solar system

Earth has a Water Cycle. Mars has a Dust Cycle

Earth has a Water Cycle. Mars has a Dust Cycle

To say there are some myths circulating about Martian dust storms would be an understatement. Mars is known for its globe-encircling dust storms, the likes of which are seen nowhere else. Science fiction writers and Hollywood movies often make the dust storms out to be more dangerous than they really are. In “The Martian,” a powerful dust storm destroys equipment, strands Matt Damon on Mars, and forces him into a brutal struggle for survival.

Table Salt Compound Spotted on Europa

Table Salt Compound Spotted on Europa

A familiar ingredient has been hiding in plain sight on the surface of Jupiter's moon Europa. Using a visible-light spectral analysis, planetary scientists at Caltech and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have discovered that the yellow color visible on portions of the surface of Europa is actually sodium chloride, a compound known on Earth as table salt, which is also the principal component of sea salt.

Theory proposes that Venus could have been habitable, but a large ocean slowed down its rotation, killing it

Theory proposes that Venus could have been habitable, but a large ocean slowed down its rotation, killing it

There’s no sense in sugar-coating it – Venus is a hellish place! It is the hottest planet in the Solar System, with atmospheric temperatures that are hot enough to melt lead. The air is also a toxic plume, composed predominantly of carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid rain clouds. And yet, scientists theorize that Venus was once a much different place, with a cooler atmosphere and liquid oceans on its surface.

NASA's Juno Finds Changes in Jupiter's Magnetic Field

NASA's Juno Finds Changes in Jupiter's Magnetic Field

NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter made the first definitive detection beyond our world of an internal magnetic field that changes over time, a phenomenon called secular variation. Juno determined the gas giant's secular variation is most likely driven by the planet's deep atmospheric winds.

Why This Martian Full Moon Looks Like Candy

Why This Martian Full Moon Looks Like Candy

For the first time, NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter has caught the Martian moon Phobos during a full moon phase. Each color in this new image represents a temperature range detected by Odyssey's infrared camera, which has been studying the Martian moon since September of 2017. Looking like a rainbow-colored jawbreaker, these latest observations could help scientists understand what materials make up Phobos, the larger of Mars' two moons.

A Strange Ice Feature Wraps Halfway Around Titan

A Strange Ice Feature Wraps Halfway Around Titan

For people interested in all things beyond Earth, the words methane and Titan go hand in hand. After all, Titan is the only other world in our Solar System where liquid flows over the surface. While trying to understand Titan’s methane cycle, scientists have discovered something else: a bizarre methane ice feature that wraps halfway around Saturn’s largest moon.

Curiosity has Finally Sampled a Clay-Rich Region on Mars

Curiosity has Finally Sampled a Clay-Rich Region on Mars

It’s hard to believe that MSL Curiosity has been on Mars for almost seven years. But it has, and during that time, the rover has explored Gale Crater and Mt. Sharp, the central peak inside the crater. And while it has used its drill multiple times to take rock samples, this is the first sample it’s gathered from the so-called ‘clay unit.’

Mars Helicopter Completes More Test Flights. It’s Almost Ready to go to Mars

Mars Helicopter Completes More Test Flights. It’s Almost Ready to go to Mars

We’ve known for some time that NASA is sending a helicopter to Mars. The vehicle, called the Mars Helicopter, is undergoing flight testing at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. The little helicopter will make its eventual way to Mars as part of the Mars 2020 Rover mission.

NASA's Cassini Finds Saturn's Rings Coat Tiny Moons

NASA's Cassini Finds Saturn's Rings Coat Tiny Moons

New findings have emerged about five tiny moons nestled in and near Saturn's rings. The closest-ever flybys by NASA's Cassini spacecraft reveal that the surfaces of these unusual moons are covered with material from the planet's rings — and from icy particles blasting out of Saturn's larger moon Enceladus. The work paints a picture of the competing processes shaping these mini-moons.

Methane on Mars: a new discovery or just a lot of hot air?

Methane on Mars: a new discovery or just a lot of hot air?

The discovery of life on Mars would get pretty much everyone excited. But the scientists hunting for it would probably be happy no matter what the outcome of their search – whether life turned out to extinct, dormant or extant. They’d even consider finding no evidence of life whatsoever to be an important discovery. But, as the saying goes, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and it will take many decades of detailed exploration of Mars to be reasonably sure that life has always been absent there.