solar system

The Incredible Challenge of Landing Heavy Payloads On Mars!

The Incredible Challenge of Landing Heavy Payloads On Mars!

It’s too bad Mars is such an interesting place, because it’s actually one of the most difficult places to visit in the Solar System, especially if you want to bring along a lot of luggage. That planet is a graveyard of missions that didn’t quite make it.

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot: A 300-year-old cyclone persists but is shrinking

 Jupiter’s Great Red Spot: A 300-year-old cyclone persists but is shrinking

The Great Red Spot, a storm larger than the Earth and powerful enough to tear apart smaller storms that get drawn into it, is one of the most recognizable features in Jupiter’s atmosphere and the entire solar system. The counterclockwise-moving storm, an anticyclone, boasts wind speeds as high as 300 miles per hour. This prominent feature, observed since 1830, and possibly as far back as the 1660s, has long been a source of great fascination and scientific study.

What Scientists Found After Sifting Through Dust in the Solar System

What Scientists Found After Sifting Through Dust in the Solar System

Just as dust gathers in corners and along bookshelves in our homes, dust piles up in space too. But when the dust settles in the solar system, it’s often in rings. Several dust rings circle the Sun. The rings trace the orbits of planets, whose gravity tugs dust into place around the Sun, as it drifts by on its way to the center of the solar system.

The Record for the Most Distant Object in the Solar System has been Shattered. Introducing FarFarOut at 140 Astronomical Units

The Record for the Most Distant Object in the Solar System has been Shattered. Introducing FarFarOut at 140 Astronomical Units

Remember Far Out, the distant planet at the far reaches of the Solar System, that was discovered in December, 2018? Well, it has been kicked unceremoniously off its pedestal as the most distant object after a short, two-month reign. In its place is the very newly-discovered FarFarOut (FFO.)

There are missing objects at the fringe of the solar system – new study puzzles astronomers

There are missing objects at the fringe of the solar system – new study puzzles astronomers

In the dimly lit spaces of our solar system beyond Neptune’s orbit lies the Kuiper Belt. This a region between about 35 and 50 times further from the sun than the Earth, populated by icy bodies so sparsely distributed that they never had the chance to collide and merge into planet sized objects.

What’s the weather like on Uranus and Neptune? New images give important clues

What’s the weather like on Uranus and Neptune? New images give important clues

The outer region of the solar system may be the least explored, but scientists have managed to unravel several of its mysteries in recent weeks. On New Year’s Day, the NASA spacecraft New Horizons encountered the icy object Ultima Thule for the first time, shedding light on how it formed. Astronomers have also just discovered a previously unknown moon orbiting Neptune, which has been dubbed “Hippocamp”.

Land Heavier Payloads on Mars. Aim for the Ground and Then Pull up at the Last Moment

Land Heavier Payloads on Mars. Aim for the Ground and Then Pull up at the Last Moment

In the coming decades, a number of missions are planned for Mars, which include proposals to send astronauts there for the first time. This presents numerous logistical and technical challenges, ranging from the sheer distance to the need for increased protection against radiation. At the same time, there is also the difficulty of landing on the Red Planet, or what is referred to as the “Mars Curse“.

InSight has Placed its Heat Probe on the Martian Surface. The Next Step is to Jackhammer Down 5 Meters and Hope it Doesn’t Encounter a Large Rock

InSight has Placed its Heat Probe on the Martian Surface. The Next Step is to Jackhammer Down 5 Meters and Hope it Doesn’t Encounter a Large Rock

NASA’s InSight lander has finally placed its heat probe on the surface of Mars. The Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) was deployed on February 12th, about one meter away from SEIS, the landers seismometer. Soon it’ll start hammering its way into the Martian soil.

NASA's Record-Setting Opportunity Rover Mission on Mars Comes to End

NASA's Record-Setting Opportunity Rover Mission on Mars Comes to End

One of the most successful and enduring feats of interplanetary exploration, NASA's Opportunity rover mission is at an end after almost 15 years exploring the surface of Mars and helping lay the groundwork for NASA’s return to the Red Planet. 

NASA’s Van Allen Probes Begin Final Phase of Exploration in Earth's Radiation Belts

NASA’s Van Allen Probes Begin Final Phase of Exploration in Earth's Radiation Belts

Two tough, resilient, NASA spacecraft have been orbiting Earth for the past six and a half years, flying repeatedly through a hazardous zone of charged particles around our planet called the Van Allen radiation belts. The twin Van Allen Probes, launched in August 2012, have confirmed scientific theories and revealed new structures and processes at work in these dynamic regions. Now, they're starting a new and final phase in their exploration.

ESA is Planning a Mission to the Smallest Spacerock Ever Visited: the Moon of an Asteroid

ESA is Planning a Mission to the Smallest Spacerock Ever Visited: the Moon of an Asteroid

For some small minority of humans, Death By Asteroid is a desirable fate. The idea probably satisfies their wonky Doomsday thinking. But for the rest of us, going out the same way the dinosaurs did would just be embarrassing. Thankfully, the ESA’s Hera mission will visit the smallest spacerock ever, and will help us avoid going the way of the dinosaurs.

NASA used Curiosity’s Sensors to Measure the Gravity of a Mountain on Mars

NASA used Curiosity’s Sensors to Measure the Gravity of a Mountain on Mars

Some very clever people have figured out how to use MSL Curiosity’s navigation sensors to measure the gravity of a Martian mountain. What they’ve found contradicts previous thinking about Aeolis Mons, aka Mt. Sharp. Aeolis Mons is a mountain in the center of Gale Crater, Curiosity’s landing site in 2012.

Titan’s Thick Clouds Obscure our View, but Cassini Took these Images in Infrared, Showing the Moon’s Surface Features

Titan’s Thick Clouds Obscure our View, but Cassini Took these Images in Infrared, Showing the Moon’s Surface Features

Saturn’s moon Titan is a very strange place. It’s surrounded by a dense, opaque atmosphere, the only moon in the solar system with an atmosphere to speak of. It has lakes of liquid methane on its surface, maybe some cryovolcanoes, and some scientists speculate that it could support a form of life. Very weird life.

Something Twice the Size of Earth Slammed into Uranus and Knocked it Over on its Side

Something Twice the Size of Earth Slammed into Uranus and Knocked it Over on its Side

Astronomers think they know how Uranus got flipped onto its side. According to detailed computer simulations, a body about twice the size of Earth slammed into Uranus between 3 to 4 billion years ago. The impact created an oddity in our Solar System: the only planet that rotates on its side.

NASA Research Reveals Saturn is Losing Its Rings at “Worst-Case-Scenario” Rate

NASA Research Reveals Saturn is Losing Its Rings at “Worst-Case-Scenario” Rate

New NASA research confirms that Saturn is losing its iconic rings at the maximum rate estimated from Voyager 1 & 2 observations made decades ago. The rings are being pulled into Saturn by gravity as a dusty rain of ice particles under the influence of Saturn’s magnetic field.