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.
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.
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.
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.
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft doesn’t pass Pluto until July 14th — zipping by about 7,800 miles (12,500 kilometres) above the surface of the dwarf planet after a journey of almost 3 billion miles — but the mission team is making tantalising new discoveries as the piano-sized probe bears down on the Pluto system.