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Solar System

Space

NASA's Dawn spacecraft recovers after two malfunctions

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

Space

New Horizons passes Neptune orbit on way to Pluto encounter

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

Space

Rosetta becomes first spacecraft to enter orbit around a comet

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

Space

Titanic eruptions on Io could lead to better understanding of Earth's surface formation

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

Space

Hubble to seek new targets for New Horizons spacecraft

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

Space

Clues to hazy exoplanet complexity revealed in our own solar system

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

Space

NASA orbiter discovers new Martian crater

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

Space

Rosetta spacecraft captures comet's developing coma

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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