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Solar System

You are here (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

If the midweek hump has you in a contemplative spirits, this stunning image of Earth as pictured by the Cassini spacecraft from Saturn, 898 million miles (1.44 billion kilometers) away, may offer a little context. The Earth and the Moon appear to be seemingly insignificant specks from the perspective of the spacecraft from its orbit around the gas giant, the second biggest planet in the Solar System. But as it turns out, Cassini is actually talking us up.  Read More

A representation of our heliosphere traveling through the interstellar medium to produce a...

Although never actually observed, it has long been assumed that as our Solar System careers through the Universe, the heliosphere, or solar bubble, has a tail trailing behind it like a comet's. For the first time, NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX), which was launched back in 2008, has mapped the boundaries of this tail, revealing it is shaped like a four-leaf clover.  Read More

Michigan's proposed 3U CubeSat interplanetary spacecraft (Photo: University of Michigan)

CubeSats are one of the wonders of our day. They allow projects with small budgets and smaller equipment to access low Earth orbit (LEO) at achievable costs. Seeing greater potential for these miniaturized modular satellites, Professor Benjamin Longmire of the University of Michigan is heading a team to install a miniature plasma thruster system into a 3U CubeSat, enabling the vehicle to leave LEO and cruise much of the Solar System. Funding for the project is being sought through Kickstarter.  Read More

PayPal is looking to extend its brand across the Solar System (Image: Digitally-altered fr...

PayPal has teamed with the SETI Institute and the Space Tourism Society to start preparations for the coming upheavals of Solar System commerce. Having whetted their teeth on global commerce, PayPal is looking forward to the challenge of figuring out how to let John or Jill check their balance when they are living on Mars or visiting the Orbital Technologies commercial space station. It's answer is PayPal Galactic.  Read More

Composite of 25 separate images of the Sun captured buy NASA's SDO (Photo: NASA/SDO/AIA/S....

Three years ago the very first images from the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) were beamed back to earth. Since then, NASA’s SDO has effectively had continuous coverage of the Sun’s rise towards solar maximum, the period of the most intense solar activity in the 11 year solar cycle. NASA has now provided a fascinating snapshot of this ongoing research in the form of a time-lapse video that squeezes three years of solar activity into three minutes of footage.  Read More

The Voyager gauge (Image: NASA)

The history of spaceflight is filled with great images, such as Neil Armstrong setting foot on the Moon or Viking 1’s first images from Mars, but some of the most dramatic events haven’t any images to accompany them. As NASA's two Voyager spacecraft leave the Solar System, there won’t be any historic pictures sent back. Instead, that invisible boundary between our system and interstellar space will be marked by readings taken by the instruments of the spacecraft. NASA has placed a readout on the Voyager mission home page that shows two of three key factors that will let the public know when this momentous milestone has been reached.  Read More

Artist's impression of Voyager 1 (Image: NASA)

Has Voyager 1 left the Solar System? Is it officially the first spacecraft to reach interstellar space? It depends on whom you ask. NASA says no, but W.R. Webber of the New Mexico State University Department of Astronomy and F.B. McDonald of the University of Maryland Institute of Physical Science and Technology say yes. They contend that the unmanned, nuclear-powered probe left the Solar System on August 25, 2012 at a distance of 121.7 AU (18.2 billion km) from the Sun when its instruments on board detected a major shift in cosmic ray intensity.  Read More

Comet West (C/1975 V1) as seen on March 9, 1976 (Photo: NASA)

The first comet discovered this year, Comet C/2013 A1, is currently projected to pass within about 23,000 miles (37,000 km) of the surface of Mars late in 2014. While this event in itself promises spectacular views for astronomers, the uncertainty of the comet's orbit includes a significant chance of an impact on Mars. If this happens, the impact would be hundreds of times more powerful than the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs on Earth.  Read More

Vapor trail of the Chelyabinsk meteor (Photo: Nikita Plekhanov/Wikipedia)

The European Space Agency (ESA) is assessing information about the Chelyabinsk meteor that exploded last week over Russia in the hope of improving the space agency’s asteroid-hunting program. Calculations by Peter Brown at Canada's University of Western Ontario based on the analysis of extremely low-frequency sound waves detected by a global network, was combined with videos, satellite images and eyewitness accounts to allow ESA to construct a more complete and accurate account of the event.  Read More

A recent analysis of the data gathered from the Kepler telescope has revealed that Earth-s...

The latest analysis of data coming from NASA's Kepler telescope has revealed that nearly all the Sun-like stars in our galaxy appear to have planets orbiting them, and that at least 17 percent of them – about one in six – are hosting a planet the size of our own in close orbit. Because the Milky Way is estimated to contain some 100 billion stars, this means that our galaxy alone could have at least 17 billion Earth-sized planets, some of which may harbor the conditions for life.  Read More

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