NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft made a historic New Year’s encounter with an object nicknamed Ultima Thule in the Kuiper Belt a billion miles beyond Pluto. The probe passed around 3,500 kilometres from the mysterious object at 0533 GMT on New Year’s Day, making it the most distant Solar System body ever explored up close.
Saturn’s clouds have roots deeper inside the planet’s atmosphere than scientists previously thought, and Saturn’s rings — now believed to have formed in the last 200 million years — appear to be raining organic molecules down on the planet, according to observations made by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft last year in the final weeks of its mission.
For reasons not yet understood, Saturn seems to store energy in its atmosphere over decades before suddenly releasing it in massive lightning storms that affect the ringed planet’s atmosphere across enormous distances. The Great Northern Storm of 2010/11 circled Saturn like a snake eating its tail, persisting for months before dissipating.