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New Horizons' look at Pluto’s Charon-facing hemisphere reveals intriguing geologic details that are of keen interest to mission scientists. This image was taken on July 11, 2015, when the spacecraft was 4 million km from Pluto. NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

Pluto and its collision-course place in our solar system

The New Horizons spacecraft is only hours away from its closest approach to Pluto. It's hoped the brief encounter will help answer many questions about the oddball member of our solar system.
Artist’s impression of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft encountering Pluto and its largest moon, Charon. NASA/Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Let the people decide new place names on Mercury and Pluto

Who gets to name the craters and features on our planets was once an ad hoc affair. But now the public can have a say with just days left to vote.
The Kepler satellite discovers exoplanets by measuring the light drop from a star when a planet moves in front of it. Maths can uncover many more exoplanets. Australian National University and the Niels Bohr Institute

Alien worlds: most stars have planets in the habitable zone

The search for life on other planets gets a boost thanks to an old calculation that found Uranus in our solar system.
Artist’s concept of the New Horizons spacecraft encountering Pluto and its largest moon, Charon (foreground) in July 2015. Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute (JHUAPL/SwRI)

From Mercury to Pluto: the year ahead in planetary exploration

2015 is already shaping up to be a big year in astronomy and planetary exploration, with the best yet to come. Here are some highlights to keep your eye on throughout the year. Opportunity January 25 marked…
An artist’s impression shows a pair of wildly misaligned planet-forming gas discs around both the young stars in the binary system HK Tauri. R. Hurt (NASA/JPL-Caltech/IPAC)

From dust clouds to wobbly orbits for new planets

New observations of a youthful binary star system, reported today in the journal Nature, may help to explain one of exoplanetary science’s greatest unanswered questions – the peculiar orbits of so many…
Beta Pictoris b spins faster than the fastest spinning planet in our solar system. ESO/L. Calçada & N. Risinger (

A different spin – exoplanet’s ‘day’ is measured for the first time

Over the past two decades, almost 1,500 exoplanets have been discovered orbiting distant stars – but Dutch astronomers have determined for the very first time just how fast one of those exoplanets is spinning…

Super Earths could not sustain life

Rocky planets larger than Earth could not sustain life because their thick, crushing hydrogen atmospheres would be deadly…
desert sunrise.

Death, the universe and everything

Sunrise or sunset? Our host star is both the creator and destroyer of all life. The Earth’s biosphere teems with life. From its upper atmosphere to the depths of its oceans, even down into the rocks that…
Things may not be as they’d previously seemed regarding the moon’s formation. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Was the moon formed by a planetary hit-and-run?

New research published in the planetary science journal Icarus, shows the moon may have been formed by a glancing collision with an “impactor” in the violent days of the early solar system. Contrary to…

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