Taxonomy term

solar system

Red Planet Roundup: January 2015

As two rovers patrol the surface of Mars, five spacecraft orbit above and scientists back here on Earth study the Red Planet from afar, new findings are announced almost weekly. Here are a few of the latest updates.

15 Jan 2015

Nanoflares power the sun's superheated corona

The sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona, reaches temperatures of more than 1 million degrees Celsius, hundreds of times hotter than its visible surface. The reason for this has puzzled scientists, who so far have only been able to theorize explanations.

24 Dec 2014

Red Planet Roundup: November 2014

As Curiosity and Opportunity rove around Mars, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), Mars Express and Mars Odyssey orbit above, and scientists on Earth study the Red Planet from afar, new findings are announced almost weekly. Here are a few of the latest updates.

06 Nov 2014

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

Mercury formed by hit and run?

The solar system was once as busy as a store parking lot on Black Friday. Collisions were common in the early days, and new evidence of a hit-and-run scenario may explain some of Mercury’s peculiarities.

17 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

Saturn's polar hexagon stable over time

Saturn’s peculiar polar “hexagon” has proven perplexing for scientists studying the atmospheric phenomenon since Voyager 1 and 2 first observed it in the early 1980s. Now, an international team has completed the most thorough study of the six-sided jet stream yet, using images and data collected between 2008 and 2014 by the Cassini spacecraft.

07 Oct 2014

Rings not just for planets anymore

Saturn is famously circled by halo-like rings of dust and debris, as are Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune. Now, a 250-kilometer-wide rock named Chariklo is breaking up the planetary monopoly and showing that other extraterrestrial bodies can host rings as well.

23 Jul 2014

Down to Earth With: The Geographers of the Solar System

Certain government officials have super cool titles: for example, Planetary Protection Officer (NASA's Catharine Conley) and Oceanographer of the Navy (David Titley). I think Geographer of the Solar System would be right up there. Alas, no one actually has that title, but in a little-known office of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) nestled in the hills above Flagstaff, Ariz., I met a dozen or so people who could reasonably qualify for it.

13 May 2012

Benchmarks: April 9, 1895: James Edward Keeler confirms Saturn's rings not solid

On April 9 and 10, 1895, astronomer James Edward Keeler snapped the most important photographs of his life. With a 13-inch (33-centimeter) refracting telescope, Keeler captured proof that Saturn’s rings were not solid disks, but instead a collection of particles revolving around the planet. The discovery put to rest a question that astronomers had been pondering for more than two centuries.
01 Apr 2011