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  • Next Stop, Triton? Here's Two Wild Ideas to Explore Neptune's Weirdest Moon

    04/01/2019 4:20:11 PM PDT · by BenLurkin · 8 replies
    space.com/ ^ | Meghan Bartels
    It's a large moon, the seventh largest in our solar system, and scientists think it was born in the Kuiper Belt before falling into its current location in orbit around the most distant planet. ...Procktor and her colleagues believe they can photograph the moon's entire surface in a single pass. ...On its way past Triton, the spacecraft's flight would be timed in order to see in sunlight the 60 percent or so of its surface that Voyager 2 couldn't see. After the initial approach, the spacecraft would turn its camera back to recapture the 40 percent of the surface Voyager...
  • New Horizons Will Spend New Years Exploring Ultima Thule, a Billion Miles Past Pluto

    12/19/2018 6:36:42 AM PST · by C19fan · 12 replies
    Popular Mechanics ^ | December 19, 2018 | David Grossman
    At the furthest reaches of the solar system, 2019 will start off with exploration. NASA has given the final green light to its New Horizons spacecraft for a January 1st flyby of Ultima Thule, an object in the Kuiper Belt around a billion miles beyond Pluto. It will be the most distant planetary flyby in human history. Before giving the okay, NASA wanted to make sure that it wasn't passing up any other opportunities for either study or disaster in the area—rings, small moons, and anything else that a probe like New Horizons might want to observe. Pushing through the...
  • 12 years after launch, New Horizons probe zeroes in on mysterious Ultima Thule

    12/02/2018 8:47:33 PM PST · by Simon Green · 21 replies
    Geek Wire ^ | 12/02/18 | Alan Boyle
    Act Two of the 12-year-old New Horizons mission to Pluto and the solar system’s icy Kuiper Belt is heating up, with less than a month to go before NASA’s piano-sized spacecraft makes history’s farthest-out close encounter with a celestial object. The New Year’s flyby of a mysterious Kuiper Belt object (or objects) known as Ultima Thule (UL-ti-ma THOO-lee) follows up on the mission’s first act, which hit a climax three years ago with a history-making flyby of Pluto. Launched in 2006, New Horizons was never meant to be a one-shot deal. Even before the Pluto flyby, mission managers used the...
  • Space Weird Orbits Suggest Solar System May Harbor Another Hidden Planet

    06/24/2017 8:01:31 AM PDT · by BenLurkin · 44 replies
    Kathryn Volk and Renu Malhotra at the University of Arizona have noticed some strange movement out in the Kuiper belt…movement that they believe could suggest the existence of a tenth planet. ... Objects in the Kuiper belt are far enough away from the other major bodies in our solar system that the gravitational influence of the large planets doesn’t impact them (at least, not to a measurable degree); however, their movements can still be predicted, thanks to sky surveys and a host of advanced technologies. The search for Planet Nine has lead scientists to believe that it is orbiting around...
  • The Curious Case of Missing Asteroids

    03/03/2009 7:31:32 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 38 replies · 720+ views
    NASA Solar System Exploration ^ | February 25, 2009 | Lori Stiles
    University of Arizona scientists have uncovered a curious case of missing asteroids. The main asteroid belt is a zone containing millions of rocky objects between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. The scientists find that there ought to be more asteroids there than researchers observe. The missing asteroids may be evidence of an event that took place about 4 billion years ago, when the solar system's giant planets migrated to their present locations. UA planetary sciences graduate student David A. Minton and UA planetary sciences professor Renu Malhotra say missing asteroids is an important piece of evidence to support an...
  • Asteroid Belt Loaded with Former Comets

    07/16/2009 7:32:16 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 18 replies · 1,536+ views
    Discovery ^ | Thursday, July 16, 2009 | AFP
    Many of the primitive bodies wandering the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter are former comets, tossed out of orbit by a brutal ballet between the giant outer planets, said a team of astrophysicists. A commonly accepted theory is that the asteroid belt is the rubble left over from a "proto-planetary disk," the dense ring of gas that surrounds a new-born star. But the orbiting rocks have long been a source of deep curiosity. They are remarkably varied, ranging from mixtures of ice and rock to igneous rocks, which implies they have jumbled origins. The answer to the mystery, according...
  • 'Jupiter swallowed planet 10 times the size of Earth'

    08/13/2010 12:01:53 PM PDT · by LibWhacker · 40 replies · 1+ views
    Jupiter, the biggest planet in the solar system, might have gained its dominant position after swallowing up a smaller planet, scientists believe. Studies on Jupiter have revealed that the giant planet, which is more than 120 times bigger than the Earth, has an extremely small core that weighs just two to 10 Earth masses. Now scientists have claimed that Jupiter's core might have been vaporised in huge collision with a planet up to ten times the size of Earth, the New Scientist reported. Researchers led by by Shu Lin Li of Peking University in China have modelled what might have...
  • Giant planet ejected from the solar system

    11/11/2011 5:16:23 AM PST · by decimon · 52 replies · 1+ views
    Southwest Research Institute ^ | November 10, 2011
    Boulder, Colo. — Nov. 10, 2011 — Just as an expert chess player sacrifices a piece to protect the queen, the solar system may have given up a giant planet and spared the Earth, according to an article recently published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. "We have all sorts of clues about the early evolution of the solar system," says author Dr. David Nesvorny of the Southwest Research Institute. "They come from the analysis of the trans-Neptunian population of small bodies known as the Kuiper Belt, and from the lunar cratering record." These clues suggest that the orbits of giant...
  • When straying Jupiter went on the pull

    02/15/2012 4:46:03 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 15 replies
    SkyMania ^ | February 13th, 2012 | Kulvinder Singh
    The path of true love never runs smooth, it is said. Especially on Valentine's Day. And for young planets, that path turns out to be an inward-moving annulus. A simulation by scientists in France and USA appears to show that Jupiter once strayed to flirt with the inner Solar System, before being "jilted" and sent back to its present-day position. The effect of this was to form the inner planets, according to the theory, which comes up with mass ratios for Earth and Mars similar to that observed today and which, remarkably, also accurately depicts the Asteroid Belt. If the...
  • Were Mercury and Mars separated at birth?

    01/19/2009 3:32:30 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 25 replies · 542+ views
    New Scientist ^ | Monday, January 19, 2009 | unattributed
    Line up Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars according to their distance from the sun and you'll see their size distribution is close to symmetrical, with the two largest planets between the two smallest. That would be no coincidence -- if the pattern emerged from a debris ring around the sun. Brad Hansen of the University of California, Los Angeles, built a numerical simulation to explore how a ring of rocky material in the early solar system could have evolved into the planets. He found that two larger planets typically form near the inner and outer edges of the ring, corresponding...
  • Are Jupiters Hard to Come By?

    08/12/2008 10:01:25 AM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 6 replies · 110+ views
    Sky and Telescope 'blogs ^ | July 11, 2008 | Camille M. Carlisle
    Using the new Combined Array for Research in Millimeter Astronomy (CARMA), Eisner and his colleagues observed more than 250 stars in Orion's central region and found that less than 8% had dust disks thought massive enough to create a Jupiter. The radiation from hot, massive stars in the cluster probably clears out a lot of surrounding material and keeps high-mass disks from forming, explains co-author John Carpenter (Caltech). In all, about 10% of the observed stars emit radiation associated with warm dust disks. The results agree almost perfectly with findings by Geoff Marcy (UC Berkeley) and his colleagues, who conclude...
  • The Chaotic Genesis of Planets [ FREE PREVIEW ]

    05/01/2008 9:35:33 AM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 18 replies · 48+ views
    Scientific American ^ | April 2008 | Douglas N. C. Lin
    ...planets are the most diverse and intricate class of object in the universe. No other celestial bodies support such a complex interplay of astronomical, geologic, and chemical and biological processes... The worlds of our solar system... hardly prepared us for the discoveries of the past decade, during which astronomers have found more than 200 planets. The sheer diversity of these bodies' masses, sizes, compositions and orbits challenges those of us trying to fathom their origins. When I was in graduate school in the 1970s, we tended to think of planet formation as a well-ordered, deterministic process -- an assembly line...
  • Jupiter Increases Risk Of Comet Strike On Earth

    08/24/2007 1:21:38 PM PDT · by blam · 84 replies · 1,235+ views
    New Scientist ^ | 8-24-2007 | David Shiga
    Jupiter increases risk of comet strike on Earth 11:53 24 August 2007 NewScientist.com news service David Shiga Earth experienced an especially heavy bombardment of asteroids and comets early in the solar system's history (Illustration: Julian Baum) Contrary to prevailing wisdom, Jupiter does not protect Earth from comet strikes. In fact, Earth would suffer fewer impacts without the influence of Jupiter's gravity, a new study says. It could have implications for determining which solar systems are most hospitable to life. A 1994 study showed that replacing Jupiter with a much smaller planet like Uranus or Neptune would lead to 1000 times...
  • Gas Giants Jump Into Planet Formation Early

    06/27/2007 1:26:43 AM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 3 replies · 169+ views
    Science Daily ^ | January 9, 2007 | University of Arizona
    This is an artist's concept of a hypothetical 10-million-year-old star system. The bright blur at the center is a star much like our sun. The other orb in the image is a gas-giant planet like Jupiter. Wisps of white throughout the image represent traces of gas. Astronomers using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope have found evidence showing that gas-giant planets either form within the first 10 million years of a sun-like star's life, or not at all. The lifespan for sun-like stars is about 10 billion years. The scientists came to this conclusion after searching for traces of gas around...
  • New insights into composition of giant planets

    10/18/2006 11:22:12 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 4 replies · 322+ views
    Spaceflight Now ^ | October 18, 2006 | Division For Planetary Sciences
    In our Solar System, four planets stand out for their sheer mass and size. Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune indeed qualify as "giant planets" because they are larger than any terrestrial planet and much more massive than all other objects in the Solar System, except the Sun, put together. According to Dr. Guillot, "the giant planets, because of their gravitational might, they have played a key role in the formation of the Solar System, tossing around many objects in the system, preventing the formation of a planet in what is now the asteroid belt, and directly leading to the formation...
  • Death Spiral: Why Theorists Can't Make Solar Systems

    03/29/2006 10:21:37 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 22 replies · 464+ views
    SPACE.com ^ | Tue March 28, 2006 | Ker Than
    For scientists who spend time thinking about how planets form, life would be simpler if gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn didn’t exist. According to the standard model of planet formation, called "core accretion," planets form over millions of years as enormous blocks of rock and ice smash together to form planetary embryos, called "protoplanets," and eventually full-fledged planets. Most scientists agree that core accretion is how terrestrial planets such as Earth and Mars were created, but the model can’t convincingly explain how gas giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn came to be. One major problem is that developing gas...
  • NASA Finds Another Solar System Mystery based on Stardust mission

    03/13/2006 6:19:02 PM PST · by NormsRevenge · 22 replies · 1,261+ views
    ap on San Diego Union Tribune ^ | 3/13/06 | Pam Easton - ap
    SPACE CENTER, Houston – NASA scientists have a new mystery to solve: How did materials formed by fire end up on the outermost reaches of the solar system, where temperatures are the coldest? The materials were contained in dust samples captured when the robotic Stardust spacecraft flew past the comet Wild 2 in 2004. A 100-pound capsule tied to a parachute returned the samples to Earth in January. The samples include minerals such as anorthite, which is made up of calcium, sodium, aluminum and silicate; and diopside, made of calcium magnesium and silicate. Such minerals only form in very high...
  • No Need for Planet Nine? Small Objects' Gravity Could Explain Weird Orbits

    06/05/2018 12:03:18 PM PDT · by BenLurkin · 36 replies
    Space.com ^ | Nola Taylor Redd,
    The Kuiper Belt, the region immediately beyond Neptune, harbors TNOs of many sizes. The largest is Pluto, which was discovered more than 60 years before any of the others. Some TNOs are "detached objects," which orbit so far from the sun that they're not appreciably affected by the gravity of Neptune or any other known planet. Perhaps the most famous of these is Sedna, which takes 11,400 years to make a single orbit and never comes closer to the sun than 20 times farther out than Pluto. In 2016, astronomers Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown announced that a distant undiscovered...
  • Planet Nine's profile fleshed out

    04/09/2016 7:29:13 PM PDT · by JimSEA · 52 replies
    BBC ^ | 4/8/2916 | Paul Rincon
    In January, researchers at Caltech in the US suggested a large, additional planet might be lurking in the icy outer reaches of the Solar System. Now, a team at the University of Bern in Switzerland has worked out what they say are upper and lower limits on how big, bright and cold it might be. The study has been accepted by the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics. Prof Mike Brown and Dr Konstantin Batygin made their case for the existence of a ninth planet in our Solar System orbiting far beyond even the dwarf world Pluto. There are no direct observations...
  • Newly discovered planet could destroy Earth any day now

    04/06/2016 10:01:06 PM PDT · by LucyT · 247 replies
    NYPost ^ | April 6, 2016 | TheSun
    A mysterious planet that wiped out life on Earth millions of years ago could do it again, according to a top space scientist. And some believe the apocalyptic event could happen as early as this month. Planet Nine — a new planet discovered at the edge of the solar system in January — has triggered comet showers that bomb the Earth’s surface, killing all life, says Daniel Whitmire, of the University of Louisiana. The astrophysicist says the planet has a 20,000-year orbit around the sun and, at its closest to us, it knocks asteroids and comets toward Earth. Fossil evidence...