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New Dwarf Planet 'Biden' May Offer Cosmic Secrets

Discovery at solar system's edge hints at more to come

(Newser) - Astronomers, and reporters who cover astronomy, are pretty excited today about the discovery of a suspected dwarf planet named 2012 VP-113—and thus nicknamed "Biden"—in the nether regions of the solar system beyond Pluto. Some snippets:
  • Nature : "The Solar System just got a lot more far-flung.
... More »

Mercury Has Been Shrinking

Slow cooling has created stunning features

(Newser) - The solar system's smallest planet is getting even smaller, but there's not much danger of Mercury disappearing completely: The planet has shrunk as many as 8.6 miles in diameter over the last 4 billion years, according to new research , making its current diameter roughly 3,032 miles.... More »

NASA Hits 715-Planet 'Jackpot'

Kepler data massively boosts number of known worlds

(Newser) - NASA says it has almost doubled the number of planets known to humanity with a "bonanza" uncovered by its planet-hunting Kepler telescope. The 715 new planets orbit 305 stars in multi-planet systems like our own, and 94% of them are smaller than Neptune. NASA says it has found... More »

OK, Voyager Has Definitely Left Solar System: NASA

And it's the first man-made object to have ever done so

(Newser) - The Voyager 1 has officially become the first man-made object to cross out of the solar system and into interstellar space—no, really this time. After a series of mistaken and controversial reports, NASA today published a study concluding that the probe definitively crossed the threshold of charged particles and... More »

Voyager May Have Left Solar System—a Year Ago

Blended magnetic fields at solar system's edge blurred crossing: study

(Newser) - The Voyager 1 spacecraft, expected to leave our solar system any day now , may actually have already done so—more than a year ago. Though similar reports were squashed earlier this year, a new study in Astrophysical Journal Letters suggests that the craft passed beyond the solar system's edge... More »

Hunch Leads Astronomer to New Neptune Moon

Planet's 14th moon is just 12 miles across

(Newser) - An astronomer poring over old images from the Hubble Space Telescope has discovered a previously unknown 14th moon of Neptune. SETI Institute researcher Mark Showalter—who has five other moon discoveries to his name—followed a hunch while studying ring segments around the planet and tracked a white dot to... More »

Earth Once Had a 2nd Moon: Scientist

Theory gets new life breathed into it

(Newser) - Earth may have once looked a little more like Mars: a planet with two moons. It's not the first time the theory has been trotted out by Erik Asphaug, but it's getting new life thanks to an upcoming conference about our natural satellite. The University of California at... More »

NASA Spots Solar System's 'Tail'

Much like a comet, our sun leaves a streak in its wake

(Newser) - If you were to look on our solar system from afar, it wouldn't look like a bunch of stationary spheres, but like a comet, streaking across the sky with a tail trailing behind it. Scientists had always assumed this, but now NASA has for the first time gotten a... More »

Solar System's Edge Mystifies Scientists

Voyager 1 reaches outer limits and smashes old theories

(Newser) - Voyager 1 may not have exited our solar system , but it's throwing scientists some unexpected curve balls from 11 billion miles away, reports the Los Angeles Times . The spacecraft is now in a strange zone known as the "magnetic highway," and nothing out there seems to be... More »

Voyager Hasn't Made Space History—Yet

NASA discounts report that craft has left the solar system

(Newser) - Space fans will have to hold off on popping the champagne cork. After the American Geophysical Union declared this morning that Voyager 1 had achieved the mind-boggling feat of leaving our solar system, NASA threw a wet blanket on the party, at least temporarily, reports Time . “It is the... More »

Voyager 1 Drifts Into Unknown Region of Space

NASA calls it the 'magnetic highway'

(Newser) - How to best learn about the edge of the solar system? Actually go there. NASA says its Voyager 1 spacecraft—which launched in 1977—has entered an area of the solar system that scientists didn't know about, the AP reports. "We do believe this may be the very... More »

Studies Illuminate the Moon's Explosive Origin

'Giant impact theory' gets a boost

(Newser) - A trio of new studies has breathed life back into a dramatic theory about the birth of the moon. Scientists have long suspected that the moon was formed when a Mars-sized planet called Theia smashed into Earth, obliterating itself and creating the moon, the LA Times explains. The problem? The... More »

Jupiter Takes New Hit for the Team

Flash believed to be collision with asteroid or comet

(Newser) - For the third time in four years, Jupiter appears to have been hit by something big enough to have done a lot of damage to our planet or any other unlucky enough to be in its way. A flash on Jupiter captured by amateur astronomers is believed to have been... More »

Giant Star Caught Devouring Planet

A similar fate awaits Earth, scientists say

(Newser) - Astronomers observing the Perseus constellation have caught a glimpse of the fate that awaits our own planet: digestion inside a giant star. Unusual amounts of lithium were detected inside the elderly red giant BD+48 740, and a surviving planet has shifted to a strange elliptical orbit, leading researchers to conclude... More »

Mars Once Had Earth-Like Oceans

Red planet 'was at least transiently water': Prof. Josef Dufek

(Newser) - A far denser atmosphere may have allowed Earth-like oceans to flourish on Mars billions of years ago, the Telegraph reports. Analyzing data from the Mars rover Spirit, Professor Josef Dufek of Georgia Tech University concluded that the planet's atmosphere was once 20 times denser—perfect for harboring lots of... More »

Methane Rains on Titan... Every 1K Years

Storms are rare, but they're doozies

(Newser) - Scientists think there are only two places in the solar system where liquid rains fall on solid land—the Earth and Saturn's moon Titan. But on Titan, that rain isn't water, it's methane, and it falls as little as once every 1,000 years in parts, according... More »

Oxygen Flows on Saturn's Icy Moon

Dione can't support life or liquid oceans, but check out other gas giant moons

(Newser) - Good news for future space colonists: Saturn's icy moon, Dione, contains a thin layer of oxygen that hints at life on other gas giant satellites, the BBC reports. Spotted by the Cassini spacecraft about two years ago, Dione's oxygen layer lacks the necessary density to support life and... More »

NASA Spots 'Alien Matter' From Beyond Solar System

Interstellar cloud unlike anything else ever analyzed

(Newser) - A cloud of material from elsewhere in the galaxy has slipped inside our solar system's protective bubble, and it is fundamentally different from anything else scientists have ever seen. The "alien matter" was spotted and analyzed by a NASA probe exploring the edge of the solar system, CBS... More »

Scientists Find 11 New Planetary Systems

Triples number of known multiplanetary star systems

(Newser) - The Kepler space telescope has discovered a whopping 11 new planetary systems that are home to 26 planets—thus tripling the number of stars that have more than one planet that passes in front of them and doubling the number of exoplanets confirmed by the Kepler mission. "Prior to... More »

Jumping Jupiter! 5th Giant Planet Evicted Eons Ago

Theory says it got knocked out of our early solar system

(Newser) - Our young solar system may have had another huge planet that got knocked into deep space by Jupiter, reports Wired . Astronomers at the Southwest Research Institute in Texas arrived at this "Jumping Jupiter" theory because computer simulations can't figure out how our modern solar system emerged as is... More »

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