A Twisted Towel of Bright Clouds on Jupiter

This dramatic image, a color-composite I made from raw data captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, shows a bright band of high-altitude clouds on Jupiter’s northern hemisphere on July 16, 2018. Because of the abstract nature of Jupiter’s atmosphere in general (and a fun little phenomenon called pareidolia) one could find many different shapes in this…

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Astronomers Find an Earth-Sized World with a Venus-sized Atmosphere

Using ground-based telescopes, an international team of astronomers has identified an atmosphere around the exoplanet GJ 1132b. Orbiting a red dwarf star a mere 39 light-years away this world is only about half again as large and massive as Earth, making it the smallest exoplanet to be discovered thus far with an atmosphere. Unfortunately that likely means that…

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Look Into The Dark Eye of Saturn’s Southern Storm

I know I said in my previous post that the Solar System is not a vortex (and it’s not) but that doesn’t mean there are no vortexes in the Solar System—in fact, thanks to the churning atmospheres of the gas giants, it’s full of them! And that’s no better demonstrated than at the poles of…

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Clementine: Lost and Gone Forever, But Never Forgotten!

One of my all-time favorite space images is this little gem from the Clementine mission to the Moon, launched January 25, 1994. It features a view from beyond the far side of the Moon, illuminated by reflected light off the Earth off frame to the left. The Moon is blocking the disc of the Sun with the glow…

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Meteors May Make Your Hair Hiss

Have you ever gone outside on a cold, clear night to watch a meteor shower and witness a super-bright fireball racing across the sky so brilliantly that you could swear you could hear it? Turns out the sizzling noise might not have been all in your head after all…but rather on it. (And here’s science to prove it.)

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There’s a Cerulean Storm Swirling on Saturn’s North Pole

Like some giant beast’s great blue eye Saturn’s north polar vortex appears to glare up at Cassini’s wide-angle camera in this image, a color-composite made from raw images acquired in red, green, and blue visible light wavelengths on February 13, 2017.

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Junocam Image of the Earth-Sized “Red Spot Jr.” Storm on Jupiter

Everyone knows about Jupiter’s famous Great Red Spot, the centuries-old giant anticyclone on Jupiter’s southern hemisphere 2-3 times the size of Earth. But there are many other smaller (but still huge by terrestrial standards!) storms on Jupiter, the largest of which is Oval BA—also known as the “Red Spot Jr.” The image above shows this…

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After 15 Years NASA’s TIMED Spacecraft Keeps On Ticking

It may not be the first (or even second or third) satellite mission that comes to mind but NASA and JHUAPL’s TIMED mission continues to deliver invaluable data about Earth’s upper atmosphere over 15 years after its launch on Dec. 7, 2001. In fact its extended long-duration stay in orbit has allowed TIMED (Thermosphere Ionosphere Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics)…

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Venus’ Water Has Been Electrified Away

Using data gathered by ESA’s Venus Express researchers have determined what likely happened to Venus’ water: it was “zapped” away by a surprisingly strong electric field generated by the planet’s atmosphere and the incoming solar wind. Without a protective magnetosphere like Earth has, Venus’ upper atmosphere directly interacts with energetic particles streaming out from the Sun. The…

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These New Pictures of Pluto Are Almost Impossibly Awesome

Hold on to your seats, hats, socks, etc… these newly-received and -released images of Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft are, in a word, icantbelievewhatimseeingisreal! But they are real, and that’s what’s so great! Obviously you’re already looking at one of them above: it’s a view of Pluto captured after New Horizons had already made its closest…

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The Moon is Surrounded by Neon

Finally, we have proof of the moon’s “noble” heritage! Measurements from NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, aka LADEE, have confirmed the long-suspected presence of neon in its exosphere (neon is one of the noble gases — see what I did there?) along with isotopes of argon and helium. The relative concentrations of each of these elements…

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Elusive Red Sprite Seen From the Space Station

Let’s take a look back at our own planet for a moment with this stunning photo captured from the Space Station. This shot, taken on the night of Aug. 10, 2015, shows lightning flashes in thunderstorms over southern Mexico. Along the right edge bright red and purple streamers can be seen extending high into the…

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