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Pluto’s icy ‘spider’

7 April 2016 Astronomy Now

Sprawling across Pluto’s icy landscape is an unusual geological feature that resembles a giant spider. This enhanced colour image, obtained by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on 14 July 2015, consists of at least six extensional fractures (arrowed) converging to a point near the centre. Curiously, the spider’s “legs” expose red deposits below Pluto’s surface.

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Ancient lunar polar ice reveals tilting of Moon’s axis

23 March 2016 Astronomy Now

Did the “Man in the Moon” look different from ancient Earth? New NASA-funded research provides evidence that the spin axis of the Moon shifted by about five degrees roughly three billion years ago. The evidence of this motion is recorded in the distribution of ancient lunar ice, evidence of delivery of water to the early solar system.

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A lonely planet and its distant star

26 January 2016 Astronomy Now

A team of astronomers in the UK, USA and Australia have found a planet, until now thought to be a free floating, in a huge, 900,000-year orbit around its star. Incredibly the object, designated as 2MASS J2126, is about 1 trillion (1 million million) kilometres from the star, or about 7,000 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun.

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Pluto’s big moon Charon reveals a colourful & violent history

2 October 2015 Astronomy Now

At half the diameter of Pluto, Charon is the largest satellite relative to its planet in the solar system. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has returned the best colour and the highest resolution images yet of Charon, showing a landscape covered with mountains, canyons, landslides, surface-colour variations and more — all evidence of a surprisingly complex and violent history.