Outer Solar System

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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Cometary Breakup and Reassembly

June 1, 2016

Yesterday’s look at organic compounds on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko needs to be augmented today by a just released study of the comet with implications for how all comets evolve. But first, a renewed pointer to the Kickstarter campaign for KIC 8462852, the unusual star whose light curves continue to baffle astronomers. Please consider contributing to the […]

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Rosetta’s Comet: Ingredients for Life

May 31, 2016

The thought that water and organic molecules might have arrived on the early Earth from the impacts of comets and asteroids has long been provocative, and our missions to nearby comets are now paying off with insights into the possibility. It was back in 2004 that the Stardust mission flew past Comet Wild 2, collecting […]

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Moons of the Outer Dwarf Planets

May 18, 2016

Yesterday’s post on the dwarf planet 2007 OR10 brought comments asking why an object this large hasn’t yet been named. Actually it has been, but only briefly. It was Meg Schwamb, then a graduate student of Caltech’s Michael Brown, who discovered 2007 OR10, and Brown quickly gave it the nickname Snow White — as the […]

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New Work on Dwarf Planet 2007 OR10

May 17, 2016

Although we always think of Kepler — and its successor mission K2 — as an exoplanet observatory, the spacecraft has also been put to work on objects much closer to home. Enter 2007 OR10, a dwarf planet that is currently about twice as distant from the Sun as Pluto. The Kepler instrument is, of course, […]

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