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Solar System

Artist's impression of the Mercury periodic meteor shower (Image: NASA's Goddard Space Fli...

Sit out on a clear summer's night and the odds are that you'll be treated to a meteor shower that's the remnant of a comet's passing. However, such showers are not peculiar to our planet. NASA's unmanned MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) orbiter has uncovered evidence that the planet Mercury is subject to the same sort of periodic meteor showers as the Earth, only instead of a light show, it produces a spike in calcium in the planet's exosphere.  Read More

The latest findings indicate that the Earth's water may not have come from comets (Image E...

The oceans are a mystery in more ways than one, but you might not expect the answers to come from a pack of electronics and a comet. But that's what the European Space Agency (ESA) says about the unmanned Rosetta probe orbiting comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Though 67P is making its first visit to the inner Solar System and won't come closer to the Earth than hundreds of millions of miles, it is throwing new light on one of the fundamental questions in Earth's history: Where did the oceans come from?  Read More

Zoomed-in image of Ceres taken on Dec. 1, 2014 with the Dawn spacecraft's framing camera (...

The Dawn spacecraft has lifted the veil on another corner of the Solar System by taking its best image yet of the dwarf planet Ceres. The nine-pixel-wide image was taken from a distance of 740,000 mi (1.2 million km) from Ceres as part of the final calibration of Dawn's science camera as the unmanned probe approaches the 590 mi (950 km) wide planetoid, which it will rendezvous with and orbit in March of next year.  Read More

Artist's concept of Haybusa2 taking a surface sample on JU3 (Image: JAXA)

Sometimes it seems as if the history of spaceflight is a long exercise in oneupsmanship with each agency trying to top the others. Case in point is Japan's Hayabusa2 mission, which, following the landing of Philae on on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko last month, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) confirmed was successfully launched today at 1:22:04 pm JST from the Tanegashima Space Center on a mission to not only land on an asteroid, but to bomb it.  Read More

Technicians at Lockheed Martin prepare the InSight Mars lander for propulsion proof and le...

At some point in every project, you stop unpacking the parts and start putting them together. What's true for flat-pack furniture is also true for spacecraft, so Lockheed Martin has begun the Assembly, Test and Launch Operations (ATLO) phase of NASA's INterior exploration using Seismic investigations, geodesy and heat transport (InSight) Mars lander project. Scheduled to launch in 2016, the unmanned InSight probe will be the first deep-drilling mission sent to the Red Planet.  Read More

Artist's concept of New Horizons flying by Pluto (Image: NASA)

In what must be history’s longest distance wake up call, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft comes out of hibernation on December 6 at 3:00 pm EST. Now about 2.9 billion miles (4.6 billion km) from Earth, and 162 million miles (260 million km) from Pluto, the spacecraft will be put through a month-long preparation for its six month flyby of Pluto, with the primary phase of the mission slated to begin on January 15.  Read More

During its nominal five-year mission, Gaia will scout the skies cataloging a billion stars...

After a 20-year search, astronomers have uncovered a grand total of 1,900 planets residing outside of the Solar System. According to a new Princeton study, the Gaia space observatory launched by the European Space Agency (ESA) could help that figure grow by a factor of ten by the end of the decade, eventually reaching 70,000 planets after 10 years of scouting.  Read More

Artist's impression of a Kuiper Belt Object (Image: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon)

With NASA'S New Horizons spacecraft scheduled to pass Pluto next year, the space agency has announced the discovery of three Kuiper Belt objects (KBO); one of which may be the unmanned probe’s next destination. Located in the constellation of Sagittarius, the primordial asteroids were found after a detailed survey using the Hubble Space Telescope.  Read More

The assets that will be used to observe Siding Spring as it skims past Mars (Image: NASA)

NASA is busy readying its considerable arsenal of scientific instruments, spacecraft and rovers for a close encounter with comet C/2013 A1 on Sunday, Oct 19. The comet's closest approach with a planetary body will be with Mars, at which point it will miss the Red Planet by only 87,000 miles (140,013 km), less than half the distance between Earth and our moon, traveling at speeds of up to 126,000 mph (202,777 km/h).  Read More

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

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