Outer Solar System

Prebiotic Chemistry on Titan?

July 7, 2016

If you’re looking for liquid water on Titan, prepare to go deep, perhaps as much as 100 kilometers below the Saturnian moon’s crust, which is itself made of ice. When it comes to exoplanets, we always talk about the habitable zone as a place where liquid water could exist on the surface. Titan clearly fails […]

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Operations Throughout the Solar System

July 6, 2016

A reminder of how challenging it is to operate with solar power beyond the inner system is the fact that Juno carries 18,698 individual solar cells. Because it is five times further from the Sun than the Earth, the sunlight that reaches Juno is 25 times less powerful, a reflection of the fact that the […]

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Arrival: Juno in Orbit

July 5, 2016

People in the space business always joke about the stress levels at any launch, but if you’re keeping tabs on a billion dollar spacecraft like Juno, I’d say the arrival can create just as many, if not more, gray hairs. Plenty of people are breathing easier this morning after Juno’s successful 35-minute engine burn and […]

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Revisiting Enceladus’ Ocean

June 23, 2016

As we saw yesterday, there is a case to be made that the ocean beneath Pluto’s ice is still liquid, based on phase changes in ice under varying pressures and temperatures. Today we turn to another world with interesting oceanic possibilities, Enceladus. Here the data are problematic and contradictory. Flybys by the Cassini Saturn orbiter […]

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Pluto: Evidence for a Liquid Internal Ocean

June 22, 2016

What accounts for Pluto’s interesting landscape? As we accumulate more and more data from New Horizons, we’re seeing a wide range of geologic activity on the surface, most of it involving such volatile ices as nitrogen, carbon dioxide and methane. But look at the troughs and scarps — some of them hundreds of kilometers long […]

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Asteroids as Spacecraft

June 14, 2016

Rama is a name that resonates with science fiction fans who remember Arthur C. Clarke’s wonderful Rendezvous with Rama (1973). The novel depicts a 50-kilometer starship that enters the Solar System and is intercepted by a human crew, finding remarkable and enigmatic things that I will leave undescribed for the pleasure of those who haven’t […]

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New Insights into Ceres’ Bright Spots

June 7, 2016

One reason for catching up with recent planetary science here in the Solar System is the upcoming arrival of Juno, which enters into polar orbit around Jupiter on July 4. Juno’s arrival is a reminder that the past year has been packed with interesting news from places like Pluto/Charon (New Horizons), Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (Rosetta), and […]

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Looking Back: Pluto’s Twilight Landscape

June 6, 2016

Friday’s look at the possible composition of Pluto’s Sputnik Planum took me into a deep enough dive on the two papers — Pluto gets my full attention! — that I ran out of time. I had planned to include the images below in that post, but we can do that this morning as a reminder […]

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Explaining Sputnik Planum

June 3, 2016

It’s been a week spent catching up with space mission news, focusing on Rosetta, Juno and today, New Horizons. Usually I ponder what I’m going to write each day on Centauri Dreams while I’m having breakfast, a quiet time to reflect on recent events. And if Jay Melosh (Purdue University) is to be believed, I […]

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Radio Map of Jupiter Anticipates Juno Findings

June 2, 2016

Interesting news about Jupiter this morning even as the Juno spacecraft crosses into the realm of Jupiter’s gravity. It was six days ago that Juno made the transition into Jupiter space, where the gravitational influence of Jupiter now dominates over all other celestial bodies. And it will be on July 4 of this year that […]

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