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Gas Giants, Atmospheres and Weather: Windy Worlds
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25 Apr 2013 See Saturn at its Best and Brightest
At the end of April, Saturn will put on a breathtaking display. No space probe is required to see it. Just set up a telescope in your back yard -- even a small department store 'scope will do -- and point the optics toward the constellation Virgo. Saturn is there, not far from the bright star Spica. On April 28th, Saturn makes its closest approach to Earth, appearing bigger and brighter than at any other time in 2013. Astronomers call this event "an opposition," because Saturn will be opposite the sun in the skies of Earth. The golden planet rises at sunset, soars almost overhead at midnight, and stays up all night long.
23 Apr 2013 Hershel Links Jupiter's Water to Comet Impact
The European Space Agency's Herschel space observatory has solved a long-standing mystery as to the origin of water in the upper atmosphere of Jupiter, finding conclusive evidence that it was delivered by the dramatic impact of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 in July 1994.
14 Apr 2013 Is There an Atmosphere on the Moon?
Until recently, most everyone accepted the conventional wisdom that the moon has virtually no atmosphere. Just as the discovery of water on the moon transformed our textbook knowledge of Earth's nearest celestial neighbor, recent studies confirm that our moon does indeed have an atmosphere consisting of some unusual gases, including sodium and potassium, which are not found in the atmospheres of Earth, Mars or Venus.
11 Apr 2013 Ice Cloud Heralds Fall at Titan's South Pole
An ice cloud taking shape over Titan's south pole is the latest sign that the change of seasons is setting off a cascade of radical changes in the atmosphere of Saturn's largest moon. Made from an unknown ice, this type of cloud has long hung over Titan's north pole, where it is now fading, according to observations made by the composite infrared spectrometer (CIRS) on NASA's Cassini spacecraft.
10 Apr 2013 Blame it on the Rain (from Saturn's Rings)
A new study tracks the "rain" of charged water particles into the atmosphere of Saturn and finds there is more of it and it falls across larger areas of the planet than previously thought. The study reveals that the rain influences the composition and temperature structure of parts of Saturn's upper atmosphere.
8 Apr 2013 Remaining Martian Atmosphere Still Dynamic
Mars has lost much of its original atmosphere, but what's left remains quite active, recent findings from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity indicate. Evidence has strengthened this month that Mars lost much of its original atmosphere by a process of gas escaping from the top of the atmosphere.
25 Mar 2013 Venus Vortices Go For Chaotic Multi-Storey Strolls Around The Poles
A detailed study of Venus' south polar vortex shows a much more chaotic and unpredictable cyclone than previously thought. The analysis reveals that the center of rotation of the vortex wanders around the pole differently at different altitude levels in the clouds of Venus. In its stroll around the pole, in layers separated by 20 km, the vortex experiences unpredictable changes in its morphology.
14 Mar 2013 'Hot Spots' Ride a Merry-Go-Round on Jupiter
In the swirling canopy of Jupiter's atmosphere, cloudless patches are so exceptional that the big ones get the special name "hot spots." Exactly how these clearings form and why they're only found near the planet's equator have long been mysteries. Now, using images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, scientists have found new evidence that hot spots in Jupiter's atmosphere are created by a Rossby wave, a pattern also seen in Earth's atmosphere and oceans. The team found the wave responsible for the hot spots glides up and down through layers of the atmosphere like a carousel horse on a merry-go-round.
11 Feb 2013 Mars Rock Takes Unusual Form
On Mars, as on Earth, sometimes things can take on an unusual appearance. A case in point is a shiny-looking rock seen in a recent image from NASA's Curiosity Mars rover. Some casual observers might see a resemblance to a car door handle, hood ornament or some other type of metallic object. To Ronald Sletten of the University of Washington, Seattle, a collaborator on Curiosity's science team, the object is an interesting study in how wind and the natural elements cause erosion and other effects on various types of rocks.
4 Feb 2013 Cassini Sees Titan Cooking up Smog
A paper published this week using data from NASA's Cassini mission describes in more detail than ever before how aerosols in the highest part of the atmosphere are kick-started at Saturn's moon Titan. Scientists want to understand aerosol formation at Titan because it could help predict the behavior of smoggy aerosol layers on Earth.
4 Feb 2013 Hexagon and Rings on Saturn
Saturn's north polar hexagon basks in the Sun's light now that spring has come to the northern hemisphere. Many smaller storms dot the north polar region and Saturn's signature rings, which appear to disappear on account of Saturn's shadow, put in an appearance in the background.
31 Jan 2013 NASA's Cassini Watches Storm Choke on Its Own Tail
In a new paper that provides the most detail yet about the life and death of a monstrous thunder-and-lightning storm on Saturn, scientists from NASA's Cassini mission describe how the massive storm churned around the planet until it encountered its own tail and sputtered out. It is the first time scientists have observed a storm consume itself in this way anywhere in the solar system.
28 Nov 2012 NASA's Cassini Sees Abrubt Turn in Titan's Atmosphere
Data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft tie a shift in seasonal sunlight to a wholesale reversal, at unexpected altitudes, in the circulation of the atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan. At the south pole, the data show definitive evidence for sinking air where it was upwelling earlier in the mission. So, the key to circulation in the atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan turned out to be a certain slant of light.
27 Nov 2012 Regional Dust Storm on Mars Dissipating
A regional dust storm on Mars, tracked from orbit since Nov. 10, appears to be abating rather than going global.
27 Nov 2012 Staring into Saturn's baleful eye
Images looking down onto Saturn's summer north pole were taken on November 27, 2012 from a distance of 361,000 kilometers through an infrared (CB2) filter.
26 Nov 2012 Pluto Atmosphere Larger Than Thought, Study Shows
A new simulation of Pluto's upper atmosphere shows that it extends so far from the planet that stray molecules may be deposited on its largest moon, Charon.
21 Nov 2012 Spacecraft Monitoring Martian Dust Storm
A Martian dust storm that NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been tracking since last week has also produced atmospheric changes detectable by rovers on Mars.
15 Nov 2012 NASA Rover Providing New Weather And Radiation Data About Mars
Observations of wind patterns and natural radiation patterns on Mars by NASA's Curiosity rover are helping scientists better understand the environment on the Red Planet's surface. Researchers using the car-sized mobile laboratory have identified transient whirlwinds, mapped winds in relation to slopes, tracked daily and seasonal changes in air pressure, and linked rhythmic changes in radiation to daily atmospheric changes. The knowledge being gained about these processes helps scientists interpret evidence about environmental changes on Mars that might have led to conditions favorable for life.
6 Nov 2012 Watching the slow shift of seasons on Titan
A sharp-eyed amateur noticed two images of Titan taken 20 months apart from nearly exactly the same perspective, and they illustrate how the shifting of Saturn's seasons has brought change to Titan's atmosphere.
31 Oct 2012 Titan Glows in the Dark
A literal shot in the dark by imaging cameras on NASA's Cassini spacecraft has yielded an image of a visible glow from Titan, emanating not just from the top of Titan's atmosphere, but also -- surprisingly -- from deep in the atmosphere through the moon's haze.
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Last Updated: 16 Apr 2014