Happy Opposition Day!

It’s Opposition Day! No, that’s not a political stance but rather a geometric one, relating to the positions of Earth, the Sun, and Mars in the Solar System. Today our neighboring planet Mars will be directly opposite the Sun relative to Earth, which will make it the second-brightest “star” in the night sky after Venus….

ESA Finds Liquid Water on Mars

Water has been found on Mars! (Yes, again.) In what’s turned into the biggest space news of the day, today ESA (and that’s pronounced “eesa”, you don’t need to spell it out) announced that the Italian-run radar experiment aboard its Mars Express orbiter has provided the first good evidence of liquid water present beneath the…

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…

Three Years Ago Today New Horizons Passed Pluto

Holy Hadean history Batman, where does the time go? Today marks the third anniversary of New Horizons‘ flyby of Pluto and Charon, the first, last, and as yet only mission ever to the distant dwarf planet (aka the reigning King of the Kuiper Belt.) All of the close-up detailed images of Pluto and Charon we…

Juno and JEDI Deliver New Discoveries About Jupiter

Saturn has its rings, Mars has its rusty landscape, Earth has its whales, water, and wi-fi…and Jupiter has its Great Red Spot. The giant gas planet’s enormous orange storm—once over twice the diameter of Earth but today “only” about 1.3 times as wide—is one of the most distinctive planetary features in our Solar System. It’s…

Have No Fear, Phobos is Here!

On May 12, 2016, the Hubble Space Telescope captured a series of images of Mars and in them the planet’s moon Phobos can be seen appearing from behind the western limb. This was just 10 days before opposition which, in 2016, was the closest Mars had been to Earth since 2005, lending particularly good opportunity…

Today Juno Will Get Our Best Look Yet at Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

Today, July 10 (July 11 UTC) NASA’s Juno spacecraft will make its first targeted flyover of Jupiter’s famous Great Red Spot since its arrival in orbit on July 4, 2016, getting our best look yet at the giant anticyclonic storm that’s been churning on the giant planet since at least 1830 (and possibly even since…

Jupiter’s Surprises Are Revealed In First Juno Science Results

Today after almost 11 months in orbit the Juno team revealed the first scientific findings of the mission to the public via a NASA teleconference, giving us our first peek at the inner workings of Jupiter and how much of a surprise our Solar System’s largest planet is proving to be…which of course is quite fitting, as the spacecraft…

Opportunity Looks Back on Its Downhill Departure from Cape Tribulation

It’s all downhill from here! (Well not really, but it was for a little while when Opportunity was at the top of that hill!) The image above is a mosaic I assembled from six color-composites, each made from three separate images acquired in near-infrared, green, and near-ultraviolet color wavelengths on April 21, 2017 (mission sol 4707). It’s been…

Get Ready for Cassini’s Glorious Grand Finale

The end is near. On September 15, 2017, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will end its mission as well as its very existence with a plunge into the atmosphere of the very planet it has been orbiting since June 2004. It’s a maneuver intended to protect the pristine environments of Saturn’s icy moons, some of which harbor…

Juno’s Latest Flight Over Jupiter’s South Pole

On Monday, March 27, at 4:52 a.m. EDT (08:52 UTC) NASA’s Juno spacecraft made its fifth close pass of Jupiter, passing about 2,700 miles (4,400 km) above the planet’s clouds while traveling at a relative speed of 129,000 mph (57.8 kilometers per second). The images above, captured with the JunoCam instrument, show the giant planet’s south pole during…