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Solar System

An artist's conception of the Chang'E lunar orbiter come asteroid probe

China has now joined the very select group of countries to have succeeded in carrying out an interplanetary probe mission. According to reports from China's official news agency Xinhua, the Chang'E 2 probe passed a mere 3.2 km (2 miles) from the near-Earth asteroid Toutatis at 8:30:09 GMT on December 13, making it the closest asteroid flyby to date.  Read More

Artist's conception of a protostar pulling interstellar gas onto a rotating protoplanetary...

The Sun is a bit over 4.5 billion years old, leading many to think of all stars as billions of years in age. Astronomers have now demonstrated that isn't always the case. Using high-resolution millimeter and submillimeter imaging telescope arrays, John Tobin of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and his collaborators have now discovered an infant star whose age is measured in thousands, rather than billions, of years. While at present the protostar has only about a fifth of the Sun's mass, projections point to the eventual formation of a stellar system broadly similar to our Sun and its planets.  Read More

NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft exploring a new region in our solar system called the 'magneti...

Voyager 1 has reached yet another new frontier on its historic journey towards the edge of our solar system. NASA scientists believe this “magnetic highway” represents the final region the spacecraft must cross before becoming the first man-made object to reach interstellar space, an event they are guessing could be as close as a couple of months away.  Read More

An artist's impression of the surface of Makemake (Image: ESO/L. Calçada/Nick Risinger (sk...

In April 2011, Makemake – one of five dwarf planets in our Solar System – passed between Earth and a distant star. Using seven telescopes, an international team of astronomers observed the event, known as stellar occultation, and through careful analysis, have determined the planet's size, density, and even the nature of its atmosphere.  Read More

Photo of Jupiter taken September 10, 2012 by George Hall of a fireball caused by the impac...

Jupiter is a major player in protecting the Earth from impact events, and has been for billions of years. Between comets and asteroids impacting on Jupiter and being flung into the Sun or out of the Solar System entirely, Jupiter's enormous gravitational field has removed the greater proportion of debris left-over from the formation of the Solar System. Jupiter has again been caught in the act of attracting and eating dangerous space rocks—this time in simultaneous observations by two amateur astronomers.  Read More

The 'Solbot' optimizes the orientation of the solar panel in relation to the sun

Although solar trackers can significantly increase the energy output of solar cells by keeping them optimally aligned to the sun, installing them on all the panels at an installation can add significant expense and provides multiple points of failure. A new tracking system from QBotix avoids these problems by getting a robot to do the rounds of the solar installation throughout the day and adjust the panels at 40-minute intervals to ensure they are optimally facing the sun.  Read More

The distance from Earth to the Sentinel space telescope will vary between 30-170 million m...

California-based non-profit B612 Foundation has announced its intention to place an asteroid-hunting infrared telescope into orbit around the Sun. Named Sentinel, the ambitious endeavor is to be the world's first privately funded deep space mission and will aim to map up to 90 percent of all asteroids larger than 140 meters (459 ft) in Earth’s region of the solar system. In addition to these sizable asteroids, Sentinel will further provide data on a number of smaller asteroids, down to a size of approximately 30 meters (98 ft) in diameter.  Read More

Artist concept of NASA's Voyager spacecraft, which is set to become the first man-made obj...

Based on the latest data received from Voyager 1, scientists say the venerable spacecraft is now on the very edge of our solar system. The data, which traveled some 17.8 billion kilometers (11 billion miles) on its 16-hour-38 minute journey to NASA’s Deep Space Network on Earth, reveals a marked increase in the intensity of charged particles from beyond our solar system, indicating that Voyager 1 is soon to become the first man-made object to leave our little slice of the universe.  Read More

100YSS will attempt to develop the capabilities needed for human interstellar flight in th...

Voyager 1, which is now in the outermost layer of the heliosphere that forms the boundary between the Solar System and interstellar space, is set to be the first man-made object to leave the Solar System. It has taken the car-sized probe over 35 years to reach its current point, but at its current speed of about 3.6 AU (334,640,905 miles) per year it would take over 75,000 years to reach our nearest star, Proxima Centauri. Despite the mind-boggling distances involved, DARPA has just awarded funding to form an organization whose aim is to make human interstellar travel a reality within the next century.  Read More

An edge-on view of our solar system with the dots representing a snapshot of NEAs (blue) a...

Potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs) are a subset of near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) that have the potential to come within five million miles (eight million kilometers) of Earth, and are of a size large enough to make it through Earth’s atmosphere to cause significant damage on a regional, or greater, scale. NASA’s asteroid-hunting NEOWISE mission has now provided the best estimate yet of the number of PHAs in our solar system, along with their origins and the potential dangers they might pose.  Read More

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