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Have Venusian volcanoes been caught in the act?

Artist’s impression of an active volcano on Venus. Results from a long-term study of Venus find evidence of a clear injection of sulphur dioxide into its upper atmosphere. One possible interpretation is that volcanic activity increased the sulphur dioxide component of the upper atmosphere, although an alternative is that a change in atmospheric circulation dredged up the gas. (Credit: ESA/AOES)

BestAstronomy (Dec. 3, 2012) — Six years of observations by the European Space Agency's Venus Express have shown large changes in the sulphur dioxide content of the planet's atmosphere, and one intriguing possible explanation is volcanic eruptions.

The thick atmosphere of Venus contains over a million times...

A curious cold layer in the atmosphere of Venus

This image of the Venus southern hemisphere illustrates the terminator – the transitional region between the dayside (left) and nightside of the planet (right). The south pole is near the terminator, just above the centre of the image. The complex atmosphere that surrounds the planet is also clearly visible. The image was taken at ultraviolet wavelengths by the Venus Monitoring Camera (VMC) on ESA’s Venus Express spacecraft on 15 May 2006, when the spacecraft was flying at...

Cassini finds likely subsurface ocean on Saturn's moon Titan

BestAstronomy (June 28, 2012) — Data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft have revealed Saturn's moon Titan likely harbors a layer of liquid water under its ice shell.

Researchers saw a large amount of squeezing and stretching as the moon orbited Saturn. They deduced that if Titan were composed entirely of stiff rock, the gravitational attraction of Saturn would cause bulges, or solid "tides," on the moon only 3 feet (1 meter) in height. Spacecraft data show Saturn creates solid tides...

NASA Mars rover arrives at new site on Martian surface

BestAstronomy (Aug. 10, 2011) — After a journey of almost three years, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has reached the Red Planet's Endeavour crater to study rocks never seen before.

On Aug. 9, the golf cart-sized rover relayed its arrival at a location named Spirit Point on the crater's rim. Opportunity drove approximately 13 miles (21 kilometers) since climbing out of the Victoria crater.

"NASA is continuing to write remarkable...

BestAstronomy (Aug. 10, 2011) — After a...

Dawn team members check out spacecraft

BestAstronomy (July 7, 2011) — Mission managers for NASA's Dawn spacecraft are studying the spacecraft's ion propulsion system after Dawn experienced a loss of thrust on June 27. Dawn team members were able to trace the episode to an electronic circuit in the spacecraft's digital control and interface unit, a subsystem that houses the circuit and a computer that provides the "brains" to Dawn's ion propulsion system. That circuit appeared to lose ...

BestAstronomy (July 7, 2011) — Mission...

Bone loss prevention experiment on the last space shuttle flight

BestAstronomy (July 6, 2011) — Researchers in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill/North Carolina State University Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering will be at the Kennedy Space Center for the last space shuttle launch of the NASA program as Atlantis departs for its final mission into Earth's orbit.

With July 8, 2011 as the target launch date, the UNC/NCSU team led by Ted Bateman, PhD, associate professor in the department,...

BestAstronomy (July 6, 2011) — Researchers...

Astronomers find newly discovered asteroid is Earth's companion

— Astronomers from the Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland have found that a recently discovered asteroid has been following Earth in its motion around the Sun for at least the past 250,000 years, and may be intimately related to the origin of our planet.

Their work appears in a paper in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The asteroid first caught the eye of the scientists, Apostolos...

— Astronomers from the Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland have...

Frozen comet's watery past: Discovery challenges paradigm of comets as 'dirty snowballs' frozen in time

— For the first time, scientists have found convincing evidence for the presence of liquid water in a comet, shattering the current paradigm that comets never get warm enough to melt the ice that makes up the bulk of their material.

"Current thinking suggests that it is impossible to form liquid water inside of a comet," said Dante Lauretta, an associate professor of cosmochemistry and planet formation at the UA's...

— For the first time, scientists have found convincing evidence for...

Mysterious 'ribbon' of energy and particles that wrap around solar system's heliosphere isolated

— In a paper to be published in the April 10, 2011, issue of The Astrophysical Journal, scientists on NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission, including lead author Nathan Schwadron and others from the University of New Hampshire, isolate and resolve the mysterious "ribbon" of energy and particles the spacecraft discovered in the heliosphere -- the huge bubble that surrounds our solar system and protects...

— In a paper to be published in the April 10, 2011, issue of The...

From cotton candy to rock: New evidence about beginnings of the solar system

— The earliest rocks in our Solar System were more like cotton candy than the hard rock that we know today, according to research published March 27 in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The work, by researchers from Imperial College London and other international institutions, provides the first geological evidence to support previous theories, based on computer models and lab experiments, about how the earliest rocks...

— The earliest rocks in our Solar System were more like cotton candy...

Mercury-bound instruments aboard MESSENGER arrive at target

— As the MESSENGER spacecraft begins its science operations above the surface of Mercury, Goddard instruments are gearing up to help unveil the planet's mysteries. Goddard leads or co-leads two of the spacecraft's instruments and a science investigation aboard the spacecraft.

The vector fluxgate Magnetometer, or MAG, is a joint development between NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and the Johns...

— As the MESSENGER spacecraft begins its science operations above the...

NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft begins historic orbit around Mercury

— NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft successfully achieved orbit around Mercury at approximately 9 p.m. EDT Thursday. This marks the first time a spacecraft has accomplished this engineering and scientific milestone at our solar system's innermost planet.

"This mission will continue to revolutionize our understanding of Mercury during the coming year," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who was at MESSENGER mission...

— NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft successfully achieved orbit around...

Cassini sees seasonal rains transform surface of Saturn's moon Titan

— As spring continues to unfold at Saturn, April showers on the planet's largest moon, Titan, have brought methane rain to its equatorial deserts, as revealed in images captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. This is the first time scientists have obtained current evidence of rain soaking Titan's surface at low latitudes.

Extensive rain from large cloud systems, spotted by Cassini's cameras in late 2010, has apparently...

— As spring continues to unfold at Saturn, April showers on the...

MESSENGER spacecraft to swing into orbit around Mercury

— As NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft approaches the planet Mercury, scientists are excited about solving some of the mysteries surrounding the solar system's smallest and hottest planet. Findings from the mission are expected to broaden our understanding of rocky planets, more and more of which are being discovered in other solar systems.

At 8:45 p.m. EDT on March 17, the MESSENGER spacecraft will execute a 15-minute...

— As NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft approaches the planet Mercury...

Dawn mission gets Vesta asteroid target practice

— There is an old chestnut about a pedestrian who once asked a virtuoso violinist near Carnegie Hall how to get to the famed concert venue. The virtuoso's answer: practice!

The same applies to NASA's Dawn mission to the giant asteroid Vesta. In the lead-up to orbiting the second most massive body in the asteroid belt this coming July, Dawn mission planners and scientists have been practicing mapping Vesta's surface,...

— There is an old chestnut about a pedestrian who once asked a...