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Saturn’s ‘Great Northern Storm’ still an awesome sight to behold

6 March 2018 William Harwood

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.

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Return to sender: Mars rock gets a ride home

13 February 2018 Astronomy Now

NASA plans to use a piece of a martian meteorite as a calibration target for a high-precision laser instrument aboard the agency’s Mars 2020 rover, marking the first round trip for a fragment of the red planet blasted into space during an ancient impact.

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Curiosity Mars rover snaps a selfie

2 February 2018 Astronomy Now

The Curiosity Mars rover used a camera on the end of its robot arm to take a selfie on the slopes of Mount Sharp before moving on to begin exploring nearby clay-rich soils. The rover is slowly working its way up the lower slopes of the mountain, looking for changes that might indicate the transition from warmer, wetter eras to the dry, frigid environment seen today.

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InSight spreads solar wings in critical test

27 January 2018 Astronomy Now

NASA’s Mars Insight lander deployed its solar wings in a critical milestone on the road to launch from California in May. InSight will reach the red planet in late November, landing near the equator to study the interior of Mars.

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Asteroid missions on track to reach their destinations in 2018

18 January 2018 Stephen Clark

Pioneering spacecraft from NASA and the Japanese space agency promise to reveal two unexplored asteroids later this year, officials said Wednesday, beginning surveys that will culminate in daring descents to capture samples for return to Earth, where eager scientists await a hands-on look at the specimens.

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Plot thickens as New Horizons moves within year of next flyby

6 January 2018 Stephen Clark

The final days before NASA’s New Horizons probe barrels in on its next destination on Jan. 1, 2019, should prove eventful, with scientists trying to sort out whether a distant mini-world detected by the Hubble Space Telescope more than three years ago may actually be a swarm of icy objects.