Taxonomy term


Two new looks at Titan's dunes

Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, is covered with extensive fields of sand dunes around its equator. From a distance, the wind-swept landscape looks similar to those seen on Earth, Mars and Venus, but new research suggests that dune formation on Titan may require different conditions than previously thought.

31 Mar 2015

New lunar research answers old questions, poses others

From its close perch in the sky, the moon has long mystified artists, lovers and scientists. Now a quartet of recent papers — all of which touch on the moon’s violent birth and turbulent infancy — may help scientists put two long-standing lunar mysteries to rest, while deepening a third enigma and suggesting a speculative solution to a fourth.

23 Oct 2014

Cassini spots new moon in Saturn's rings

Saturn is famous for its rings, but the sixth planet from the sun also has dozens of moons — 62 at last count, 53 of which have names — and now, according to new observations, it may have a 63rd. In April of last year, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft spotted a newly formed object at the edge of Saturn’s outermost A ring.

08 Oct 2014

Down to Earth With: Neil Armstrong: First astrogeologist on the moon

One year ago this month, Neil Armstrong died in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the age of 82. Armstrong will be forever remembered for that historic first step he took on the moon on July 20, 1969, but he also held another distinction: He was the first person to explore the geology of another planetary body.

President John F. Kennedy mandated in his famous 1961 speech at Rice Stadium in Texas that the primary goal of the Apollo program was to land humans on the moon and return them safely to Earth before the end of the decade. The science mission was an important, but secondary, goal.

04 Aug 2013

Apollo science, 40 years later: Scientists reopen a lunar cold case

Today’s lunar scientists are like detectives who reopen old criminal cases and examine them anew with modern instruments and techniques like DNA analysis. Armed with data and analytical techniques not available in the 1970s, scientists are re-examining Apollo moon rocks and learning more than ever before about our nearest celestial neighbor.

24 Mar 2013

Moon could have formed from Earth after all: Reviving and revising the giant impact theory

Scientists are revisiting the age-old question of how Earth’s moon formed. New models indicate that it could have been born from the Earth following a giant collision after all.

The idea of a moon-forming collision is not new. The giant impact theory — the idea that a catastrophic collision about 4.5 billion years ago between Earth and a protoplanet about half Earth’s size created a disk of molten rock, gas and debris that consolidated to form the moon — was first set forth in the mid-1970s.

04 Feb 2013

Two NASA spacecraft reveal ancient underground cracks from moon's formation

SAN FRANCISCO: The face of the moon has always enchanted humankind, but new data from a NASA mission have given scientists a glimpse of what lies beneath the surface.

06 Dec 2012

Sun provides water to the moon?

Until recently, the consensus in the scientific community was that the moon was bone-dry. Scientists thought that the massive impact responsible for the moon’s creation would have driven away the hydrogen needed to form water. In the past four years, however, that view has melted away. The first suggestion of water was in 2008, when researchers identified the presence of water in volcanic lunar glass. In 2009, satellites orbiting high above the moon identified water on its surface.

14 Oct 2012

A memoir: A decade-plus of tracking lunar larceny

In the back alleys of the world’s capitals and in the ballrooms of presidential palaces exists a black market that preys on the imagination of some and the greed of others. These black-market items were neither carved nor painted; in fact, they are not of this Earth. They traveled 400,000 kilometers via six Apollo missions and three unmanned Soviet missions to and from the moon.

22 Feb 2011

Bids in space: When should we outsource government science?

Government research and development has its limits: Time, money and bureaucracy can all hamper the timely progress of research. As a result, many federal agencies are looking to private companies to help drive new innovation and keep costs down — but it’s never that simple. Two current hot-button topics — returning humans to space and geoengineering — highlight a range of issues related to how private and public investment in science can coexist. This month, we focus on NASA.

30 Jun 2010