fueled by a supermassive black hole.
From The Planetary Society
The Pioneer missions opened our eyes to the outer solar system. NASA’s twin spacecraft, Pioneer 10 and 11, paved the way for the future of space exploration, going farther into the solar system than any mission ever had. They sent back images like this view of Saturn and its moon Titan (a pleasingly vintage version of this week’s Space Snapshot image, even though it was taken only seven years earlier) and raised the bar for what humanity thought was possible. Image credit: NASA Ames.
What can Pioneer teach us about doing missions on a dime? Pioneer 10, the first spacecraft sent to Jupiter, was a scrappy, low-cost endeavor, but future exploration has been expensive: the top three most expensive planetary missions are all gas giant missions. On the latest Planetary Radio: Space Policy Edition, on the 50th anniversary of the launch of Pioneer 10, we talk to Mark Wolverton, author of The Depths of Space: The Story of the Pioneer Probes, and Scott Bolton, PI of NASA's Juno mission, about why outer planets missions are so expensive, and what they can learn from Pioneer to lower costs and increase the rate of exploration.
The next frontier? Exoplanets. While missions like Voyager and Pioneer broke new ground in the 1970s and '80s, many of the next breakthroughs in planetary science are likely to take place in the study of planets that orbit other stars. NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is one of the missions at the forefront of exoplanet discovery, and has already found more than 5,000 worlds beyond our solar system. Mission scientist Michelle Kunimoto joins this week’s Planetary Radio to talk about the search for new worlds and how it impacts life on this one.
In the predawn sky, Venus shines bright in the east, with dimmer, reddish Mars nearby and Saturn and Mercury close together very near to the horizon. There are no planets on display in the evening sky, but you might be able to spot the Pleiades star cluster. Learn more at planetary.org/night-sky.
Wow of the Week
Space exploration has often sought to represent the best of humanity, our peaceful aspirations, and our unity as Earthlings. This plaque, left on the Moon aboard the Apollo 11 lander, is a testament to that spirit. Much like it are the plaques attached to the Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft, the Voyager golden record and the plaque aboard the Lucy spacecraft.
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