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  • Around the Solar System
    Posted by Heather Goss 12:19 AM on Oct 11, 2010

    What happened around the solar system last week?  Let's take it from the inside out:


    • A new study just released of the sun from during its recent solar minimum shows that the effects it had on Earth were not what scientists predicted.  


    • An amateur astronomer, looking at data from NASA's Stereo mission, spotted Mercury's strange comet-like-tail.  The images should help astronomers discover more about the composition of the tail.



    • Keep your eyes peeled for Comet Hartley 2, which will pass just 11 million miles away on October 20.  Look for it high in the northeast at 5th or 6th magnitude.  Next month, the Deep Impact spacecraft will get a much better view when it visits the comet up close and personal.
    • If you didn't see any of the pitiful Draconid meteors on Friday night, don't worry: the real show is next year.



    • The Opportunity rover made a nice find, sending back an up-close photo of an iron Mars meteorite.  The rover actually found it on September 16 and spent a few days studying it, before continuing on its way to Endeavour Crater.
    • Meanwhile, ESA's Mars Express orbiter photographed this amazing canyon, Melas Chasma, sitting 5.6 miles below the nearby plateau and 3.1 miles lower than Mars' average surface.
    • And NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter revealed that the planet may have once had icebergs.
    • NASA got the green light this week for a brand new Mars mission: MAVEN.  The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission will try to determine what happened to the planet's once thick atmosphere.



    blog post photo
    Water plumes on Enceladus. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.

    • The meeting of the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Science has all the news for Saturn this week.  Scientists have performed lab experiments showing that Titan is indeed a contender for extraterrestrial life.  
    • Another possible life-holder, Enceladus, may have carbonated oceans (which would explain the moon's spectacular plumes).  
    • And as for Saturn's rings, a new theory says they formed when a large moon hit the planet, while Titan does it's moony tide-thing by creating "ring tsunamis."  

    Tags: os99, solar-system, jupiter, mars, saturn

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