Boom! Io Explodes With Volcanic Eruptions Hundreds of Miles High

Three enormous volcanic eruptions on Jupiter’s moon Io were witnessed by scientists last year using the Keck II and Gemini telescopes in Hawaii. The only other confirmed volcanically-active world in the solar system besides Earth, Io is constantly being resurfaced by eruptions and lava flows, due to internal heat and pressures caused by tidal stresses as a…

Europa Is Covered In Bacon. That Is Why We Must Go.

Whether you’re a trend-loving hipster, a breakfast lover, or just fan of meat products in general, you’d have to agree that it does look like a giant piece of bacon* running across the image above. And while the color and shape seems about right, the size and temperature is a bit off — that’d be…

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Isn’t So Great Anymore

It used to be said with confidence by even grade-school kids that the largest storm in the Solar System was Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, which has been churning for at least 350 years and could fit three Earths across it. And while it’s true that the GRS is a truly enormous hurricane by Earthly standards, these…

Ganymede Gets a Little Geologic Love

We don’t get to hear a lot about Ganymede these days, what with everyone paying so much attention to Titan and Enceladus and Europa and several other moons out there. Which is too bad because 1. Ganymede is plenty fascinating in its own right; and 2. it’s the LARGEST MOON IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM (and…

Eppur Si Muove: Galileo’s Big Night

404 years ago tonight, January 7, 1610, the Pisan astronomer Galileo Galilei looked up at a bright Jupiter at opposition through his handmade telescope and saw three little “stars” next to it, which piqued his natural scientific curiosity. He soon realized that these little objects weren’t stars at all but rather moons that orbited the…

The Brightest Lights: 12 Awesome Space Stories of 2013

What a year for space exploration! With 2013 coming to a close I thought I would look back on some of the biggest news in space that I’ve featured here on Lights in the Dark. Rather than a “top ten” list, as is common with these year-end reviews, I’m going to do more of a…

Jupiter’s Moon Europa Has Jets Like Enceladus!

“Attempt no landings there?” Ok, FINE. We’ll just fly a spacecraft through Europa’s newly-discovered plumes and get a taste of its underground ocean that way! Because it has them, and so we could. This was the big news from NASA, ESA, and Hubble researchers today: Jupiter’s ice-covered moon Europa (yes, the one from 2010) has…

This is Earth From Juno

Last Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, NASA’s Juno spacecraft made a slingshot pass of Earth in order to get the necessary speed boost to reach Jupiter in 2016. As it came within 347 miles of our planet’s surface, passing closest over the southern Atlantic at 3:21 p.m. EDT, it used its JunoCam (developed by the San…

NASA’s Juno Spacecraft to Fly By Earth Today, Destined for Jupiter

Today’s the day! NASA’s Juno* spacecraft, launched back on August 5, 2011 (I should know, I was there) will get a little help from its friends (that’s us!) as it passes by Earth to get a gravitational power-boost on its way to Jupiter. The exact time of Juno’s closest approach is 3:21 p.m. EDT (12:21…

Europa Has Water and H2O Too

According to research by NASA astronomers using the next-generation optics of the 10-meter Keck II telescope, Jupiter’s ice-encrusted moon Europa has hydrogen peroxide (aka H2O2)  across much of the surface of its leading hemisphere, a compound that could potentially provide energy for life if it has found its way into the moon’s subsurface ocean. “Europa has the…

Voyager’s Grand Tour: a Webcomic

Do you like space exploration? Do you like comics? Then this is for you. “Voyager” is a webcomic by LA-based artist Jed McGowan about the Voyager 1 spacecraft, launched from Kennedy Space Center on September 5, 1977. Over the next three years it flew by Jupiter and Saturn, taking unprecedented photos of the giant planets…