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Solar System

Artist's impression of two protoplanets colliding (Image: NASA/California Institute of Tec...

Until now, it has been generally accepted that a meteor constitutes a time capsule – a relic of the early creation of the solar system that has fallen to Earth, allowing us to delve into the distant past by looking at the composition of the essentially unchanged material that formed the basis of planetary formation. However, a new study carried out by researchers from MIT and Purdue University seeks to challenge the established belief, asserting that rather than representing the kernel of planetary creation, that they are instead a by-product of the violent and often cataclysmic process.  Read More

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

NASA's Dawn spacecraft is currently in the final stages of its historic mission to place a satellite in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres. The primary mission will take 16 months and will see the robotic explorer capture detailed images and measurements of Ceres, greatly improving our knowledge of the solar system.  Read More

The KOI-3158 system compared to other known planets (Image credit: Tiago Campante)

A team of scientists has found what they claim is the oldest Earth-sized planet in the Milky Way, hinting at the possibility of ancient life elsewhere in our galaxy. Located about 117 light years from us in the constellation Lyra, the star KOI-3158 is estimated to be 11.2 billion years old, give or take 900 million years or so. For some perspective, our own sun and solar system is believed to be less than 5 billion years old.  Read More

The first flight of NASA's Orion capsule was one of a number of 2014 space firsts (Image: ...

It's been a busy year in space. In a mixture of triumph and tragedy, space exploration reached new horizons, tested new technologies, and pushed the limits of the possible in 2014. So as the old year draws to close, Gizmag looks back on the space highlights of the past twelve months.  Read More

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

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