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Solar System

Artist's impression of Dawn orbiting the dwarf planet Ceres (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA)

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has recovered from an unexpected phenomenon that resulted in the robotic explorer going into safe mode on September 11, mirroring a similar event that affected the spacecraft three years ago as it approached the protoplanet Vesta. Dawn was launched in September 2007 atop a Delta II-Heavy rocket with a mission to explore Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres.  Read More

Artist's impression of New Horizons passing Pluto (Image: NASA)

Like a traveler on a very long road trip, a deep space probe has passed the last sign post before its destination. NASA has announced that its New Horizons probe has passed the orbit of Neptune – its last milestone before it flies by Pluto on July 14 next year. Launched in 2006, the piano-sized unmanned spacecraft is almost 2.75 billion mi (4.42 billion km) from Earth and is the fastest man-made object ever sent into space.  Read More

The Rosetta spacecraft is now in orbit around comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (Image: ESA)

The list of space firsts got a little longer this week. On August 6 at 11:30 am CET, ESA's Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany received radio signals confirming that Rosetta had begun its approach and was going into orbit around comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, making Rosetta the first spacecraft to go into orbit around a comet.  Read More

Jupiter and her volcanic moon, Io (Image: NASA/JHU/APL)

A series of three massive volcanic eruptions detected on the surface of Jupiter's moon Io in August last year, has the potential to yield insights into the formation process of the surface of Earth-like planets. By any standards, these eruptions were enormous, characterized as titanic curtains of lava issuing forth from fissures several miles in length, that spewed massive amounts of material high above the moon's surface.  Read More

Comet C/2013 A1 will pass Mars ten times closer than any observed comet has passed the Ear...

In October, Mars will encounter comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring, which will come closer to the Red Planet than any recorded comet has passed to Earth. This spectacular event isn't just an astronomical curiosity, it’s also a potential hazard to NASA’s armada of orbiting explorers, so the space agency is taking steps to protect them from damage by the cosmic visitor.  Read More

Artist's impression of the New Horizons probe encountering a Kuiper Belt object (Image: JH...

Once you've sent the first space probe to Pluto, what do you do for an encore? As NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft races to its encounter with the dwarf planet next year, the Hubble Space Telescope Time Allocation Committee have given its recommendation that the Hubble be used to find the Horizons’ next destination in the outer reaches of the Solar System.  Read More

Artist's impression of Rosetta's Philae probe approaching comet (Image: ESA/ATG medialab)

The European Space Agency's (ESA) Rosetta spacecraft, which back in January awoke from 957 days hibernation on its way to rendezvous with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, has now started its first instrument observations. Included in these instruments are three NASA science packages; MIRO, ALICE, and IES, all of which have started sending science data back to Earth.  Read More

Artist's Impression of Cassini passing near Titan (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Data collected from observations recorded by NASA's Cassini mission has been used to propose ways to better understand the atmospheres of exoplanets. By studying the light of sunsets on Saturn’s satellite, Titan, scientists have shown how spectra are subtly altered when passing through a hazy atmosphere, thereby giving a greater insight into interpreting the spectral readings of the atmosphere of these distant worlds.  Read More

Large, fresh crater surrounded by smaller craters (Image: NASA)

There are millions of impact craters all over the Solar System, but direct evidence of the massive collisions that form them is very hard to come by – and therefore very valuable. While carrying out its routine monitoring of the weather on the Red Planet, the Mars Color Imager (MARCI) on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has inadvertently snapped before and after images of the largest fresh meteor impact crater found anywhere in the Solar System.  Read More

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (center) against a star field (Photo: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for ...

On its way to rendezvous with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P, for short), the European Space Agency's (ESA's) Rosetta spacecraft has spied its approaching target and the coma – the "halo" made primarily out of ice and dust that gives the comet its fuzzy appearance – that is developing around its nucleus. At more than 600 million km (373 million miles) from the Sun, the opportunity to observe the early onset of coma production at such distances promises to add much to our knowledge of the life-cycle of a comet as it wends its way around the solar system.  Read More

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