Solar system

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An artist’s impression: MESSENGER flying over a colourful Mercury. NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Mercury’s MESSENGER mission comes to a crashing climax

It was the first probe to find water on Mercury, the planet closest to the sun. Its mission nearly over, MESSENGER is about to crash into the planet it's been observing.
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.
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics image of a supernova explosion discovered by Johannes Kepler in 1604. Flickr/X-ray: NASA/CXC/NCSU/M.Burkey et al; Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Our oceans give new insights on elements made in supernovae

Our understanding of heavy element production in supernovae, exploding stars way beyond our solar system, may need to change following some discoveries we have made looking not to the skies, but deep under…
Artist’s impression of New Horizons as it swings past the dwarf planet Pluto, in July 2015. NASA

Rise and shine! New Horizons awakes ahead of a date with Pluto

While the Mars Rovers and the Rosetta spacecraft will continue to make headlines in 2015, the stage is set for the solar system’s next great mission – the Pluto-bound New Horizons. Discovered in 1930…

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…
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…

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