Current Planet News and Events

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Supercomputer simulations could unlock mystery of Moon's formation
Astronomers have taken a step towards understanding how the Moon might have formed out of a giant collision between the early Earth and another massive object 4.5 billion years ago. (2020-12-03)

Continents prone to destruction in their infancy, study finds
Monash University geologists have shed new light on the early history of the Earth through their discovery that continents were weak and prone to destruction in their infancy. (2020-12-02)

What will the climate be like when earth's next supercontinent forms?
The continents will reunite again in the deep future. And a new study, presented today during an online poster session at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union, suggests that the future arrangement of this supercontinent could dramatically impact the habitability and climate stability of Earth. The findings also have implications for searching for life on other planets. (2020-12-01)

New tech can get oxygen, fuel from Mars's salty water
A new electrolysis system that makes use of briny water could provide astronauts on Mars with life-supporting oxygen and fuel for the ride home. (2020-11-30)

Rapid-forming giants could disrupt spiral protoplanetary discs
Giant planets that developed early in a star system's life could solve a mystery of why spiral structures are not observed in young protoplanetary discs, according to a new study by University of Warwick astronomers. (2020-11-26)

There are microplastics near the top of Mount Everest too
Researchers analyzing snow and stream samples from the National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition have found evidence of microplastic pollution on Mount Everest. While the highest concentrations of microplastics were around Base Camp where hikers and trekkers spend the most time, the team also found microplastics as high up as 8,440 meters above sea level, just below the summit. The findings appear November 20 in the journal One Earth. (2020-11-20)

Field geology at Mars' equator points to ancient megaflood
Floods of unimaginable magnitude once washed through Gale Crater on Mars' equator around 4 billion years ago - a finding that hints at the possibility that life may have existed there, according to data collected by NASA's Curiosity rover and analyzed in joint project by scientists from Jackson State University, Cornell University, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Hawaii. (2020-11-20)

Ancient zircon minerals from Mars reveal the elusive internal structure of the red planet
Analysis of an ancient meteorite from Mars suggests that the mineral zircon may be abundant on the surface of the red planet. By determining the age and hafnium isotope composition of these zircons, researchers from the University of Copenhagen have shown that a population of these crystals were sourced from the deep interior of Mars. If the researchers are correct, it means that the young zircons contain information about the deep, inaccessible interior of Mars, which provides insights into the internal structure of the planet. (2020-11-17)

'Extremely aggressive' internet censorship spreads in the world's democracies
The largest collection of public internet censorship data ever compiled shows that even citizens of what are considered the world's freest countries aren't safe from internet censorship. (2020-11-17)

New analysis refutes claim that dinosaurs were in decline before asteroid hit
New research suggests that dinosaurs were not in decline before the asteroid hit. The study contradicts previous theories and concludes that had the impact not occurred dinosaurs might have continued to be the dominant group of land animals. (2020-11-17)

Heat and dust help launch Martian water into space, scientists find
Scientists using an instrument aboard NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, or MAVEN, spacecraft have discovered that water vapor near the surface of the Red Planet is lofted higher into the atmosphere than anyone expected was possible. (2020-11-13)

Transport of water to mars' upper atmosphere dominates planet's water loss to space
Instead of its scarce atmospheric water being confined in Mars' lower atmosphere, a new study finds evidence that water on Mars is directly transported to the upper atmosphere, where it is converted to atomic hydrogen that escapes to space. (2020-11-12)

Escape from Mars: how water fled the red planet
Mars once had oceans but is now bone-dry, leaving many to wonder how the water was lost. University of Arizona researchers have discovered a surprisingly large amount of water in the upper atmosphere of Mars, where it is rapidly destroyed, explaining part of this Martian mystery. (2020-11-12)

Tree rings may hold clues to impacts of distant supernovas on Earth
Massive explosions of energy happening thousands of light-years from Earth may have left traces in our planet's biology and geology, according to new research by University of Colorado Boulder geoscientist Robert Brakenridge. (2020-11-11)

Radioactive elements may be crucial to the habitability of rocky planets
The amount of long-lived radioactive elements incorporated into a rocky planet as it forms may be a crucial factor in determining its future habitability. That's because internal heating from the radioactive decay of the heavy elements thorium and uranium drives plate tectonics and may be necessary for the planet to generate a magnetic field. Earth's magnetic field protects the planet from solar winds and cosmic rays. (2020-11-10)

Researchers present wild theory: Water may be naturally occurring on all rocky planets
Life is deeply dependent on water, but where does water come from? Based on new research, researchers from the University of Copenhagen believe it may emerge in connection with the formation of planets. (2020-11-09)

NYUAD study finds stellar flares can lead to the diminishment of a planet's habitability
In a new study researchers, led by Research Scientist Dimitra Atri of the Center for Space Science at NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), identified which stars were most likely to host habitable exoplanets based on the calculated erosion rates of the planetary atmospheres. (2020-11-08)

Clay subsoil at Earth's driest place may signal life on Mars
Diverse microbes discovered in the clay-rich, shallow soil layers in Chile's dry Atacama Desert suggest that similar deposits below the Martian surface may contain microorganisms, which could be easily found by future rover missions or landing craft. (2020-11-05)

An Earth-sized rogue planet discovered in the Milky Way
Our Galaxy may be teeming with rogue planets, gravitationally unbound to any star. An international team of scientists, led by Polish astronomers, has announced the discovery of the smallest Earth-sized free-floating planet found to date. (2020-10-29)

Resistance and challenges to Green Deals should not be underestimated
A Perspective by the EASAC Environment Steering Panel (2020-10-29)

Location and extent of coral reefs mapped worldwide using advanced AI
researchers from the Arizona State University Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science have generated a global coral reef extent map using a single methodology capable of predicting the location of shallow coral reefs with nearly 90% accuracy. (2020-10-28)

Geologists simulate soil conditions to help grow plants on Mars
Humankind's next giant step may be onto Mars. But before those missions can begin, scientists need to make scores of breakthrough advances, including learning how to grow crops on the red planet. (2020-10-27)

Data reveals evidence of molecular absorption in the atmosphere of a hot Neptune
An international team of scientists recently measured the spectrum of the atmosphere of a rare hot Neptune exoplanet, whose discovery by NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) was announced just last month. (2020-10-26)

SwRI study offers more complete view of massive asteroid Psyche
A new study authored by Southwest Research Institute planetary scientist Dr. Tracy Becker discusses several new views of the asteroid 16 Psyche, including the first ultra-violet observations. The study, which was published today in The Planetary Science Journal and presented at the virtual meeting of the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences, paints a clearer view of the asteroid than was previous-ly available. (2020-10-26)

New study details atmosphere on 'hot Neptune' 260 light years away that 'shouldn't exist'
A team led by an astronomer from the University of Kansas has crunched data from NASA's TESS and Spitzer space telescopes to portray for the first time the atmosphere of a highly unusual kind of exoplanet dubbed a 'hot Neptune.' (2020-10-23)

Stars and planets grow up together as siblings
ALMA shows rings around the still-growing proto-star IRS 63 (2020-10-23)

Smile, wave: Some exoplanets may be able to see us, too
Three decades after Cornell astronomer Carl Sagan suggested that Voyager 1 snap Earth's picture from billions of miles away - resulting in the iconic Pale Blue Dot photograph - two astronomers now offer another unique cosmic perspective: Some exoplanets - planets from beyond our own solar system - have a direct line of sight to observe Earth's biological qualities from far, far away. (2020-10-21)

NASA rainfall imagery reveals Norbert regains tropical storm status
Norbert has been meandering around in the Eastern Pacific Ocean for several days as a tropical depression. A NASA satellite rainfall product that incorporates data from satellites and observations revealed that Norbert has regained tropical storm status after showing increased organization and deep convection. (2020-10-14)

The mountains of Pluto are snowcapped, but not for the same reasons as on Earth
In 2015, the New Horizons space probe discovered spectacular snowcapped mountains on Pluto, which are strikingly similar to mountains on Earth. Such a landscape had never before been observed elsewhere in the Solar System. An international team led by CNRS scientists determined that the methane snow could only appear at the peaks of Pluto's mountains high enough to reach this enriched zone that the air contains enough methane for it to condense. (2020-10-13)

NASA sees Tropical Storm Nangka soaking Hainan Island
Using a NASA satellite rainfall product that incorporates data from satellites and observations, NASA estimated Nangka's rainfall rates as the storm soaked Hainan Island, China early on Oct. 13 (EDT). (2020-10-13)

NASA shows heaviest rainfall displaced in Typhoon Chan-hom
Typhoon Chan-hom was still moving parallel to Japan's east coast as NASA's satellite rainfall product, that incorporates data from satellites and observations, showed its heaviest rainfall was pushed northeast of center. (2020-10-09)

New research explores how super flares affect planets' habitability
New research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will help astrobiologists understand how much radiation planets experience during super flares and whether life could exist on worlds beyond our solar system. (2020-10-07)

NASA's TESS creates a cosmic vista of the northern sky
Familiar stars shine, nebulae glow, and nearby galaxies tantalize in a new panorama of the northern sky assembled from 208 pictures captured by NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). The planet hunter imaged about 75% of the sky in a two-year-long survey and is still going strong. (2020-10-06)

Interplanetary storm chasing
Harvard researchers create a new 3D model that could explain the formation of a hexagon storm on Saturn -- a hurricane about 20,000 miles in diameter. (2020-10-06)

Some planets may be better for life than Earth
Researchers have identified two dozen planets outside our solar system that may have conditions more suitable for life than our own. Some of these orbit stars that may be better than even our sun. (2020-10-05)

NASA finds heavy rainfall ringing major Hurricane Maria's eye
Imagine being able to look down at a storm from orbit in space, and provide data that lets scientists calculate the rate in which rain is falling throughout it. That is what a NASA satellite rainfall product does as it incorporates data from satellites and observations. NASA found very heavy rainfall ringing around the compact eye of Major Hurricane Marie. (2020-10-02)

Venus might be habitable today, if not for Jupiter
Venus might not be a sweltering, waterless hellscape today, if Jupiter hadn't altered its orbit around the sun, according to new UC Riverside research. (2020-09-30)

Geoscience: Cosmic diamonds formed during gigantic planetary collisions
Geoscientists from Goethe University have found the largest extraterrestrial diamonds ever discovered - a few tenths of a millimetre in size nevertheless - inside meteorites. Together with an international team of researchers, they have now been able to prove that these diamonds formed in the early period of our solar system when minor planets collided together or with large asteroids. These new data disprove the theory that they originated deep inside planets - similar to diamonds formed on Earth - at least the size of Mercury (PNAS). (2020-09-29)

Planet collision simulations give clues to atmospheric loss from Moon's origin
Earth could have lost anywhere between ten and 60 per cent of its atmosphere in the collision that is thought to have formed the Moon. (2020-09-29)

210 scientists highlight state of plants and fungi in Plants, People, Planet special issue
The Special Issue, 'Protecting and sustainably using the world's plants and fungi', brings together the research - from 210 scientists across 42 countries - behind the 2020 State of the World's Plants and Fungi report, also released today by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. (2020-09-29)

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