Category Archives: Planets

Field trips, events and tours | ASU Tempe School of Earth and Space Exploration

SESE is training the next generation of explorers and citizen scientists. We engage the minds of our students, and by making our research available to all, we also engage the minds of our community. Through a variety of informal science education and public outreach (E/PO) activities, field trips, teacher workshops, and partnerships with local schools, we are increasing the science literacy of our community.

Have a science-related question? Visit our Ask SESE page!

For school groups, we offer a K-12 field trip experience that includes a variety of science-themed activities and a 3-D astronomy show.

Those visitors interested in seeing our various labs and facilities should  schedule a tour as many of our facilities have limits on how many visitors can be accommodated. Our new building ISTB 4 offers several interactive exhibits on the first two floors which are open during normal business hours.

READ MORE> via Field trips, events and tours | School of Earth and Space Exploration.

Tempe, AZ 85287-6004 Phone: 480-965-5081 | Fax: 480-965-8102 |Contact

Kepler May Uncover Numerous Ring Worlds : Discovery News

In Star Wars Episode II “Attack of the Clones,”� a deadly cat-and-mouse chase between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Boba Fett takes place in a rocky ring encircling the desert planet Geonosis.

We don’t have such a planet in our solar system, but rings made of rock or silicates might be common in the Milky Way galaxy. And, there is a chance the planet-hunting Kepler space observatory might find them says Hilke Schlichting of UCLA, in a recently posted paper.


BIG PIC: Meet Kepler’s Entire Exoplanet Family

Kepler can’t photograph exoplanets, much less rings. But it is building an unprecedented planet survey by measuring the telltale dimming of a star as a planet passes across the face of it. (This only works if the planet’s orbit is tilted edge-on to our view from Earth). The signature of the planet with rings would have a different-shaped shadow transit footprint from that of a planet without rings (as shown in the chart here for various transit paths.)

via Kepler May Uncover Numerous Ring Worlds : Discovery News.

Did Comets Create the Atmosphere of Saturn’s Moon, Titan?

Saturn’s moon, Titan, has been considered a “unique world in the solar system” since 1908 when, the Spanish astronomer, José Comas y Solá, discovered that it had an atmosphere, something non-existent on other moons. One of Saturn’s 60 moons, Titan is the only moon in the solar system large enough to support an atmosphere.


Titan is the only moon in the solar system with a substantial atmosphere, and the origin of its nitrogen-rich air is a mystery. A new theory is that the atmosphere was created 3.9 billion years ago in a period known as the late heavy bombardment, when armadas of comets zipped through the solar system.

“Huge amounts of cometary bodies would have collided with outer icy satellites, including Titan,” says Yasuhito Sekine of the University of Tokyo, Japan.

via Did Comets Create the Atmosphere of Saturn’s Moon, Titan?.

Epic study confirms Einstein on space-time vortex around Earth | Space | EarthSky

Einstein was right: There is a four-dimensional space-time vortex around Earth, and the spin of Earth does twist space-time.

That’s according to NASA, in an announcement made 52 years after scientists first imagined how to test Einstein’s theory on space-time – before the technology to test it had even been invented. NASA announced confirmation of the four-D space-time vortex around Earth on May 4, 2011.

What does it mean? As Einstein suggested in his general theory of relativity, published in 1916, gravity can be described as the motion of objects following curved lines in space – or rather space-time, as Einstein more accurately depicted it. The curved lines are caused by the presence of a mass, for example our Earth or sun. In other words, according to Einstein, mass causes space-time to curve. Objects moving near that mass roll toward it, much as a ball would roll toward a heavy person sitting on a trampoline. What’s more, as Earth spins, it should cause a twist in the fabric of space-time. NASA’s Gravity Probe B (GP-B) confirmed these two key predictions, derived from Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. The findings are online in the journal Physical Review Letters.

via Epic study confirms Einstein on space-time vortex around Earth | Space | EarthSky.

Welcome to Carnival of Space #191 – The Planetary Society Blog | The Planetary Society

Welcome, everyone, to the Planetary Society Blog for the 191st Carnival of Space! Every week, a different webmaster or blogger hosts the Carnival, showcasing articles written on the topic of space. If you run a space/astronomy related blog, and would like to increase your readership, participate in the Carnival of Space. It’s a great way to get to know the community, and to help your writing reach a wider audience. If you’d like to submit an article or be a host for the carnival, just drop an email to

The asteroid tugboat

You never know what bloggers are going to contribute to each Space Carnival, and sometimes when I participate I’ve been the only person contributing a planetary science post. So I was very pleasantly surprised this week to see a huge number of people posting on planetary topics, with a leavening of other fascinating material from cosmology to astronomy to aliens to private space exploration.

via Welcome to Carnival of Space #191 – The Planetary Society Blog | The Planetary Society.

Moon Used to Peek Inside Jupiter’s “Missing” Belt – Breaking Orbit

Last May amateur astronomers alerted the world to the fact that the gas giant planet Jupiter had lost a belt.


Normally the stormy world is encircled by two dark, rusty bands of clouds created by fast-moving jet streams. The features are easy to spot with a backyard telescope (and even easier with pro ‘scopes, such as Hubble or Cassini).

Jupiter in visible light, as seen by the Cassini space probe.

—Picture courtesy NASA

But seemingly out of the blue, one of the bands—called the south equatorial belt (SEB)—up and vanished in the spring, leaving only a zone of whiteness in its place.

“This is the most obvious change on Jupiter that I can recall,” Alan MacRobert, senior editor of Sky & Telescope magazine, told National Geographic News at the time.

Now, astronomers had seen this kind of thing before: Jupiter had lost the SEB in the 1970s and the 1990s, and both times it reappeared within one to three years.

Sure enough, by November the SEB was showing signs of a comeback, and scientists who had been watching the region were starting to paint a more detailed picture of what drives Jupiter’s colorful cloud bands.

via Moon Used to Peek Inside Jupiter’s “Missing” Belt – Breaking Orbit.


Cassini to Sample Magnetic Environment around Titan – NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

February 17, 2011

Artist's concept of the Feb. 18, 2011, flyby of Saturn's moon Titan by NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is set to skim close to Saturn’s moon Titan on Friday, Feb. 18, to learn about the interaction between Titan and Saturn’s magnetosphere, the magnetic bubble around the planet.

The closest approach will take place at 8:04 a.m. PST (4:04 p.m. UTC) and bring Cassini within about 3,650 kilometers (2,270 miles) of Titan’s surface.

As Titan makes a complete 360-degree orbit around Saturn, the relative influence of the sun’s illumination and the hot ionized gas trapped in the magnetic bubble changes. These factors are important for understanding the relationship between Titan and Saturn’s magnetosphere. It is important to make measurements at a variety of locations in the Saturn magnetosphere, so this flyby will occur in a part of the magnetosphere that has been poorly sampled so far.

Previous flybys have shown the magnetic environment near Titan to be rather variable and unpredictable. For 12 hours before and after closest approach, the Cassini plasma spectrometer instrument will be pointing in a direction to capture ionized gas in the region.

At the same time, Cassini’s radio science subsystem will be gathering sensitive gravity data from Titan to improve understanding of the structure of the interior. Collecting data like these will eventually enable scientists to determine whether Titan has an ocean under its crust.

via Cassini to Sample Magnetic Environment around Titan – NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.