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Solar System

Even though it is around the same size as our own Moon and a whole lot farther from the Sun, Jupiter's moon Europa is considered one of our solar system's most likely candidates for harboring extraterrestrial life. A deep and mysterious ocean is thought to exist below its icy crust and has beckoned scientists for more than a decade. NASA is in the process of conceptualizing a future mission to explore Europa, and has now confirmed which scientific instruments it will send along to do the job.

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After over nine years of travel, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is starting to provide hints of what its July flyby of Pluto will reveal. Earlier this month, the unmanned probe sent back the clearest images yet of the most distant planet of the classic Solar System, which have revealed light areas on the surface that show it may have polar caps. Read More
After over a decade of planetary exploration, NASA's MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft is set to end its mission by smashing into the surface of Mercury. The collision will take place on April 30, with the probe traveling at a speed of roughly 8,750 mph (14,082 km/h). Read More
There are a number of ideas about where the Moon came from, but, based on orbital mechanics, the accepted theory is that about 150 million years after the Solar System formed some 4.6 billion years ago, the primordial Earth was struck by an object the size of Mars called Theia. Out of the debris of this massive impact, the Moon was formed. Scientists at the University of Maryland (UMD) have for the first time found evidence to support this theory by analyzing the isotopic “fingerprints” of rock samples brought back by the Apollo astronauts. Read More
A team of astronomers from MIT have detected signs of a possible ring system around the minor planet Chiron. First discovered in 1977, Chiron belongs to a class of minor planets known as centaurs. These bodies share some of the characteristics exhibited by both comets and asteroids, hence their classification as Centaurs, which in ancient mythology denoted a creature with the traits of both man and horse. Read More
In science, it's often the case that solving one mystery just raises more questions. Take Saturn's moon Enceladus. For almost a decade, scientists have been puzzled by the gossamer plumes that waft up from its surface. Data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft now indicates that these may might be due to present-day hydrothermal activity in the vast ocean beneath the crust of the frozen moon, raising the possibility that Enceladus may harbor life. Read More
As NASA’s Dawn spacecraft makes its final approach to Ceres, the ion-propelled spacecraft is sending the best images yet with more details about the surface of the dwarf planet. The images from Dawn have shown the presence of numerous craters and unusual bright spots that scientist hope will provide clues as to not only how Ceres formed and if it is still active, but the early history of the Solar System as well. Read More
A new study carried out by Professor Michael Rampino of New York University suggests that dark matter may have had a part to play in the periodic mass extinction events that are known to have taken place throughout Earth's history. It takes our planet roughly 250 million years to circle the Milky Way, and around every 30 million years the Sun's orbit takes us through what is known as the galactic disk. The galactic disk is where the majority of the mass in our galaxy resides, and alongside it a thin disk of dark matter. Read More

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has captured the sharpest image yet of the dwarf planet Ceres. The picture was snapped at a distance of 52,000 miles (83,000 km), as the probe readies itself for orbital insertion slated for March 6. Read More

25 years ago Voyager 1 turned back towards our planet, and captured one of the most profound images ever taken – the pale blue dot. On the face of it, the little blue dot to screen-right appears insignificant. Yet, in its scope, it captured every human being that has ever lived and ever died, every wonder and every labor that mankind had then achieved in the relatively short history of our race. Read More
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