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16 April 2020

Dust devils may roam hydrocarbon dunes on Saturn’s moon Titan

Smoggy, with a chance of dust devils: conditions at the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan may spawn convective whirlwinds By Liza Lester Meteorological conditions on Saturn’s large moon Titan, the strange, distant world that may be the most Earth-like in the solar system, appear conducive to the formation of dust devils, according to new research in AGU’s journal Geophysical Research Letters. If true, these dry whirlwinds may be primary movers …

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5 August 2019

New study traces Io’s volcanic tides

Hundreds of volcanoes pockmark the surface of Io, the third largest of Jupiter’s 78 known moons, and the only body in our solar system other than Earth where widespread volcanism can be observed. A new study finds Io’s most powerful, persistent volcano, Loki Patera, brightens on a similar timescale to slight perturbations in Io’s orbit caused by Jupiter’s other moons, which repeat on an approximately 500-Earth-day cycle.

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23 April 2019

Aurora create speed bumps in space

A new study finds a type of high-altitude aurora are responsible, at least in part, for moving pockets of air high into the atmosphere where they can cause drag on passing satellites.

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11 April 2019

Extended winter polar vortices chill Saturn’s strangely familiar moon, Titan

Saturn’s hazy moon Titan has a long-lived Earth-like winter polar vortex supercharged by the moon’s peculiar chemistry. A new study finds Titan’s northern hemisphere polar vortex sticks around past the moon’s summer solstice, into what would be late June on Earth, lasting three-quarters of a Titan year, or about 22 Earth years.

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1 March 2019

First evidence of planet-wide groundwater system on Mars

Mars Express has revealed the first geological evidence of a system of ancient interconnected lakes that once lay deep beneath the Red Planet’s surface, five of which may contain minerals crucial to life.

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27 December 2018

Rings make Saturn shadier, bluer and less hazy in winter

Saturn’s rings act like Venetian blinds that block sunlight for the hemisphere that’s tilted farther away from the Sun, limiting winter sunlight. This cuts down on the planet’s haze and golden glow.

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12 November 2018

Powerful solar storm likely detonated mines during Vietnam War

A strong solar storm in 1972 caused widespread disturbances to satellites and spacecraft, and may have led to the detonation of mines during the Vietnam War, according to new research showing the event may have been a more devastating solar storm than previously thought. In a new study, researchers pieced together data and historical records related to the solar activity of 1972 to better understand the nature of the solar storm. In the process, they uncovered an incident where sea mines off the coast of Vietnam were detonated by the solar event.

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24 October 2018

Researchers describe likely origin of perfect lines on Saturn’s moon

Strange features on Saturn’s moon Dione resembling lines of latitude on a map could be the result of space dust crashing onto Dione’s surface, according to a new study. The streaks have puzzled scientists because of their orientation and straightness, but a new study finds these features, deemed linear virgae, likely originated from low-velocity impacts of space debris from within the Saturn system or beyond.

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18 October 2018

Sounds of a Solar Storm

High school students listening to audio tracks of NOAA satellite data have identified the sounds of solar storms buffeting Earth’s magnetic field. The results of a UK-led citizen science project suggest that the approach of converting physical data into sound signals could help NOAA and other scientists make sense of massive amounts of data from satellites and other instruments.

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17 August 2018

New technology could improve radiation risk warnings for future deep-space astronauts

New technology that detects radiation from the Sun in real time and immediately predicts subsequent health risks could protect astronauts on future deep-space missions, according to a new study. Astronauts face dangers during solar energetic particle, or SEP, events, which occur when an eruption in the Sun’s atmosphere hurls high-energy protons out into space. These protons can penetrate the walls of a spacecraft and enter the human body. This radiation can cause immediate effects such as nausea, performance degradation and other acute radiation syndromes, while long-term effects can include cancer, degenerative tissue damage, heart disease and damage to the central nervous system.

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29 May 2018

The case of the relativistic particles solved

Encircling Earth are two enormous rings — called the Van Allen radiation belts — of highly energized ions and electrons. Various processes can accelerate these particles to relativistic speeds, which endanger spacecraft unlucky enough to enter these giant bands of damaging radiation. Scientists had previously identified certain factors that might cause particles in the belts to become highly energized, but they had not known which cause dominates. Now, with new research from NASA’s Van Allen Probes and Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms — THEMIS — missions, published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, the verdict is in.

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22 May 2018

New study details geological process behind Titan’s dunes

Titan’s windswept dunes may sprawl millions of more kilometers than previously thought and were likely formed by geological processes similar to those on Earth, according to a new study. The new findings could help scientists look for life or its molecular precursors on Saturn’s largest moon.

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3 May 2018

Breathing lunar dust could pose health risk to future astronauts

Future astronauts spending long periods of time on the Moon could suffer bronchitis and other health problems by inhaling tiny particles of dust from its surface, according to new research. A new study finds simulated lunar soil is toxic to human lung and mouse brain cells. Up to 90 percent of human lung cells and mouse neurons died when exposed to dust particles that mimic soils found on the Moon’s surface.

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1 May 2018

Old data, new tricks: Fresh results from NASA’s Galileo spacecraft 20 years on

Far across the solar system, from where Earth appears merely as a pale blue dot, NASA’s Galileo spacecraft spent eight years orbiting Jupiter. During that time, the hearty spacecraft — slightly larger than a full-grown giraffe — sent back spates of discoveries on the gas giant’s moons, including the observation of a magnetic environment around Ganymede that was distinct from Jupiter’s own magnetic field. The mission ended in 2003, but newly resurrected data from Galileo’s first flyby of Ganymede is yielding new insights about the moon’s environment — which is unlike any other in the solar system.

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28 February 2018

New model suggests the Moon formed inside the vaporized Earth

A new explanation for the Moon’s origin has it forming inside the Earth when our planet was a seething, spinning cloud of vaporized rock, called a synestia.

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20 February 2018

Found: “Footprint” of Jupiter’s moon Callisto

The elusive “footprint” of Jupiter’s moon Callisto has been spotted for the first time near the south pole of the giant planet, according to a new study.

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18 December 2017

NASA Solves How a Jupiter Jet Stream Shifts into Reverse

Speeding through the atmosphere high above Jupiter’s equator is an east–west jet stream that reverses course on a schedule almost as predictable as a Tokyo train’s. Now, a NASA-led team has identified which type of wave forces this jet to change direction.

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15 December 2017

Lava-filled blocks on Venus may indicate geological activity

A global view of some well-known deformation features on Venus’s surface may indicate it’s capable of crustal motion, and that motion might even be happening today, scientists report.

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22 November 2017

Scientists discover evidence of recent water flows on Mars

Planetary scientists have discovered a rare ‘esker’ on Mars – a ridge of sediment deposited by meltwater flowing beneath a glacier in the relatively recent past (about 110 million years ago), despite the widely-held view that the recent climate was too cold for ice to melt.

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21 November 2017

Moon’s Crust Underwent Resurfacing after Forming from Magma Ocean

A research team took to the lab to recreate the magmatic melt that once formed the lunar surface and uncovered new insights on how the modern moonscape came to be. Their study found found that one of the great mysteries of the lunar body’s formation – how it could develop a crust composed largely of just one mineral – cannot be explained by the initial crust formation and must have been the result of some secondary event.

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