New Images of Mars from the ExoMars Orbiter Features Photo of InSight Lander Seen from Space

The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has taken a wealth of new photographs of the Martian surface, including one showing the InSight lander, which recently touched down on the Red Planet. The images show the great geological diversity of Mars, as well as dunes and evidence of dust devils on the planet. Researchers hope to utilize these photographs during planning for future robotic missions.

Read More New Images of Mars from the ExoMars Orbiter Features Photo of InSight Lander Seen from Space
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What a Dusty Solar System We Have! Here’s What Astronomers Found Hiding in the Mess

For several years, astronomers have known that rings of dust follow the planets Earth and Venus in their journeys around the Sun. Researchers have now found a similar ring of dust also accompanies Mercury in its orbit, much to the surprise of astronomers, who believed any system like this would be driven away by the Sun. Our own ring is produced by collisions between bodies in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, but computer simulations have shown the ring bonded with Venus is likely the result of a previously-unknown asteroid belt around the orbit of that planet.

Read More What a Dusty Solar System We Have! Here’s What Astronomers Found Hiding in the Mess

Massive Binary Stars Found Cuddling Together in Stellar Nursery

Astronomers at The University of Leeds have found a pair of massive binary stars orbiting closer to each other than any system ever seen before. The star PDS 27, once thought to be a single star, was found to be just one member of a binary pair. The two stars orbit each other at a distance roughly equal to that between the Sun and Neptune. Roughly one-third of all stars in our galaxy are in systems containing two or more stars.

Read More Massive Binary Stars Found Cuddling Together in Stellar Nursery

Water Seen Hopping Around the Surface of the Moon

The Moon was once thought to be a barren place, devoid of all water. But, in the last few years, several spacecraft have found water ice hidden within craters on our planetary companion. Now, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has found evidence that molecules of water are bouncing around the lunar surface. As ice is heated in one area, it moves to another nearby place, where it falls into shadow, and freezes once more on the surface of the Moon. Water will be a vital resource as humans populate the Solar System, and the Moon may be the first stopping-off point on the way to the planets.

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The Big Mystery of the Kuiper Belt — a Lack of Small Objects

The Kuiper Belt contains few small bodies, according to a new report from the Southwest Research Institute. This collection of rocks and ice surrounds our planetary system like a massive doughnut, larger than the orbit of Neptune. Photographs taken of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, show few craters, suggesting that the Kuiper Belt, in which Pluto resides, contains few small objects, less than a mile in diameter. Researchers are uncertain why the grouping contains so few small bodies.

Read More The Big Mystery of the Kuiper Belt — a Lack of Small Objects

The Reasons We May Soon Find Planet Nine

Since 2016, astronomers have been searching for a ninth planet some researchers believe may be hiding at the edge of our family of planets. The orbits of some trans-Neptunian objects, or TNO’s, suggest that another planet is waiting out there to be discovered. Astronomers at the University of Michigan recently released a study suggesting that such a world will likely be found, or ruled out, in the next 10 to 15 years, as new observatories come online. Pluto was once considered to be the ninth planet, by was re-designated as a dwarf planet in 2006.

Read More The Reasons We May Soon Find Planet Nine

Water, Water Everywhere — On Mars?

The Mars Express orbiter has taken photos of river valleys on the Red Planet, showing evidence that liquid water once flowed across the Martian landscape. Once thought to be completely dry, Mars is now known to have water ice beneath its surface, up to 100 meters, or 330 feet, in depth. Billions of years ago, Mars lost most of its atmosphere, and water on its surface disappeared. Astronomers are still uncertain what caused this dramatic climatic change on the Red Planet.

Read More Water, Water Everywhere — On Mars?

Hubble Reveals Origins of Hippocamp — The Tiny Moon of Neptune that Shouldn’t Be There

Hippocamp is one of the smallest, and darkest, moons of Neptune. Known to astronomers as “The Moon that Shouldn’t be There,” it orbits the giant planet at a distance so close to the larger moon of Proteus that it should have already been destroyed. Researchers using the Hubble Space Telescope have now concluded that this tiny satellite, just 20 miles in diameter, broke off of its larger neighbor billions of years ago, following an impact with a comet. When Voyager 2 visited Neptune in 1989, it photographed a massive impact crater on Proteus, which is likely evidence of this ancient collision.

Read More Hubble Reveals Origins of Hippocamp — The Tiny Moon of Neptune that Shouldn’t Be There

Water Could Form on the Surface of the Moon, Thanks to the Solar Wind

The Moon was once thought to be completely dry and barren. In recent years, however, a number of spacecraft have revealed evidence for water ice in craters near the lunar poles. Most astronomers believed this ice was placed there through collisions with water-rich comets. A new study from NASA now shows that the solar wind, a stream of charged particles emanating from the Sun, can interact with materials on the lunar surface, producing water. Supplies of water will be essential for the human exploration of the solar system.

Read More Water Could Form on the Surface of the Moon, Thanks to the Solar Wind

Saying Goodbye to Opportunity — Here’s the Last Image

The Opportunity rover on Mars has now been declared dead, the victim of a massive sandstorm which covered the planet in June 2018. The final image ever taken by the Opportunity rover on the Red Planet highlights the moment the spacecraft fell silent. The top of the image shows a darkened sky from the massive sand storm last June, and the bottom becomes completely dark, as the vehicle lost power forever. NASA officials tried for months to revive the rover, without success.

Read More Saying Goodbye to Opportunity — Here’s the Last Image