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Solar system

Analysis and Comment (19)

The dawn of a new day. Flickr/Christos Tsoumplekas

Explainer: how does our sun shine?

What makes our sun shine has been a mystery for most of human history. Given our sun is a star and stars are suns, explaining the source of the sun’s energy would help us understand why stars shine. An…
Our moon orbits the Earth in the same way satellites do. Flickr/Alexey Kljatov

Explainer: how do satellites orbit the Earth?

Take a look at the moon and it isn’t hard to imagine it as a planet. A 3,476 kilometres-in-diameter ball of rock, with basalt plains and mountain ranges, whose gravitational pull produces tides here on…
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…
Jupiter’s Great Red Spot was much bigger when photographed by Voyager back in 1979. NASA

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot could disappear in a generation

NASA revealed today that the iconic Great Red Spot on Jupiter has shrunk to its smallest size ever – and astronomers have no idea why. The Great Red Spot is a giant anticyclone storm that has been raging…
One of Saturn’s many moons, Enceladus seems to have a large body of water hiding under its icy crust. NASA

Waterworld? Cassini spots the motion of Enceladus’s ocean

An ocean of water has been found underneath the icy crust of Enceladus, Saturn’s sixth largest moon, according to observations of the Cassini spacecraft published in Science today. This result has come…
MAVEN’s on its way to Mars … but look at what we’ve sent to our other neighbours. NASA/Goddard

Another Mars mission … but what about the rest of the solar system?

Following India’s maiden Mars probe launch earlier in the month, last week saw the successful launch of the Martian Atmospheres and Volatiles Evolution mission, or MAVEN for short. With the second spacecraft…
Olympus Mons (pictured) is regarded as the largest volcano in the Solar System, but there is a new kid on the block. NASA

Earth’s largest volcano found in Pacific Ocean

A megavolcano found at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean is being reported as the largest single volcano on Earth. Tamu Massif, as the megavolcano is called, may be as voluminous as Olympus Mons on Mars…
How will Earth weather solar storms while the sun flips its magnetic field? NASA Goddard Photo and Video

A solar magnetic reversal means there’s no need to flip out – yet

You may have read the sun’s magnetic field is heading for a change in field polarity - meaning it will flip upside down - and could have ripple effects throughout the entire solar system. So what does…
An artist’s impression of water particles ‘raining’ onto Saturn from its rings. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/University of Leicester

Space oddity: how Saturn’s rings are rainmakers

In space no one can hear you scream, but you may get a bit wet. In particular, if you were thinking of journeying to take in the sights of Saturn, it would be a good idea to pack an umbrella. This is suggested…
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin and his colleagues on the Apollo 11 mission inspired generations to be interested in lunar exploration. EPA/NASA

Satellite of love: our on-off relationship with the moon

Like all relationships, our association with the moon has had its ups and downs. In this series we’ve talked about the nature of the satellite and how we think it was formed - in a giant collision that…
The moon in total lunar eclipse as seen over Sydney in 2011. AAP/Sydney Observatory

I see the moon: introducing our nearest neighbour

The moon. Our nearest neighbour. The main source of the ocean’s tides, and a beacon that drives the lives of animals across the globe. And also, to date, the only object beyond Earth on which humans have…
We may finally have an answer to a long-standing cosmic/ cosmetic issue. NASA

Was our two-faced moon in a small collision?

As of today, we have a cataclysmic new explanation for one of solar system astronomy’s most long-standing questions: why do the near- and far-sides of the Moon look so different? This new theory, published…

Columnists (1)

Catching the planets and new views of Mars

Looking west after sunset on Friday September 26, the thin waxing crescent moon forms a triangle with Mercury and Spica, the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo. You can see how far Mercury has…

Research and News (2)

Research Briefs (6)

Wild is the (solar) wind

Satellite observations have revealed that magnetic oscillations carrying energy from the Sun’s surface into its outer atmosphere…

Fourth Pluto moon found

A fourth moon has been discovered in the orbit of the dwarf planet Pluto by researchers at a leading space science centre…