NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is only a year away from Pluto. Researchers are buzzing with anticipation as NASA prepares to encounter a new world for the first time in decades.
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Comet Siding Spring is about to fly historically close to Mars. The encounter could spark Martian auroras, a meteor shower, and other unpredictable effects. Whatever happens, NASA's fleet of Mars satellites will have a ringside seat.
Mark your calendar: On Oct. 8th, the Moon will pass through the shadow of Earth for a total lunar eclipse. Sky watchers in the USA will see the Moon turn a beautiful shade of celestial red and maybe turquoise, too.
NASA's MAVEN spacecraft has reached Mars and it is beaming back "First Light" images of the Red Planet's upper atmosphere. The data could help researchers understand what transformed Mars from a hospitable planet billions of years ago into a desiccated wasteland today.
The Moon might not be as dead as it looks. Researchers using NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter have found signs of geologically-recent volcanic eruptions on Earth's natural satellite.
On Earth, a fast runner takes a few hours to complete a marathon. On Mars, it's taken 11 years. NASA's Opportunity rover crossed that finish line in 2015.
Planets: New Worlds, New Discoveries
The possibility of finding life elsewhere is for many people the most compelling reason for humankind to explore beyond the Earth. We believe that liquid water and carbon are required for life to arise and thrive, as well as a source of energy. Many places in the solar system provide these, at least for a time; not only planets, but also some moons and even certain comets. But for life to arise we presume that a hospitable environment must be more than just transient.
For the first time in human history we know of planets around other stars and many of those other planetary systems look quite different from our own. Many have a planet like Jupiter, or even bigger, nearest to the sun. If we are to understand why this is the case, and how likely it is that there are Earth-like planets elsewhere, we need to better understand how planets form.