A model of the solar system’s edge using recent data. Voyager 1′s latest findings will likely rewrite this image, as soon as scientists figure out exactly what they mean. NASA/JPL/JHUAPL
Not content with simply being the man-made object to travel farthest from Earth, NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft recently entered a bizarre new region at the solar system’s edge that has physicists baffled. Their theories don’t predict anything like it.
Launched 36 years ago, Voyager 1 and its twin Voyager 2 made an unprecedented tour of the outer planets, returning spectacular data from their journey. The first Voyager sped out of the solar system in 1980 and it has since been edging closer and closer to interstellar space. The probe is currently out more than 120 times the distance between the Earth and the sun.
Scientists initially thought that Voyager’s transition into this new realm, where effects from the rest of the galaxy become more pronounced, would be gradual and unexciting. But it’s proven to be far more complicated than anything researchers had imagined, with the spacecraft now encountering a strange region that scientists are struggling to make sense of. Read more
This diagram lines up planets recently discovered by Kepler in terms of their sizes, compared to Earth. Kepler-22b was announced in December 2011; the three Super-Earths were announced April 18, 2013. All of them could potentially host life, but we do not yet know anything definitive about their compositions or atmosphere
In the midst of chaos here on Earth, scientists are finding hope for life on other planets. Scientists announced Thursday the discovery of three planets that are some of the best candidates so far for habitable worlds outside our own solar system — and they’re very far away. NASA’s Kepler satellite, which is keeping an eye on more than 150,000 stars in hopes of identifying Earth-like planets, found the trio. Read More
A ring of radiation previously unknown to science fleetingly surrounded Earth last year before being virtually annihilated by a powerful interplanetary shock wave, scientists say.
NASA’s twin Van Allen space probes, which are studying the Earth’s radiation belts, made the cosmic find. The surprising discovery — a new, albeit temporary, radiation belt around Earth — reveals how much remains unknown about outer space, even those regions closest to the planet, researchers added. Read more
Last summer, an eruption on the sun’s surface scored a solar weather hat trick, racking up all three of the major phenomenon scientists observe: a solar flare, a coronal mass ejection (CME), and coronal rain, “complex moving structures in association with changes in magnetic field lines that loop up into the sun’s atmosphere,” NASA explains. The solar flare in the video is not massive, by the sun’s standards, but “moderately powerful,” as NASA calls it. But what makes the show special is the coronal rain, charged plasma slowly dripping in fiery loops along the sun’s magnetic fields. Read more
Three days before the moon-orbiting Ebb spacecraft collided with a lunar mountain, its on-board cameras captured some striking images of the pockmarked moon’s northern hemisphere — from just six miles up. On Jan. 10, NASA released what look like scenes from a science fiction movie: two probe’s-eye views of the lunar farside, made from Ebb’s stitched-together images. Read more.