Uranus is Full of Diamonds (and so is Neptune)

The conditions found deep inside the ice giants Uranus and Neptune are intense and exotic, to say the least. The incredibly frigid and windy environments found at the cloud tops, where hydrogen and helium are mixed with methane and ammonia, eventually give way to warmer interiors and crushing pressures with increasing depth. And as scientists…

Mars May Have Repeatedly Been a Ringed Planet

(News from SETI) Scientists from the SETI Institute and Purdue University have found that the only way to produce Deimos’s unusually tilted orbit is for Mars to have had a ring billions of years ago. While some of the more massive planets in our solar system have giant rings and numerous big moons, Mars only…

Surprise! Jupiter’s Poles are Literally Encircled by Cyclones

If you think that Saturn’s polar storm systems are amazing then you’re gonna love this: Jupiter has them too, and not just a single central storm over each of its poles either. NASA’s Juno mission has revealed that Jupiter has not only polar vortices but also a ring of enormous cyclones spinning in formation around…

There’s a New Moon in the Solar System

Ok, technically it’s not a new moon as it’s probably several billion years old but we didn’t know about it before, so it’s new to us! A team of researchers has just announced the discovery of a 150- to 250-mile-wide moon orbiting a dwarf planet in the Kuiper Belt named 2007 OR10. This distant, icy…

Uranus Lights Up for Hubble

Those white areas aren’t clouds; they’re aurorae—”northern lights”—around the poles of Uranus, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2012 and 2014. (The image of Uranus itself was acquired by the Voyager 2 spacecraft in January 1986.) “The auroras on Jupiter and Saturn are well-studied, but not much is known about the auroras of the…

These Are Our Best Pictures of Mars’ Smallest Moon

Mars isn’t a planet well-known for its natural satellites but it actually does have two small moons. The larger, Phobos, is an irregularly-shaped, heavily grooved and cratered world only about 17 miles (27 km) across at its widest. It orbits Mars so closely that it completes 3 orbits every day, and isn’t even visible from…

What Is Space?

This is a blog post I wrote in March of 2008—a year before there was even Lights in the Dark! I’m sharing it again because it’s fun…I hope you think so too. We’ve all seen the grade-school models of the solar system. Maybe you made one in science class. Out of painted styrofoam balls or…

Seven Earth-sized Exoplanets Discovered Around a Single Nearby Star!

In what’s being called a “record-breaking exoplanet discovery” NASA announced today the detection of not one, not two, not three or four but seven exoplanets orbiting the ultra-cool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1, located just under 40 light-years away in the constellation Aquarius. (That’s astronomically very close, although still 235 trillion miles distant.) What’s more, these exoplanets aren’t bloated hot…