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Small impacts are reworking the Moon’s soil faster than scientists thought

13 October 2016 Astronomy Now

The Moon’s surface is being “gardened” — churned by small impacts — more than 100 times faster than scientists previously thought. This means that lunar surface features believed to be young are perhaps even younger than assumed. It also means that any structures placed on the Moon as part of human expeditions will need better protection.

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Cassini finds flooded canyons on Saturn’s moon Titan

10 August 2016 Astronomy Now

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has found deep, steep-sided canyons on Saturn’s moon Titan that are flooded with liquid hydrocarbons. The finding represents the first direct evidence of the presence of liquid-filled channels on Titan, as well as the first observation of canyons hundreds of metres deep.

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Saturn’s rings: less than meets the eye?

3 February 2016 Astronomy Now

You might think that, in the rings of Saturn, more opaque areas contain a greater concentration of material than places where the rings seem more transparent. But this intuition does not always apply, according to a recent study of the rings using data from NASA’s Cassini mission. The research also suggests that the planet’s brightest B ring could be a few hundred million years old instead of a few billion.

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Signs of acid fog found on Mars

2 November 2015 Astronomy Now

While Mars doesn’t have much in the way of Earth-like weather, it does evidently share one kind of weird meteorology: acid fog. Planetary scientist Shoshanna Cole has pieced together a compelling story about how acidic vapours may have eaten at the rocks in Gusev Crater on Mars using a variety of data gathered by instruments on the 2003 Mars Exploration Rover Spirit.

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Closest northern views of Enceladus, Saturn’s cracked moon

16 October 2015 Astronomy Now

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has begun returning its best-ever views of the northern extremes of Saturn’s icy, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus. Scientists expected the north polar region of Enceladus to be heavily cratered, based on low-resolution images from the Voyager mission, but the new high-resolution Cassini images show a landscape of stark contrasts.

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Cassini finds global ocean under icy crust of Saturn’s moon Enceladus

15 September 2015 Astronomy Now

A global ocean lies beneath the icy crust of Saturn’s geologically active moon Enceladus, according to new research using data from NASA’s Cassini mission. Researchers found the magnitude of the moon’s very slight wobble, as it orbits Saturn, can only be accounted for if its outer ice shell is not frozen solid to its interior, meaning a global ocean must be present.

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Peanut-shaped near-Earth asteroid 1999 JD6 imaged by radar

3 August 2015 Astronomy Now

NASA scientists have used two giant, Earth-based radio telescopes to bounce radar signals off a passing asteroid and produce images of the peanut-shaped body as it approached close to Earth on 25 July. The asteroid appears to be a contact binary — an asteroid with two lobes that are stuck together.

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Unusual red arcs discovered on icy Saturnian moon

30 July 2015 Astronomy Now

Like graffiti sprayed by an unknown artist, unexplained narrow, arc-shaped, reddish streaks are visible on the surface of Saturn’s icy moon Tethys in new, enhanced-colour images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. The red arcs are among the most unusual colour features on Saturn’s moons to be revealed by Cassini’s cameras.

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Missing link between supernovae and planet formation found

19 March 2015 Astronomy Now

An international scientific team using NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has discovered a cloud produced by a supernova explosion 10,000 years ago that contains enough dust to make 7,000 Earths, showing that supernovae are capable of producing a substantial amount of the material from which planets can form.