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Unexpected discoveries on a metal world

21 October 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have discovered possible evidence for water on the surface of 16 Psyche, the largest metallic asteroid in the solar system. Measuring 186 miles across and consisting of almost pure nickel-iron metal, Psyche is thought to be the remnant core of a planetary embryo that was mostly destroyed by impacts billions of years ago.

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Recent hydrothermal activity may explain Ceres’ brightest area

30 June 2016 Astronomy Now

The brightest area on Ceres, located in the mysterious Occator Crater, has the highest concentration of carbonate minerals ever seen outside Earth, according to a new study from scientists on NASA’s Dawn mission. The results suggest that liquid water may have existed beneath the surface of Ceres in recent geological time.

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Early Mars bombardment likely enhanced its habitability

6 April 2016 Astronomy Now

Much of the action on Mars occurred during a period known as the Late Heavy Bombardment about 3.9 billion years ago. Large comets and asteroids raining down on the planet would have produced enough heat to melt subsurface ice, likely enhancing climate conditions enough to make Mars more conducive to life — at least for a time.

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What happened to early Mars’ atmosphere?

3 September 2015 Astronomy Now

Scientists may be closer to solving the mystery of how Mars changed from a world with surface water billions of years ago to the arid Red Planet of today. A new analysis of the largest known deposit of carbonate minerals on Mars suggests that the original Martian atmosphere may have already lost most of its carbon dioxide by the era of valley network formation.