Juno Spots Sprites and Elves Dancing On Jupiter

NASA’s Juno spacecraft may have captured some of the most fleeting phenomena associated with powerful lightning storms here on Earth—400 million miles away on Jupiter! Nicknamed sprites and elves these amazingly brief yet beautiful flashes of light occur miles above powerful lightning discharges in thunderstorms. They’ve only fairly recently been well-documented on Earth through digital…

Get to Know Bennu Better Before OSIRIS-REx’s Sample Grab

It’s almost TAG time! On October 20, 2020 NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will slowly descend from its orbit 2,500 feet (770 meters) above Bennu to briefly touch the asteroid’s pebbly surface with its TAGSAM instrument, quickly sucking in and filter-capturing a small amount of material which will be returned to Earth for scientific study in 2023….

Hubble’s Newest View of Jupiter Shows New Storms Brewing

News from NASA: This latest image of Jupiter, taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope on August 25, 2020, was captured when the planet was 406 million miles from Earth. Hubble’s sharp view is giving researchers an updated weather report on the monster planet’s turbulent atmosphere, including a remarkable new storm brewing, and a cousin of…

Phosphine Discovery in Venus’ Atmosphere Raises the Big Question of Life

Today an international team of scientists led by Jane Greaves of Cardiff University in the UK announced the discovery of phosphine (PH3) in the atmosphere of our neighboring planet Venus — a detection made using data from ground-based telescopes located in Hawaii and Chile. On Earth, phosphine is created for industrial uses in labs and by…

Ceres’ Salty Mound is the Result of Ongoing Geologic Activity

First observed with the Hubble Space Telescope in 2003, the curious bright spots on the dwarf planet Ceres—the largest world in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter—was brought into exquisite focus with the arrival of NASA’s Dawn spacecraft in 2015. The largest and brightest of these spots—a single 340-meter-high mound named Cerealia Facula…

What’s the Weather on Jupiter? Cloudy with a Chance of Mushballs

Recent findings from NASA’s Juno mission, in orbit around Jupiter since July 4, 2016, may have solved an ongoing mystery about the composition of the giant planet’s upper atmosphere; namely, the case of the missing ammonia. (Jupiter is composed mostly of hydrogen and helium but also contains trace amounts of ammonia, methane, and water vapor.) North…

Ganymede’s Polar Ice is ‘Disrupted’ by Jupiter’s Plasma

The first-ever infrared images of Ganymede’s north pole, taken on December 26, 2019 with the JIRAM instrument aboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft, show that the gigantic moon’s polar ice lacks any crystalline structure like the water ice we’re familiar with typically does here on Earth. This is a result of constant bombardment by charged plasma in…

Proposed VERITAS Mission Would Reveal Truths About Venus’ Geology

Earth and Venus travel around the Sun in neighboring orbits and both are rocky planets about the same size, but there the similarities end—at least in how the two worlds exist today. Venus’ desiccated surface roasts at nearly 900 degrees Fahrenheit beneath an opaque and crushing atmosphere over 90 times denser than Earth’s, and global…

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…

Proposed Trident Mission Could Explore Neptune’s Moon Triton in 2038

(News from NASA) Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft ever to have flown past Neptune, and it left a lot of unanswered questions. The views were as stunning as they were puzzling, revealing massive, dark plumes of icy material spraying out from Triton‘s surface. But how? Images showed that the icy landscape was young and…

Solar Orbiter is Now Capturing the Closest-Ever Pictures of the Sun

(News from ESA) On June 15, 2020, the ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter spacecraft made its first close approach to the Sun (perihelion), coming within 77 million kilometers (48 million miles) of its surface—about half the distance between the Sun and Earth. Over the next week mission scientists will test the spacecraft’s ten science instruments, including the six…