Outer Solar System

A Kepler-438b Caveat (and a Digression)

November 18, 2015

Before we go interstellar, a digression with reference to yesterday’s post, which looked at how we manipulate image data to draw out the maximum amount of information. I had mentioned the image widely regarded as the first photograph, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce’s ‘View from the Window at Le Gras.’ Centauri Dreams regular William Alschuler pointed out […]

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Pluto and How We See It

November 17, 2015

As I did after yesterday’s post, I occasionally get requests for pictures of objects in natural color, as opposed to significantly enhanced images (at various wavelengths) designed to tease out structure or detail. Here are Pluto and Charon as seen by New Horizons’ LORRI (Long Range Reconnaissance Imager), with color data supplied by the Ralph […]

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Pluto’s Unexpected Complexities

November 16, 2015

Keeping up with a site like this can be a daunting task, especially when intriguing papers can pop up at any time and announcements of new finds by our spacecraft come in clusters. But site maintenance itself can be tricky. Recently Centauri Dreams regular Tom Mazanec wrote in with a project to be added to […]

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The Most Distant Dwarf Planet Yet

November 12, 2015

Back in the days when Clyde Tombaugh was using a blink comparator to search for ‘Planet X,’ finding a new object in the outer Solar System was highly unusual. Uranus had been found in 1781, Neptune in 1846, and I suppose I should add Ceres in 1801, although it’s a good deal closer than the […]

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Unusual Crater on Charon

November 4, 2015

Another surprise from New Horizons, in a year which will surely see a few more before it ends. After all, we have a long flow of data ahead as the spacecraft continues to return the information it gathered during the July flyby of Pluto/Charon. Now we focus on Charon and the crater being called Organa, […]

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Where We Might Sample Europa’s Ocean

October 29, 2015

No one interested in the prospects for life on other worlds should take his or her eyes off Europa for long. We know that its icy surface is geologically active, and that beneath it is a global ocean. While water ice is prominent on the surface, the terrain is also marked by materials produced by […]

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Catching Up with the Outer System

October 28, 2015

We now pivot from Dysonian SETI to the ongoing exploration of our own system, where lately there have been few dull moments. Today the Cassini Saturn orbiter will make its deepest dive ever into the plume of ice, water vapor and organic molecules streaming out of four major fractures (the ‘Tiger Stripes’) at Enceladus’ south […]

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A Mission to Jupiter’s Trojans

October 13, 2015

Back in 2011, a four planet system called Kepler-223 made a bit of a splash. Researchers led by Jack Lissauer (NASA Ames) at first believed they were looking at two planets that shared the same orbit around their star, each circling the primary in 9.8 days. These co-orbital planets were believed to be in resonance […]

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Pluto’s Circumbinary Moons

October 12, 2015

Kepler-47 is an eclipsing binary some 4900 light years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Cygnus. It’s a system containing two transiting circumbinary planets, meaning the planets orbit around the binary pair rather than around one or the other star. That configuration caught the eye of Simon Porter, a postdoc at the Southwest […]

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Off on a Comet

September 30, 2015

Imagine what you could do with a comet at your disposal. In Seveneves, Neal Stephenson’s new novel (William Morrow, 2015), a Musk-like character named Sean Probst decides to go after Comet Grigg-Skjellerup. A lunar catastrophe has doomed planet Earth and humanity is in a frantic rush to figure out how to save at least a […]

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