New Evidence for Our Solar System’s Ghost: Planet Nine

Artist's impression of Planet Nine as an ice giant eclipsing the central Milky Way, with a star-like Sun in the distance. Neptune's orbit is shown as a small ellipse around the Sun. The sky view and appearance are based on the conjectures of its co-proposer, Mike Brown.

Does another undetected planet languish in our Solar System’s distant reaches? Does it follow a distant orbit around the Sun in the murky realm of comets and other icy objects? For some researchers, the answer is “almost certainly.”

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The Giant Planets Migrated Between 60-100 Million Years After the Solar System Formed

The migration of the giant planets had a hand in shaping our Solar System, including Earth. New research shows the migration happened much earlier than thought. Image Credit: NASA

Untangling what happened in our Solar System tens or hundreds of millions of years ago is challenging. Millions of objects of wildly different masses interacted for billions of years, seeking natural stability. But its history—including the migration of the giant planets—explains what we see today in our Solar System and maybe in other, distant solar systems.

New research shows that giant planet migration began shortly after the Solar System formed.

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Ice Deposits on Ceres Might Only Be a Few Thousand Years Old

NASA's Dawn spacecraft captured this approximately true-color image of Ceres in 2015 as it approached the dwarf planet. Dawn showed that some polar craters on Ceres hold ancient ice, but new research suggests the ice is much younger. Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA / Justin Cowart

The dwarf planet Ceres has some permanently dark craters that hold ice. Astronomers thought the ice was ancient when they were discovered, like in the moon’s permanently shadowed regions. But something was puzzling.

Why did some of these shadowed craters hold ice while others did not?

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NASA’s Next Solar Sail is About to Go to Space

NASA is about to launch and test a new solar sail. Called the Advanced Composite Solar Sail System, it could advance future space travel and expand our understanding of our Sun and Solar System. Credits: NASA’s Ames Research Center

Everyone knows that solar energy is free and almost limitless here on Earth. The same is true for spacecraft operating in the inner Solar System. But in space, the Sun can do more than provide electrical energy; it also emits an unending stream of solar wind.

Solar sails can harness that wind and provide propulsion for spacecraft. NASA is about to test a new solar sail design that can make solar sails even more effective.

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Want to Leave the Solar System? Here’s a Route to Take

A future interstellar probe mission aims to travel beyond the heliosphere to the local interstellar medium to understand where our home came from and where it is going. Credit: John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

The edge of the Solar System is defined by the heliosphere and its heliopause. The heliopause marks the region where the interstellar medium stops the outgoing solar wind. But only two spacecraft, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, have ever travelled to the heliopause. As a result, scientists are uncertain about the heliopause’s extent and its other properties.

Some scientists are keen to learn more about this region and are developing a mission concept to explore it.

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Cosmochemistry: Why study it? What can it teach us about finding life beyond Earth?

Credit: NASA/FUSE/Lynette Cook

Universe Today has had some fantastic discussions with researchers on the importance of studying impact craters, planetary surfaces, exoplanets, astrobiology, solar physics, comets, planetary atmospheres, and planetary geophysics, and how these diverse scientific fields can help researchers and the public better understand the search for life beyond Earth. Here, we will investigate the unique field of cosmochemistry and how it provides researchers with the knowledge pertaining to both our solar system and beyond, including the benefits and challenges, finding life beyond Earth, and suggestive paths for upcoming students who wish to pursue studying cosmochemistry. But what is cosmochemistry and why is it so important to study it?

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An Asteroid Found Sharing the Orbit of Mars

The trojan asteroids of Mars. Credit: Armagh Observatory

Astronomers discovered another asteroid sharing Mars’ orbit. These types of asteroids are called trojans, and they orbit in two clumps, one ahead of and one behind the planet. But the origins of the Mars trojans are unclear.

Can this new discovery help explain where they came from?

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Citizen Scientists Find Fifteen “Active Asteroids”

Citizen Scientists working on NASA's Active Asteroids Project have discovered 15 active asteroids and one Centaur. But it required 8,000 people poring over 430,000 images to find them. Image Credit: Henry Hsieh

Nature often defies our simple explanations. Take comets and asteroids, for example. Comets are icy and have tails; asteroids are rocky and don’t have tails. But it might not be quite so simple, according to new research.

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Perseverance Sees Phobos, Deimos and Mercury Passing in Front of the Sun

NASA's Perseverance Mars rover used its Mastcam-Z camera to capture the silhouette of Phobos, the larger of Mars' pair of moons, as it passed in front of the Sun on Feb. 8, 2024, the 1,056th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS/SSI

NASA’s Perseverance rover is busy exploring the Martian surface and collecting samples for eventual return to Earth. But the rover recently took some time to gaze upward and observe the heavens. Using Mastcam-Z, the rover’s primary science camera, Perseverance captured Phobos, Deimos, and Mercury as they transited in front of the Sun.

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New Moons Found at Uranus and Neptune

The discovery image of the new Uranian moon S/2023 U1 using the Magellan telescope on November 4, 2023. Uranus is just off the field of view in the upper left, as seen by the increased scattered light. S/2023 U1 is the faint point of light in the center of the image with the yellow arrow. The trails are from background stars. Credit: Scott Sheppard.

Astronomers have found three new moons orbiting our Solar System’s ice giants. One is orbiting Uranus, and two are orbiting Neptune. It took hard work to find them, including dozens of time exposures by some of our most powerful telescopes over several years. All three are captured objects, and there are likely more moons around both planets waiting to be discovered.

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