Saturn’s rings are one of the most beautiful sights in the solar system. They are an amazing planetary phenomenon – countless bits of rock, ice and dust orbiting the planet in relatively paper-thin rings, which, when seen from above, kind of look like a giant vinyl record (remember those?). Saturn’s many moons can affect the rings’ appearance due to their gravitational pull. Now, new research shows how Saturn itself can do this also, essentially “shaking” its rings.
Mars is famous for its duststorms, which can grow big enough to cover the entire planet. But did you know that it also has snowstorms? These storms can dump a lot of snow on the north polar cap during the bitterly cold winter, and now scientists say they can more accurately forecast them, it was reported yesterday, which would aid any future rover missions in these areas.
The goal of sending astronauts to Mars is one that NASA has had for a long time now, and a conference this week in Washington, DC is hoping to bring that dream closer to reality.
Hurricanes are an incredible force of nature, and these huge rotating vortexes of wind are an amazing sight when viewed from space. But Earth is not the only planet that has hurricanes, and there is one on Saturn that dwarfs any on our own planet. Now, the Cassini spacecraft has taken more breath-taking colour images of this colossal wind storm.
Meteors flashing across the sky are a common sight here on Earth, but of course they are not limited to only our planet; these bits of rocky debris, smaller pieces of asteroids and comets known as meteoroids, can be found just about everywhere in the solar system (becoming meteors when entering and burning up in the atmosphere). Now, the Cassini spacecraft has observed similar impacts occurring in another very different and far-away place: the rings of Saturn!
The impact of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 into Jupiter in 1994 was a spectacular event for astronomers. The scars in Jupiter’s atmosphere lasted for weeks afterward; while those have long since faded, there are still other features of the impact visible even now, it was announced last Tuesday.
For those of you who would like to go to Mars and be one of the first humans to set foot on the Red Planet, this may be the ticket. As announced in this morning’s press briefing, Mars One is now searching for the first astronauts to send to Mars in 2023. Yes, really.
There is some more exciting news from the Kepler space telescope mission – as announced in a NASA press briefing this morning, three more planets have been detected orbiting in their stars’ habitable zones. Larger planets have been found already in this zone around various stars, but what makes this newest discovery so compelling is that these new planets are the smallest found so far in this zone, so-called “super-Earths.” Two of them may even be covered by oceans!
A “missing” Mars lander and its associated hardware from the 1970s may have finally been discovered in images taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The Soviet Mars 3 lander was the first successful landing on Mars by any spacecraft, but after transmitting for only 14.5 seconds after touchdown on December 2, 1971, it went silent and was never heard from again. Its exact landing site was unknown, but now may have finally been located after all these years.