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Solar System

Artist's rendering of Kepler-20e (Image: NASA)

NASA has discovered the first earth-size planets outside of our solar system. The discovery was made as part of NASA's Kepler mission and involves the discovery of two planets currently named after the project: Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f. If the Kepler name sounds familiar, that's because NASA also recently announced the discovery of Kepler-22b, the most Earth-like planet discovered to date. Kepler 22b is orbiting a star similar to our sun, and is capable of possessing liquid water, an essential feature for life to exist on a planet.  Read More

Artist's rendering of Juno orbiting Jupiter (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Last Friday, NASA’s Juno spacecraft launched aboard an Atlas V-551 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida beginning its five-year, 1,740 million mile (2,800 million km) journey to our solar system’s largest planet, Jupiter. Juno is due to arrive at Jupiter in July 2016, after which it will orbit the gas giant planet’s poles 33 times over a period of about a year. The spacecraft’s collection of eight science instruments will probe beneath Jupiter’s obscuring cloud cover to reveal more about its origins, structure, atmosphere, and magnetosphere, and look for a potential solid planetary core.  Read More

Artist's concept of NASA's Dawn spacecraft with Vesta on the lower left and Ceres on the u...

On Saturday, NASA’a Dawn spacecraft entered orbit around the asteroid Vesta, becoming the first probe ever to enter orbit around an object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Dawn will study Vesta for a year before heading for the dwarf planet Ceres. With previous multi-target missions, such as the Voyager program, considered rapid planetary flybys, Dawn is also set to become the first spacecraft to enter orbit around one extraterrestrial body before continuing under powered flight to a second.  Read More

Artist concept of the two Voyager spacecraft as they approach interstellar space (Image cr...

The Voyager 1 spacecraft launched by NASA on September 5, 1977 continues to add to its impressive list of accomplishments. Its “Grand Tour" through the Solar System has seen it become the first probe to provide detailed images of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn and earn the title of most distant human-made object in the cosmos. After a 33-year journey, Voyager 1 has now crossed into an area at the edge of our Solar System where there is no outward motion of solar wind.  Read More

The peanut-shaped Hartley 2 comet is only the fifth comet to be studied at such close rang...

Mission controllers from the University of Maryland-led EPOXI mission celebrated last week as NASA's Deep Impact space probe flew close by the Hartley 2 comet, sending back rare and valuable data about the comet. This is only the fifth time that a comet core has been viewed from such a near distance by a space probe, and it is hoped that by understanding comets better we can learn more about the origin and history of our solar system.  Read More

Artist's conception showing the inner four planets of the Gliese 581 system and their host...

If you’re looking to get away from it all then Gliese 581g might just fit the bill. But be prepared to pack enough for the trip that, even on a rocket traveling 30,000 km per second (18,640 miles per second), would take 200 years. Gliese 581g is the first exoplanet discovered that sits in an area where water could exist on the planet’s surface. If confirmed, this would make it the most Earth-like exoplanet yet discovered and the first strong case for a “potentially habitable” one.  Read More

These computer Images represent infrared snapshots of Kuiper Belt dust as seen by a distan...

For the first time researchers have simulated images of sections of our Solar System as they may have appeared some 700 million years ago. Supercomputer modeling of tiny dust particles far out in space may also pave the way to the discovery of new planets. "We're hoping our models will help us spot Neptune-sized worlds around other stars," Said Marc Kuchner, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. who led the study.  Read More

Visible-light image from the Hubble showing the newly discovered planet, Fomalhaut b

In two separate scientific show-stoppers, unprecedented direct images of planets outside of our own solar system have been captured by NASA's Hubble space telescope and terrestrial observatories in Hawaii. Over the past two decades astronomers have detected around 300 exoplanets and are rapidly finding more, but these have mostly been observed by methods such as monitoring the gravitational effects of a planet on its parent star rather than seen as a direct optical image. We now have the first visible-light snapshot of a planet circling another star from the Hubble, and the first-ever direct images of an exoplanetary system from the massive 8-meter Gemini North telescope on Mauna Kea.  Read More

Artists impression of HD 189733b
 Credit: NASA/ESA/G. Bacon (STScI)

March 26, 2008 In another first for NASA's Hubble Space Telescope (HST), an organic molecule has been detected in the In another first for atmosphere of a Jupiter-sized planet orbiting a star 63 light-years (or somewhere in the vicinity of 370 trillion miles) away. Given that the molecule found was methane, a key chemical player in the "primeval soup" from which life was formed on this planet, the discovery represents a significant breakthrough in the search for life outside our solar system.  Read More

Credits: USSR Venera 13 Camera II, ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

April 27, 2007 Earth sits between two worlds that have been devastated by climate catastrophes. In the effort to combat global warming, our neighbours can provide valuable insights into the way climate catastrophes affect planets. From what scientists know now, it is possible that Venus and Mars started out a lot like Earth. At some point in time, each planet followed a path that changed its climate. The transition was from Earth-like to either a cloudy inferno (Venus) or a frigid desert (Mars). Data from Venus Express and Mars express is now helping scientists determine if, when and why each planet passed the point of no-return.  Read More

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