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Solar System

Sun | Mercury | Venus | Mars | Jupiter | Saturn | Uranus | Neptune | Pluto | Moon | Comets/Asteroids


Study Paints Our Sun as a Planet Thief 
A close encounter between our sun and a passing star some four billion years ago may have played a role in shaping our solar system. New computer simulations describe how a rendezvous between two young solar systems could have occurred. And one potential scenario shows our sun kidnapping a planet or smaller object from the other star's solar system. 

Sunspots more active than for 8000 years
The Sun has been more energetic in the last 70 years than it has for the previous 8000 - but it is not to blame for recent global warming.

Tree Rings Reveal Sunspot Record.
Until now, scientists could only study sunspot records back to 1610, when astronomers started keeping track of sunspots by direct observation. Now, thanks to a clever new method, the 400-year sunspot record can be extended back to the Ice Age.

Sun Sample Probe Crashes in Desert. Sept. 8, 2004
A capsule containing particles from the sun crashed into the Utah desert on Wednesday after its parachute failed to deploy.

NASA Mission Returns With A Piece Of The Sun. Pasadena CA (JPL) Aug 20, 2004
In a dramatic ending that marks a beginning in scientific research, NASA's Genesis spacecraft is set to swing by Earth and jettison a sample return capsule filled with particles of the Sun that may ultimately tell us more about the genesis of our solar system.

Scientists Explain Mysterious Plasma Jets On The Sun. Palo Alto CA (SPX) Jul 29, 2004
Solar physicists from Lockheed Martin and the Solar Physics and upper-Atmosphere Research Group at the Department of Applied Mathematics of the University of Sheffield, UK have used computer modeling and some of the highest resolution images ever taken of the solar atmosphere to explain the cause of supersonic jets that continuously shoot through the low atmosphere of the Sun.

Spacecraft Fleet Tracks Blast Wave Through Solar System Huntsville AL (SPX) Jul 09, 2004
A fleet of spacecraft dispersed throughout the solar system gave the most comprehensive picture to date of how blast waves from solar storms propagate through the solar system and the radiation generated in their wake.

Suns Of All Ages Possess Comets, Maybe Planets. Atlanta - Jan 07, 2004
In early 2003, Comet Kudo-Fujikawa (C/2002 X5) zipped past the Sun at a distance half that of Mercury's orbit. Astronomers Matthew Povich and John Raymond (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) and colleagues studied Kudo-Fujikawa during its close passage. Today at the 203rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Atlanta, they announced that they observed the comet puffing out huge amounts of carbon, one of the key elements for life. The comet also emitted large amounts of water vapor as the Sun's heat baked its outer surface.


Fiery blastoff sets US probe toward first rock from the Sun. Washington (AFP) Aug 03, 2004 - US spacecraft Messenger lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, early Tuesday on a six-year exploratory journey toward Mercury, the closet planet to the Sun.  With Messenger safely nestled in its payload bay, a massive Delta II rocket roared off from its launching pad at about 2:16 am (0616 GMT), turning in a matter of seconds from a fire-breathing giant into a tiny speck of light in the sky.

SwRI Goes Suborbital In Search Of Mercury And The "Vulcanoids" Boulder - Jan 27, 2004
A new major scientific payload flew in space last week after launching aboard a NASA suborbital Black Brant rocket. The payload, consisting of a telescope/spectrometer combination and an image-intensified imaging system, successfully explored the ultraviolet spectrum of the planet Mercury and also searched for the long-sought belt of small bodies called Vulcanoids that may lie even closer to the Sun than Mercury. Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) provided the payload and is responsible for data analysis.


A Temperate Venus Revealed. Moffett Field CA (SPX) Aug 19, 2004
In part 1 of this interview with Astrobiology Magazine editor Henry Bortman, planetary scientist David Grinspoon explained how Venus evolved from a wet planet similar to Earth to the scorching hot, dried-out furnace of today. In part 2, Grinspoon discusses the possibility of life on Venus.

Venus Transit Of Sun Live From The Backyard Or Online. Washington (SPX) May 17, 2004
"There will be no other till the twenty-first century of our era has dawned upon the Earth and the June flowers are blooming in 2004. What will be the state of science ? God only knows." - William Harkness, U.S. Naval Observatory 1882.

Molecular rings could shelter Venus bugs
The idea that microbes live in the planet's clouds is controversial, but scientists can now explain how they might avoid the Sun's damaging UV light.

"Heavy Metal" Snow On Blazing Venus Is Lead Sulfide. St. Louis - Feb 11, 2004
Lead sulfide — also known by its mineral name, galena — is a naturally occurring mineral found in Missouri, other parts of the world, and now. . .other parts of the solar system. That's because recent thermodynamic calculations by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis provide plausible evidence that "heavy metal snow," which blankets the surface of upper altitude Venusian rocks, is composed of both lead and bismuth sulfides.

Earth's Moon

Russia May Have Moon Base By 2025. Moscow (UPI) Nov 22, 2004
Russia may have a base on the moon by 2025, according to a Russian space official, the Interfax news agency reported Monday.

Footprints On The Moon Moffett Field CA (SPX) Aug 30, 2004
The Moon preserves unique information about changes in the habitability of the Earth-Moon system. This record has been obscured on the Earth by billions of years of rain, wind, erosion, volcanic eruptions, mountain building, and plate tectonics.

Moon Written In Stone Moffett Field CA (SPX) Aug 02, 2004
Scientists have pinpointed the source of a meteorite from the moon for the first time. Their unique meteorite records four separate lunar impacts. See also Odyssey of a Moon rock and Lunar Meteorite's Life Story Revealed.

Apollo 11 Experiment Still Going Strong After 35 Years.
Scientists from various institutions who analyze the data from the lunar laser ranging experiment have observed, among other things, that the Moon is moving away from the Earth (3.8 cm. a year) and has a fluid core, and that Einstein's Theory of Relativity is accurate. See also What Neil & Buzz Left On The Moon.

Cassini Exposes Saturn's Two-Face Moon Pasadena CA (JPL) Jul 16, 2004
The moon with the split personality, Iapetus, presents a perplexing appearance in the latest images snapped by the Cassini spacecraft.

A New Moon for Earth? March 26, 2004
Earth has acquired a "quasi-moon" — an asteroid that will encircle our planet for the next couple of years while it orbits the sun on a horseshoe-shaped path, according to a report to be published on Saturday in New Scientist. The asteroid, 2003 YN17, "is probably a chunk of debris" from an impact between a larger space rock and the surface of the moon, the British weekly said.

Lunar Mountain With Permanent Sun Good Site For Base. Houston (UPI) March 19, 2004
Scientists have discovered a mountain on the moon where the sun never sets, which might become the site of a U.S. moonbase.

Living Off The "Land" Critical To Long Term Moon, Mars Habitation. Huntsville AL - Mar 24, 2004
Sludge. That's what most people think of when they envision the gray, powdery soil — called regolith — covering the airless surface of the Moon. Not Dr. Mike Duke. He sees gold.

Moon And Planets Gather Round. Huntsville - Mar 22, 2004
Every few years or so, something wonderful happens: all five naked-eye planets appear in the evening sky at the same time. You can walk outside after dinner, and without any kind of telescope, see Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter.

No Moon, no life on Earth, suggests theory
Four billion years ago, when life began, the Moon caused massive ocean tides to ebb and flow, and without these life may never have got started.

German Real Estate Investors Tell Bush To Keep Off Our Moon Rock Berlin (AFP) Mar 11, 2004
More than 60 worried owners of lunar real estate have written to the White House warning Bush not to let astronauts soil their property. The "land parcels" were bought from Dennis Hope, a US entrepreneur who claims he secured legal ownership of the moon and most other bodies in the solar system 20 years ago by exploiting a loophole in the 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty.

Lunar Convoys As An Option For A Return To The Moon. Madison - Feb 24, 2004
The scientific community now believes there is water on the Moon. To some, this suggests a grand opportunity, and so it can be. However, the Moon's water, if there, is thought to be located near the poles, in deep, permanently-shadowed craters, as ice that is possibly buried, or at least mixed with lunar regolith writes William H. Knuth.

NASA Gets New Funds For Space Shuttles And Moon Mission. Washington (AFP) Feb 03, 2004
The new US public budget unveiled Monday gives a big boost to spending on efforts to get the US shuttle back in space and to start moves to get manned missions to the moon and Mars. Funding for NASA in fiscal 2005 will rise by 5.6 percent to $16.2 billion. The $866 million increase for the year starting October 1 comes after a decade of stagnation for the space program. Most other government departments saw funding fall.

Bush Could Announce New Manned Space Missions To Moon And Mars. Washington (AFP) Jan 09, 2004
President George W. Bush is ready to announce new goals for the US space program next week, that could include manned missions to the Moon and beyond, US government officials said late Thursday.


The Martian Methane Surprise Moffett Field CA (SPX) Dec 07, 2004
At the recent Division of Planetary Sciences conference in Louisville, Kentucky, Michael Mumma, Director of the Center for Astrobiology at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, announced that relatively high levels of methane had been detected on Mars.

Proof Positive: Mars Once Had Water, Researchers Conclude
There is undeniable proof that water once existed on the planet Mars, a team of researchers has concluded in a series of 11 articles this week in a special issue of the journal Science.

Journey Toward 'Burns Cliff Continues. Pasadena CA (JPL) Nov 10, 2004
Opportunity's trek towards "Burns Cliff" continues. The journey has been much more difficult than anticipated. The rover has experienced drive slippage of up to 100 percent. The plan is to attempt a couple of sols of up-slope, switchback driving and then review options to get to Burns Cliff.

Over The Martian Wall Pasadena CA (JPL) Nov 08, 2004
All the scientific tools on NASA's two Mars Exploration Rovers are still working well, a full 10 months after Spirit's dramatic landing. The ones on Spirit are adding fresh evidence about the history of layered bedrock in a hill the rover is climbing.

Mars Express pictures action of glaciers.
The Mars Express spacecraft has returned stunning images of mountains and valleys that show signs of past volcanic activity, and suggest that glaciers once shaped the red planet's surface.

Opportunity Ready To Make "Climb" To Burns Cliff Pasadena CA (JPL) Oct 22, 2004
NASA's Opportunity rover continues to operate without any major issues after spending 130 sols inside "Endurance Crater". To date, the rover has ground 21 targets with the rock abrasion tool, performing 62 integrations with the Moessbauer spectrometer and 33 with the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer, and taking 115 observations with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer.

New Propulsion Concept Could Make 90-Day Mars Round Trip Possible Seattle WA (SPX) Oct 15, 2004
A new means of propelling spacecraft being developed at the University of Washington could dramatically cut the time needed for astronauts to travel to and from Mars, and could make humans a permanent fixture in space.

Reconstruction of the red planet's past reveals acid rain and briny seas.

Sopping Salts Could Reveal History Of Water On Mars Bloomington IN (SPX) Oct 07, 2004
Epsom-like salts believed to be common on Mars may be a major source of water there, say geologists at Indiana University Bloomington and Los Alamos National Laboratory. In their report in this week's Nature, the scientists also speculate that the salts will provide a chemical record of water on the Red Planet.

Odyssey's New Odometer Moffet Field CA (SPX) Aug 30, 2004
NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter begins working overtime today after completing a prime mission that discovered vast supplies of frozen water, ran a safety check for future astronauts, and mapped surface textures and minerals all over Mars, among other feats.

Life On Mars: A Definite Possibility Moffett Field CA (SPX) Aug 31, 2004
Was Mars once a living world? Does life continue, even today, in a holding pattern, waiting until the next global warming event comes along? Many people would like to believe so. Scientists are no exception. But so far no evidence has been found that convinces even a sizable minority of the scientific community that the red planet was ever home to life.

Bedrock In Mars' Gusev Crater Hints At Watery Past. Tucson AZ (SPX) Aug 19, 2004
Now that NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit is finally examining bedrock in the "Columbia Hills," it is finding evidence that water thoroughly altered some rocks in Mars' Gusev Crater.

Spirit's Sojourn Leaves Ancient Lake Hypothesis High and Dry
The Mars Exploration Rover Spirit covered 637 meters in its first 90 Martian days, or sols (a sol is 40 minutes longer than an Earth day). Its trek through the Gusev crater has not revealed any evidence for the ancient lakebed that geologists thought might be there, but water may have played some part in the formation of certain observed rock features.

Spirit continues its heroic climb up the Columbia Hills.

Briefing: As Mars Express sends back the best ever data about the chemicals present in the martian atmosphere, rumours abound that scientists are beginning to detect signs of life on the red planet. weighs up the evidence so far.

Virtual Mars. Moffett Field CA (SPX) Aug 03, 2004
NASA scientists have modified a scientific Web site so the general public can inspect big regions and smaller details of Mars' surface, a planet whose alien terrain is about the same area as Earth's continents.

Mars Rover Spirit Finds Bedrock. July 16, 2004
Six months after arriving at Mars for detailed geologic studies, the Spirit rover finally has reached what scientists came for: bedrock.

New Martian Meteorite Found In Antarctica. Moffett Field CA (SPX) Jul 21, 2004
While rovers and orbiting spacecraft scour Mars searching for clues to its past, researchers have uncovered another piece of the red planet in the most inhospitable place on Earth - Antarctica.

Allan Hills Meteorite Abiogenic? Moffett Field CA (SPX) Jul 22, 2004
The scientific debate over whether a meteorite contains evidence of past life on Mars continues to intensify, with colleagues of the team that announced the possibility in 1996 revealing new findings that may cast doubt on some of that earlier work.

Freeze-Dried Water, Magnetic Dust Moffet Field CA (SPX) Jul 12, 2004
Mars is a dusty place and some of that dust is highly magnetic. Magnetic minerals carried in dust grains may be freeze-dried remnants of the planet´s watery past.

Mars Rain Carved Valleys. July 2, 2004 — Mars was not only awash with water, it also once had rainfall, according to a French study published on Friday. The evidence comes from infrared imaging, which probed under dust deposited over the millions of years and found dense networks of dry valleys, whose branching bear the hallmarks of having been carved out by rain.

Northern Rim Of Hellas Basin. Paris (ESA) Jul 09, 2004
These images of the rim of the Hellas basin on Mars were obtained by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft.

On Earth, as it is on Mars?
The small spheres of haematite, nicknamed blueberries, that litter the Mars landing site of NASAs rover Opportunity might have an analogue on Earth, formed from groundwater in southern Utah.

Spirit Finds Its Pot Of Gold. Moffet Field CA (SPX) Jun 17, 2004
Some of the first things the scientists noticed about the Columbia geology were small round nodules that looked very similar to the hematite "blueberries" previously found on Mars. Many of the blueberries on Columbia Hills are more football-shaped than spherical, however, so these nodules might not be hematite concretions.

The Geology Of Mars Mid-'04. Sacramento (SPX) Jun 08, 2004
But while the ability of Spirit to locate water-deposited and -modified material on Mars' surface is still in doubt, its twin Opportunity has rather stolen its thunder by finding solid proof of such material almost as soon as it landed on the strange, flat, hematite-covered Meridiani Plain.

Chasing Martian Dust Devils. Moffet Field (SPX) Jun 07, 2004
Mars has only a faint atmosphere [less than one percent of terrestrial pressures], yet offers up its history of dust devils as swirling tracks in a remarkable landscape of wind-swept and carved terrain.  These tiny twisters tend to appear in the middle afternoon on Mars, when solar heating is maximum and when warm air rises and collides with other pressure fronts to cause circulation.

Key To Predicting Martian Volcanos May Be Locked In Tiny Bubbles. Blacksburg VA (SPX) Jun 09, 2004
By summer 2005, researchers in the Fluids Research Laboratory at Virginia Tech will be able to look for evidence of water on Mars by examining submicroscopic bubbles in martian meteorites, determine whether fluids and silicate melts trapped in volcanic rock can help predict future eruptions, and locate buried mineral deposits using data from surface rocks.

Evidence Of "Flooding" At Mangala Valles Imaged By Mars Express. Paris (ESA) Jun 10, 2004
This images of fluvial surface features at Mangala Valles on Mars were obtained by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board the ESA Mars Express spacecraft.

Dust rocks martian river theory
Signs of water may really be slumping sand. Gullies on Mars that appear to have been carved by flowing water could instead have been created by landslides of dry powdery material, scientists have found.

Mars Rover Inspects Stone Ejected From Crater. Pasadena (JPL) May 18, 2004
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has begun sampling rocks blasted out from a stadium-sized impact crater the rover is circling, and the very first one may extend our understanding about the region's wet past.

New Mars rock hints at short-lived lakes
The dark rock may be a basaltic sandstone - if confirmed, it would mean that any watery periods in Mars' past were cold and brief.

How Mars got its rust
The intense heat inside the early Earth was enough to convert a lot of iron oxide into molten metallic iron, which seeped down into the planet to form a huge liquid core. Mars never achieved the temperatures needed for this process simply because it is smaller, they say. This left more iron oxide in the upper layers of the planet, which led to its distinctive russet hue and relatively puny iron core.

Mars’ Deep Faults And Disrupted Crater At Acheron Fossae. Paris (ESA) May 11, 2004
These images were taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA's Mars Express of the Acheron Fossae region, an area of intensive tectonic (continental 'plate') activity in the past.

Study May Cast Doubt On Some 1996 Evidence Of Past Life On Mars. Houston TX (SPX) May 06, 2004
The scientific debate over whether a meteorite contains evidence of past life on Mars continues to intensify, with colleagues of the team that announced the possibility in 1996 revealing new findings that may cast doubt on some of that earlier work.

Mars Rover Arrival At Deeper Crater Provides A Tempting Eyeful
Scientists and engineers celebrated when they saw the first pictures NASA's Opportunity sent from the rim of a stadium- sized crater that the rover reached after a six-week trek across martian flatlands. Multiple layers of exposed bedrock line much of the inner slope of the impact crater informally called "Endurance."

Martian Water Science Early 2004 Mountain View CA - Apr 27, 2004
In part two of our report on NASA's Third Astrobiology Science Conference, we detour to a press conference held separately the last day of the conference that revealed the Gusev landing site of the first MER rover, "Spirit" was at last starting to show evidence of an aqueous past after all. Relating this announcement to specific papers presented at the conference, Bruce Moomaw explains how the story of Mars is getting more complicated with each new mission to Mars.

Analysis: 'Bounce' rock's cosmic portent.
The main ingredient in Bounce is a volcanic mineral called pyroxene.

'Weird' meteorite may be from Mars moon
The Kaidun meteorite is like no other, including minerals never seen before, but the Red Planet's moon Phobos could provide an explanation.

Methane on Mars. Moffett Field  - Mar 31, 2004
Considered suggestive of life, an atmosphere of methane on another planet is considered one of the four best candidates for detecting habitable conditions using remote sensing and telescope spectrographs.

Spirit Finds Multi-Layer Hints Of Past Water At Mars' Gusev Site. Pasadena - Apr 02, 2004
Clues from a wind-scalloped volcanic rock on Mars investigated by NASA's Spirit rover suggest repeated possible exposures to water inside Gusev Crater, scientists said Thursday.

Opportunity Finds Evidence Of Ocean Shoreline. Pasadena - Mar 23, 2004
NASA today released details on news findings on Mars that point to the first strong evidence that a sea once covered part of Mars in the Meridiani Planum area where Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is currently exploring. See also March 23 news conference, Major Mars Finding Via Real Player at  - (60 mins)

Martian Spiral Mystery At Poles Explained. Tucson AZ - Mar 26, 2004
The spiral troughs of Mars' polar ice caps have been called the most enigmatic landforms in the solar system. The deep canyons spiraling out from the Red Planet's North and South poles cover hundreds of miles. No other planet has such structures.

Blueberries' secret solves Mars mystery.
The Mars rover Opportunity has now solved the key puzzle it was sent to the Meridiani Planum to figure out: where is the hematite that was spotted in the area by the Mars Global Surveyor orbiter? The answer is in the "blueberries", the tiny mineral spheres that litter the rover's landing site. The question was a key one, because hematite almost always forms in water, and water is thought to be a pre-requisite for life.

Martian Moons Block Sun In Unique Eclipse Images From Another Planet. Pasadena - Mar 17, 2004
This image shows the transit of Mars' moon Phobos across the Sun. The images were taken by the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity on the morning of the 45th martian day, or sol, of its mission. This observation will help refine our knowledge of the orbit and position of Phobos.

"Vast" Reserves Of Frozen Water On Mars Pole: Study. Paris (AFP) Mar 17, 2004
Mars holds huge reserves of frozen water in its southern pole, according to the first detailed assessment of the data sent back by Europe's Mars Express spacecraft earlier this year.

Volcanic Rock In Mars' Gusev Crater Hints At Past Water. Pasadena - Mar 05, 2004
NASA's Spirit has found hints of a water history in a rock at Mars' Gusev Crater, but it is a very different type of rock than those in which NASA's Opportunity found clues to a wet past on the opposite side of the planet.

A NASA snow job, or just a lot of flakes?
Mars images reveal oddities - on Earth.  Forget about ancient traces of water on Mars. There's a little white bunny up there. And stone tools. And dinosaur fossils. Plants, art, even letters of the alphabet.

Opportunity Rover Finds Strong Evidence Meridiani Planum Was Wet. Washington - Mar 02, 2004
Scientists have concluded the part of Mars that NASA's Opportunity rover is exploring was soaking wet in the past. Evidence the rover found in a rock outcrop led scientists to the conclusion. Clues from the rocks' composition, such as the presence of sulfates, and the rocks' physical appearance, such as niches where crystals grew, helped make the case for a watery history. For NASA press conference see

Spirit Rover On Its Way To Mars Crater. Washington (AFP) Feb 26, 2004
The Mars rover Spirit will go on a two-week trip through rocky terrain to reach the border of a crater named Bonneville, NASA announced Thursday. The crater is 150 meters (492 feet) long and about 15 meters (49 feet) deep and offers a window into Mars' geology, said Ray Arvidson, assistant chief of scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Martian 'pebbles' don't prove watery past
NASA probe could be walking on broken glass. 10 February 2004

Opportunity Examines Trench As Spirit Prepares To Dig One. Pasadena - Feb 20, 2004
By inspecting the sides and floor of a hole it dug on Mars, NASA's Opportunity rover is finding some things it did not see beforehand, including round pebbles that are shiny and soil so fine-grained that the rover's microscope can't make out individual particles.

Healthy Spirit Cleans A Mars Rock; Opportunity Rolls. Pasadena (JPL) Feb 06, 2004
NASA's Spirit has returned to full health and resumed doing things never attempted on Mars before. "Our patient is healed, and we're very excited about that," said Jennifer Trosper of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., mission manager for Spirit.

Mars Rover Opportunity Sees Tiny Spheres In Martian Soil.
NASA's Opportunity has examined its first patch of soil in the small crater where the rover landed on Mars and found strikingly spherical pebbles among the mix of particles there.

NASA scientists awed by new Mars images. Pasadena (AFP) Jan 26, 2004
NASA scientists said they hit a "scientific jackpot" Sunday as Opportunity, the second of two roving US Mars probes, transmitted astonishing images from the planet's surface. The 820-million-dollar mission's scientific director, Steve Squyres, was left gasping for words as Opportunity sent back to Earth pictures of what he described as an "alien landscape."

Layered rocks tantalize Mars scientists
New images suggest rocks dead ahead of the rover Opportunity are sedimentary - that could prove the planet once had lakes or oceans.

Opportunity Bounces Down On Mars. Pasadena - Jan 25, 2004
Opportunity, the second of two US robotics rovers sent to explore the surface of Mars, was working normally early Sunday after a successful landing Saturday night at 9:05pm PST (0505 GMT) in an area known as Meridiani Planum.

Spirit Beeps It's Alive And "Commandable": NASA Official. Pasadena - Jan 22, 2004
NASA officials at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have confirmed that the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit has responded to an emergency command this morning by sending back a radio beep -- an event which had been stated as a possibility, but not a certainty, at the end of this morning's JPL press conference. "This means it's commandable," a JPL spokeswoman told SpaceDaily. The command was tailored to the assumption that the rover's onboard computer is currently in a "fault mode", and the beep confirms that it has detected a serious fault, either in the hardware or the software. The fact that the rover responded at all, however, is encouraging. (this file will be updated until the rover is fully recovered).

Is Gusev Crater The Site Of An Ancient Martian Lake? Pasadena - Jan 09, 2004
Scientists analyzing data from NASA's Spirit rover to determine water levels at the landing site may not have a final answer for several more weeks, but today they announced that they had uncovered one tantalizing clue. "We came [to Gusev] looking for carbonates," said Phil Christensen, payload instrument lead for Spirit's mini-thermal emission spectrometer (Mini-TES). "And we have found carbonates." They are present, however, in only trace amounts - 1 to 2 percent of the surface soil.

APS X-rays Reveal Secrets Of The Martian Core. Argonne - Jan 12, 2004
While astronomers peer at the surface of Mars, now making its closest approach to Earth in 60,000 years, scientists are learning the secrets of its deep interior using the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne.

Mars Horizon - NASA

Mars Rover Spirit. See the latest photos at

Bush Could Announce New Manned Space Missions To Moon And Mars. Washington (AFP) Jan 09, 2004
President George W. Bush is ready to announce new goals for the US space program next week, that could include manned missions to the Moon and beyond, US government officials said late Thursday.

NASA rover lands safely on red planet.
See Spirit's first images | Panorama

An Odyssey of Mars Science: Part 2. Sacramento - Dec 30, 2003
The discovery by Mars Odyssey which has most captured the public's imagination by far is the finding by its "GRS" experiment -- which includes both gamma-ray and neutron spectrometers -- that Mars does indeed have a massive reservoir of water ice near its surface in the polar regions writes Bruce Moomaw.


Underneath Ganymede's Ice? Moffett Field CA (SPX) Aug 19, 2004
Scientists have discovered irregular lumps beneath the icy surface of Jupiter's largest moon, Ganymede. These irregular masses may be rock formations, supported by Ganymede's icy shell for billions of years.

Scientists Discover Ganymede Has A Lumpy Interior. Pasadena CA (JPL) Aug 16, 2004
Scientists have discovered irregular lumps beneath the icy surface of Jupiter's largest moon, Ganymede. These irregular masses may be rock formations, supported by Ganymede's icy shell for billions of years.

Researchers Show Io Vaporizing Rock Gases Into Atmosphere. St. Louis MO (SPX) Jun 16, 2004
The hottest spot in the solar system is neither Mercury, Venus, nor St. Louis in the summer. Io, one of the four satellites that the Italian astronomer Galileo discovered orbiting Jupiter almost 400 years ago, takes that prize.

Expert Predicts Global Climate Change On Jupiter As It's Spots Disappear. San Francisco - Apr 26, 2004
If a University of California, Berkeley, physicist's vision of Jupiter is correct, the giant planet will be in for a major global temperature shift over the next decade as most of its large vortices disappear.

Researcher Predicts Global Climate Change On Jupiter As Planet's Spots Disappear.

Io's Lava Lakes Like Early Earth? Buffalo - Mar 22, 2004
Investigations into lava lakes on the surface of Io, the intensely volcanic moon that orbits Jupiter, may provide clues to what Earth looked like in its earliest phases, according to researchers at the University at Buffalo and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Probing Europa Ice Will Take A New Class Of Plantary Exploration Tools Bremerhaven (UPI) March 15, 2004
Researchers in Germany are testing a probe that could melt through Europa's ice sheet to analyze the water below for microbial life.

Life could be tough on acid Europa
Far from being a haven of ice and water and an ideal spot for the search for alien life, Jupiter's moon may be a corrosive hotbed of acid and peroxide.

Old Equation May Shed New Light On Planet Formation.
New work with an old equation may help scientists calculate the thickness of ice covering the oceans on Jupiter's moon Europa and ultimately provide insight into planet formation. Planetary bodies, such as the Earth and its moon, exert such gravitational force on one another that tides occur, not just in the oceans, but also in bodies of the planets themselves. The surfaces of planets actually rise and fall slightly as they orbit one another.


Hovering Over Titan Pasadena CA (JPL) Nov 24, 2004
A mosaic of nine processed images recently acquired during Cassini's first very close flyby of Saturn's moon Titan on Oct. 26, 2004, constitutes the most detailed full-disc view of the mysterious moon.

Cassini Spots Possible Ice Volcano On Titan. Pasadena CA (JPL) Nov 10, 2004
A strikingly bright feature that is consistent with an active geology has been seen in one of Cassini's first radar images of Saturn's moon Titan. There are many possibilities for what it is but one of the leading candidates is that it may be a 'cryovolcanic' flow or 'ice volcano'.

Titan has no breaking waves
The Cassini space probe discovers that the surface of Saturn's moon is not awash with liquid after all - ice or volcanism may prevail.

Cassini Observations Show Dynamic Dance At Saturn Boulder CO (SPX) Nov 09, 2004
A University of Colorado at Boulder professor involved with the Cassini-Huygens mission is reporting an ever-changing vista at the frontiers of Saturn, featuring wayward moons, colliding meteoroids, rippling rings and flickering auroras.

Radar Image Shows Titan's Surface Live And In "Color" Pasadena CA (JPL) Nov 08, 2004
Saturn's moon Titan shows a sharp contrast between its smooth and rough edges in this new false-color radar image. Titan's surface lies beneath a thick coat of hazy clouds, but Cassini's radar instrument can peer through to show finer surface features. Scientists have added color to emphasize finer details on Titan, as shown in the image.

Moon Shifts Shape of Saturn Rings By Irene Mona Klotz, Discovery News.Oct. 13, 2004
An image released this week shows a 2,980-mile-wide gap in Saturn's rings caused by the gravitational tug of its small moon, Mimas. Mimas is puny compared to its sister moons in orbit around Saturn. But the satellite has shown the Cassini science team an impressive demonstration of its power.

Saturn's Moon And Its Flock. Pasadena CA (JPL) Oct 01, 2004
In its own way, the shepherd moon Prometheus (102 kilometers, 63 miles across) is one of the lords of Saturn's rings. The little moon maintains the inner edge of Saturn's thin, knotted F ring, while its slightly smaller cohort, Pandora, (84 kilometers, or 52 miles across) guards the ring's outer edge.

Cassini Discovers Ring And One, Possibly Two, Objects At Saturn. Pasadena CA (JPL) Sep 10, 2004
Scientists examining Saturn's contorted F ring, which has baffled them since its discovery, have found one small body, possibly two, orbiting in the F ring region, and a ring of material associated with Saturn's moon Atlas.

South Polar Storms Pasadena CA (JPL) Aug 30, 2004
This Cassini spacecraft narrow angle camera view of Saturn's southern polar region features a bright white spot, or storm, surrounded by faint, darker swirls of clouds.

Out From the Shadows: Two New Saturnian Moons. Pasadena CA (JPL) Aug 17, 2004
With eyes sharper than any that have peered at Saturn before, the Cassini spacecraft has uncovered two moons, which may be the smallest bodies so far seen around the ringed planet.

Saturn's Moon Titan: Prebiotic Laboratory. Moffett Field CA (SPX) Aug 12, 2004
Jonathan Lunine, professor of planetary science and physics at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson, Arizona, has a longtime fascination with Saturn's largest moon, Titan. Astrobiology Magazine's Managing Editor Henry Bortman spoke recently with Lunine about the Huygens mission slated to descend into Titan's thick atmosphere in early 2005.

Titan's Purple Haze Points To A Fuzzy Past. Pasadena CA (JPL) Jul 30, 2004
Encircled in purple stratospheric haze, Saturn's largest moon, Titan, appears as a softly glowing sphere in this colorized image taken on July 3, 2004, one day after Cassini's first flyby of that moon.

Cassini lifts Titan's hazy veil 
Moon gives hints of hydrocarbons in hot spots.

Saturn's Rings In Ultraviolet. Moffet Field CA (SPX) Jul 09, 2004
The best view ever of Saturn's rings in the ultraviolet indicates there is more ice toward the outer part of the rings, hinting at ring origin and evolution, say two University of Colorado at Boulder researchers involved in the Cassini mission.

Titan's Strange Surface Pasadena - Jul 05, 2004
Cassini spacecraft instruments have peered through the orange smog of Titan and glimpsed the surface below. Images sent back to Earth reveal dark areas and lighter, fuzzy areas. Data from the Visual Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) indicate that the dark areas are pure water ice. The bright fuzzy regions have several different types of non-ice materials, and may include organic materials such as hydrocarbons.

Cassini Shows Off Its Stuff With Phoebe Extravaganza. Pasadena (JPL) Jun 15, 2004
Images collected during Cassini's close flyby of Saturn's moon, Phoebe, have yielded strong evidence that the tiny object may contain ice-rich material, overlain with a thin layer of darker material perhaps 300 to 500 meters (980 to 1,600 feet) thick.

Cassini flies past Saturn moon
The Cassini spacecraft, which is en route to Saturn, has made a close pass of the planet's mysterious moon Phoebe.

Seven Years To Saturn. Pasadena - May 24, 2004
As Cassini nears its rendezvous with Saturn, new detail in the banded clouds of the planet's atmosphere are becoming visible.

Titan's Big Future In Plastics. Tucson AZ - May 25, 2004
While the Cassini spacecraft has been flying toward Saturn, chemists on Earth have been making plastic pollution like that raining through the atmosphere of Saturn's moon, Titan.

Cassini's First Glimpses Of Titan. Boulder (SPX) May 07, 2004
The veils of Saturn's most mysterious moon have begun to lift in Cassini's eagerly awaited, first glimpse of the surface of Titan, a world where scientists believe organic matter rains from hazy skies and seas of liquid hydrocarbons dot a frigid surface.

Two Storms Caught In The Act On Saturn
Three months before arrival at Saturn , the Cassini spacecraft caught two storms in the act of merging into one larger storm. This is only the second time this phenomenon has been observed on the ringed planet.

Titan Casts Revealing Shadow. Cambridge MA - Apr 06, 2004
A rare celestial event was captured by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory as Titan -- Saturn's largest moon and the only moon in the Solar System with a thick atmosphere -- crossed in front of the X-ray bright Crab Nebula. The X-ray shadow cast by Titan allowed astronomers to make the first X-ray measurement of the extent of its atmosphere.

Titanic waves break on Saturn's sludgy moon.

X-Rays From Saturn Pose Puzzles Huntsville - Mar 09, 2004
The first clear detection of X-rays from the giant, gaseous planet Saturn has been made with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. Chandra's image shows that the X-rays are concentrated near Saturn's equator, a surprising result since Jupiter's X-ray emission is mainly concentrated near the poles. Existing theories cannot easily explain the intensity or distribution of Saturn's X-rays.

Saturn Ring Spokes Appear To Be Gone Since Voyager Flyby. Moffett Field - Mar 01, 2004
Cassini's approach to Saturn has begun. The Cassini image team has noted that new details in the atmosphere and rings are becoming visible, and scientists are already puzzling over the noticeable absence of the ghostly spoke-like dark markings in the rings first discovered during Voyager's approach to the planet 23 years ago.

Titan Is Ideal Lab For Oceanography, Meteorology. Tucson - Feb 16, 2004
After a 7-year interplanetary voyage, NASA's Cassini spacecraft will reach Saturn this July and begin what promises to be one of the most exciting missions in planetary exploration history. After years of work, scientists have just completed plans for Cassini's observations of Saturn's largest moon, Titan.

Cassini/Huygens Closing In On The Lord Of The Rings. Paris - Jan 21, 2004
This time next year, ESA's Huygens spaceprobe will be descending through the atmosphere of Saturn's largest moon, becoming the first spacecraft to land on a body in the outer Solar System.


Keck Zooms In On The Weird Weather Of Uranus. Louisville KY (SPX) Nov 11, 2004
Capitalizing on the incomparable optical capabilities of the Keck Telescope, scientists have gained an unprecedented look at the atmosphere of Uranus, providing new insight into some of the most enigmatic weather in the solar system.

Enigma Of Uranus Solved At Last Paris (AFP) - Mar 10, 2004
Uranus has puzzled scientists ever since the probe Voyager 2 did a flyby in 1986 and found that its magnetic field appeared to break the planetary rulebook. The evidence from Earth, Jupiter and Saturn determined that a planet's magnetic field should be like that of a bar magnet, with a north and south pole that runs roughly along the sphere's rotational axis.

A Colorful Life In The Outer Planets. Baltimore - Jan 27, 2004
Atmospheric features on Uranus and Neptune are revealed in images taken with the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph and the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. A wider view of Uranus reveals the planet's faint rings and several of its satellites. The observations were taken in August 2003.


Discovery of five irregular moons of Neptune

A Colorful Life In The Outer Planets. Baltimore - Jan 27, 2004
Atmospheric features on Uranus and Neptune are revealed in images taken with the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph and the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. A wider view of Uranus reveals the planet's faint rings and several of its satellites. The observations were taken in August 2003.




The Geminid Meteor Shower Huntsvile AL (SPX) Dec 07, 2004
The best meteor shower of 2004 is about to peak on a long cold December night. It's the Geminids. The best time to look is Monday night, Dec. 13th. Sky watchers who stay outside for a few hours around midnight can expect to see dozens to hundreds of "shooting stars."

Cooking On A Comet..? Paris (ESA) Aug 20, 2004
One of the ingenious instruments on board Rosetta is designed to 'smell' the comet for different substances, analysing samples that have been 'cooked' in a set of miniature ovens. ESA's Rosetta will be the first space mission ever to land on a comet.

What Is A Comet Made Of? Davis CA (SPX) Aug 10, 2004
A new method for looking at the composition of comets using ground-based telescopes has been developed by chemists at UC Davis. Remnants from the formation of our solar system, the makeup of comets gives clues about how the Earth and other planets formed.

NASA Spacecraft Reveals Surprising Anatomy Of A Comet
Findings from a historic encounter between NASA's Stardust spacecraft and a comet have revealed a much stranger world than previously believed. The comet's rigid surface, dotted with towering pinnacles, plunging craters, steep cliffs, and dozens of jets spewing violently, has surprised scientists.

Did Comets Flood Earth's Oceans? Paris (ESA) Jun 17, 2004
Did the Earth form with water locked into its rocks, which then gradually leaked out over millions of years? Or did the occasional impacting comet provide the Earth's oceans? The Ptolemy experiment on Rosetta may just find out…

Loneos Discovers Asteroid With The Smallest Orbit. Flagstaff AZ (SPX) May 24, 2004
The ongoing search for near-Earth asteroids at Lowell Observatory has yielded another interesting object. Designated 2004 JG6, this asteroid was found in the course of LONEOS (the Lowell Observatory Near-Earth Object Search) on the evening of May 10 by observer Brian Skiff.

Halley's Comet Portrayed on Ancient Coin. May 19, 2004
A rare ancient coin may feature an early record of Halley's Comet, researchers say. The coin features the head of the Armenian king Tigranes II the Great, who reigned from 95 to 55 B.C. A symbol on his crown that features a star with a curved tail may represent the passage of Halley's comet in 87 B.C., say the Armenian and Italian researchers.

Evidence That Asteroids Change Color As They Age. Honolulu (SPX) May 19, 2004
In an article published this week in the journal Nature, a team led by Robert Jedicke of the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy provides convincing evidence that asteroids change color as they age.

Two Comets Glow In Morning Sky. Los Angeles - Apr 28, 2004
Seven years have passed since Comet Hale-Bopp graced the evening sky in the spring of 1997. Now not just one but two new comets are heading into springtime view -- though they won't come near Hale-Bopp for brightness and grandeur.

Spaceguard Redux, Put to Test. Moffett Field - Mar 22, 2004
A small near-Earth asteroid (NEA), discovered Monday night by the NASA-funded LINEAR asteroid survey, made the closest approach to Earth ever recorded. There was no danger of a collision with the Earth during this encounter. Largely as a result of a Congressional mandate, NASA established a "Spaceguard" program with a goal of finding 90 percent of all the near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) larger than 1 kilometer in diameter by the end of 2008.

Did Comet Trigger Great Chicago Fire?  March 5, 2004
Perhaps it was not Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicking over a lantern that sparked the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which destroyed the downtown area and claimed 300 lives. New research lends credence to an alternative explanation: The fire, along with less-publicized and even more deadly blazes the same night in upstate Wisconsin and Michigan, was the result of a comet fragment crashing into Earth's atmosphere.

Silicate Stardust Found In A Meteorite St. Louis  - Mar 08, 2004
Ann Nguyen chose a risky project for her graduate studies at Washington University in St. Louis. A university team had already sifted through 100,000 grains from a meteorite to look for a particular type of stardust -- without success.

Ariane 5 Launches Rosetta On 10 Year Journey To Comet Landing. Paris (AFP) Mar 02, 2004
A European rocket lifted off from Kourou, French Guiana, Friday at the start of a 10-year mission to explore a comet, one of the most ambitious and costliest projects in the history of space exploration, a live television feed from the launch base showed.

Ulysses Catches Another Comet. Paris (ESA) Feb 13, 2004
Ulysses is not normally associated with the study of comets. Nonetheless, the European-built space probe demonstrated its ability as a "comet catcher" when it crossed the distant tail of comet Hyakutake (C/1996 B2) in 1996.

NASA Spacecraft Makes Great Catch..Heads for Touchdown. Pasadena - Jan 05, 2004
Team Stardust, NASA's first dedicated sample return mission to a comet, passed a huge milestone Friday by successfully navigating through the particle and gas-laden coma around comet Wild 2 (pronounced "Vilt-2").