Category Archives: Solar System

Suddenly, It Seems, Water Is Everywhere in the Solar System – NYTimes.com

Oceans trapped under ice appear to be pretty common in the solar system and one of them, on a small moon of Saturn’s, appears to be quite hot.

This week in the journal Nature, an international team of scientists reported evidence for hydrothermal vents on the Saturnian moon Enceladus, with temperatures of its rocky core surpassing 194 degrees Fahrenheit (90 degrees Celsius) in spots. The discovery, if confirmed, would make Enceladus the only place other than Earth where such chemical reactions between rock and heated water are known to be occurring today — and for many scientists, it would make Enceladus a most promising place to look for life.

CONTINUE READING via Suddenly, It Seems, Water Is Everywhere in Solar System – NYTimes.com.

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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

Eyes on the Solar System 3D

Welcome to Eyes on the Solar System Jump in and start exploring the Solar System on your own.

Explore the planets and their moons and ride onboard the spacecraft, past present and future, that explore our cosmic backyard. Keep checking back for new features, tours and news. Just like the universe, “Eyes on the Solar System” is expanding. Eyes on the Solar System can take you through 100 years of spaceflight history but here are a couple of highlights. Ride Voyager 2 past Saturn or take a Titan flyby with Cassini.

via Eyes on the Solar System.

NASA’s Dawn Captures First Image of Nearing Asteroid – NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

PASADENA, Calif. — NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has obtained its first image of the giant asteroid Vesta, which will help fine-tune navigation during its approach. Dawn is expected to achieve orbit around Vesta on July 16, when the asteroid is about 188 million kilometers (117 million miles) from Earth.

processed image of the asteroid Vesta

The image from Dawn’s framing cameras was taken on May 3 when the spacecraft began its approach and was approximately 1.21 million kilometers (752,000 miles) from Vesta. The asteroid appears as a small, bright pearl against a background of stars. Vesta is also known as a protoplanet, because it is a large body that almost formed into a planet.

“After plying the seas of space for more than a billion miles, the Dawn team finally spotted its target,” said Carol Raymond, Dawn’s deputy principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “This first image hints of detailed portraits to come from Dawn’s upcoming visit.”

Vesta is 530 kilometers (330 miles) in diameter and the second most massive object in the asteroid belt. Ground- and space-based telescopes obtained images of the bright orb for about two centuries, but with little surface detail.

Mission managers expect Vesta’s gravity to capture Dawn in orbit on July 16. To enter orbit, Dawn must match the asteroid’s path around the sun, which requires very precise knowledge of the body’s location and speed. By analyzing where Vesta appears relative to stars in framing camera images, navigators will pin down its location and enable engineers to refine the spacecraft’s trajectory.

Dawn will start collecting science data in early August at an altitude of approximately 1,700 miles (2,700 kilometers) above the asteroid’s surface. As the spacecraft gets closer, it will snap multi-angle images, allowing scientists to produce topographic maps. Dawn will later orbit at approximately 200 kilometers (120 miles) to perform other measurements and obtain closer shots of parts of the surface. Dawn will remain in orbit around Vesta for one year. After another long cruise phase, Dawn will arrive in 2015 at its second destination, Ceres, an even more massive body in the asteroid belt.

via NASA’s Dawn Captures First Image of Nearing Asteroid – NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Fountains of Optimism for Other Life Out There – NYTimes.com

For those who hunt for life on other worlds, water in its liquid form is perhaps the leading indicator. Life as we know it on Earth is based on water and carbon. And if organisms can prosper here in nasty environments — in geysers, in the depths of the sea, in toxic waste, in water that is too hot, too cold, too acidic or too alkaline — why could they not prosper out there?

A REFRESHING ICY DIP Ontario Lacus is a large lake on Saturn’s moon Titan.

Scientists for years regarded liquid water as a solar system rarity, for there was no place apart from Earth that seemed to have the necessary physical attributes, except perhaps Jupiter’s ice-covered moon, Europa, which probably concealed a subterranean ocean.

The past 20 years of space exploration, however, have caused what the astrobiologist David Grinspoon calls a sea change in thinking. It now appears that gravity, geology, radioactivity and antifreeze chemicals like salt and ammonia have given many “hostile” worlds the ability to muster the pressures and temperatures that allow liquid water to exist. And research on Earth has shown that if there is water, there could be life.

via Fountains of Optimism for Other Life Out There – NYTimes.com.

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.

DS1CometBorrellyComposite600x600

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?.

Icy moon zaps Saturn with electron beams | Space | EarthSky

Scientists working with data from NASA’s Cassini mission – now in its sixth year of operations at Saturn – have discovered an electrical current running between Saturn and its moon Enceladus that creates an observable emission on the ringed planet. A paper describing the research appears in the April 21 issue of Nature. Don Mitchell, Cassini science team co-investigator from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, first observed the current connection as a strong “bull’s-eye” emission in the middle of images snapped by the APL-built ion and neutral camera (INCA) on Cassini.�

saturn_and_enceladus_current

via Icy moon zaps Saturn with electron beams | Space | EarthSky.