Convection formed Pluto's polygons

Among Pluto’s peculiar surface features, many of which were first seen just last year when NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft zipped by the dwarf planet, are polygon-shaped rises covering parts of a large equatorial basin known as Sputnik Planum. The basin is known to be filled mainly with ices of nitrogen, methane and carbon monoxide, but the origin of the polygons has been debated. In a pair of new studies published in Nature, two teams of researchers now attribute the distinctive shapes to convection within underlying layers of frozen nitrogen.

24 Oct 2016

New type of meteorite found in Sweden

Meteorites offer a glimpse into the workings and origins of our solar system. Now, a meteorite found in a Swedish quarry, reported in a new study in Nature Communications, is opening a whole new window: The find has been classified as a new type of meteorite, never before seen on Earth.

18 Oct 2016

Milky Way invisible for a third of humanity

Death Valley National Park is a remote place, and in its night sky countless stars, including many in our own Milky Way Galaxy, are visible. But on the park’s eastern horizon, a dome of light appears each night, blotting out stars in that part of the sky. The glow of city lights from Las Vegas creates this “light pollution,” which worldwide now hides the Milky Way from about one-third of humanity, according to a new study in Science Advances.

12 Oct 2016

Rosetta mission ends with a bang: But the discoveries will continue

Rosetta crashed onto the surface of a comet on Sept. 30, bringing its mission to an end, though the scientific analysis and discoveries will continue for decades. We examine a few of the biggest surprises and highlights of Rosetta’s scientific journey so far.

30 Sep 2016

What's in a name: Rosetta, Philae, and 67P?

All of the names associated with the Rosetta mission, including the orbiter itself, the lander and all of the place names coined by mission scientists on 67P, refer to ancient Egyptian sites or deities, in homage to the Egyptian origin of the Rosetta Stone and Philae obelisk.

30 Sep 2016

Philae: Achievement and disappointment

Rosetta’s Philae lander made the first landing on the surface of a comet when it touched down on Nov. 12, 2014, three months after Rosetta began orbiting 67P. The landing, though historic, did not go as planned, and Philae was unable to accomplish much of the scientific program that had been scheduled for its 10 instruments.

30 Sep 2016

Rosetta's journey

Launch date: March 2, 2004

Launch place: French Guiana

Launch mass: Rosetta: 2,900 kilograms; Philae: 100 kilograms

Rosetta dimensions: 2.8 x 2.1 x 2.0 meters, plus two 14-meter solar panels

30 Sep 2016

Small asteroid spotted circling Earth

Earth has a companion other than the moon, according to scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., who identified a previously unseen asteroid that circles around our planet as it follows its own orbit around the sun.

20 Sep 2016

Red Planet Roundup: September 2016

With two rovers patrolling the surface of Mars, five spacecraft orbiting above it, and scientists here on Earth studying the Red Planet from afar, new findings are announced often. Here are a few of the latest updates.

13 Sep 2016

First global topographic map of Mercury released

Mercury’s surface is arid, gray and scarred by craters over much of its landscape. Given its close proximity to the sun, a manned trip to Mercury is out of the question — but now you can explore Mercury’s pockmarked surface in its entirety with the first global topographic map of the planet.

02 Sep 2016