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Gas Giants, Atmospheres and Weather: Windy Worlds

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14 Oct 2014 NASA Mission Provides Its First Look at Martian Upper Atmosphere
NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft has provided scientists their first look at a storm of energetic solar particles at Mars, produced unprecedented ultraviolet images of the tenuous oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon coronas surrounding the Red Planet, and yielded a comprehensive map of highly variable ozone in the atmosphere underlying the coronas.
13 Jun 2014 NASA Experiments Recreate Aromatic Flavors of Titan
NASA scientists have created a new recipe that captures key flavors of the brownish-orange atmosphere around Saturn's largest moon, Titan. The recipe is used for lab experiments designed to simulate Titan's chemistry. With this approach, the team was able to classify a previously unidentified material discovered by NASA's Cassini spacecraft in the moon's smoggy haze.
15 May 2014 The shrinking of Jupiter's Great Red Spot
Jupiter's trademark Great Red Spot -- a swirling storm feature larger than Earth -- is shrinking. This downsizing, which is changing the shape of the spot from an oval into a circle, has been known about since the 1930s, but now these striking new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope images capture the spot at a smaller size than ever before.
15 May 2014 The Shrinking of Jupiter's Great Red Spot
Jupiter's trademark Great Red Spot -- a swirling storm feature larger than Earth -- is shrinking. This downsizing, which is changing the shape of the spot from an oval into a circle, has been known about since the 1930s, but now these striking new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope images capture the spot at a smaller size than ever before.
4 Dec 2013 NASA's Cassini Spacecraft Obtains Best Views of Saturn Hexagon
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has obtained the highest-resolution movie yet of a unique six-sided jet stream, known as the hexagon, around Saturn's north pole. This is the first hexagon movie of its kind, using color filters, and the first to show a complete view of the top of Saturn down to about 70 degrees latitude. Spanning about 20,000 miles (30,000 kilometers) across, the hexagon is a wavy jet stream of 200-mile-per-hour winds (about 322 kilometers per hour) with a massive, rotating storm at the center. There is no weather feature exactly, consistently like this anywhere else in the solar system.
6 Nov 2013 Here Comes the Sun: Ionizing Titan's Atmosphere
A detailed analysis of data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft has directly linked the density of the ionosphere - a region in the upper atmosphere that is dominated by electrically charged particles - at Saturn's moon Titan to the 11-year boom-and-bust cycle of activity at our Sun. The confirmation was possible because of Cassini's long-term stay in the Saturn system, which began in 2004, and a Swiss-Army-knife-like suite of many instruments.
17 Oct 2013 NASA Rover Confirms Mars Origin of Some Meteorites
Examination of the Martian atmosphere by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover confirms that some meteorites that have dropped to Earth really are from the Red Planet. A key new measurement of the inert gas argon in Mars' atmosphere by Curiosity's laboratory provides the most definitive evidence yet of the origin of Mars meteorites while at the same time providing a way to rule out Martian origin of other meteorites.
19 Sep 2013 NASA Curiosity Rover Detects No Methane On Mars
Data from NASA's Curiosity rover has revealed the Martian environment lacks methane. This is a surprise to researchers because previous data reported by U.S. and international scientists indicated positive detections. The roving laboratory performed extensive tests to search for traces of Martian methane. Whether the Martian atmosphere contains traces of the gas has been a question of high interest for years because methane could be a potential sign of life, although it also can be produced without biology.
17 Sep 2013 Saturn's Hidden Turbulence Revealed
Peering deeply into Saturn's placid-looking atmosphere with the radar/microwave radiometer aboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft has revealed a dynamic and in many places turbulent atmosphere that has more similarities with that of its sibling planet Jupiter than previously realized. The new observations reveal a calm and narrow equatorial belt surrounded by stormy bands like those on Jupiter, although regions at higher latitudes show a different character that is unique to Saturn.
3 Sep 2013 Cassini Sees Saturn Storm's Explosive Power
A monster storm that erupted on Saturn in late 2010 - as large as any storm ever observed on the ringed planet -- has already impressed researchers with its intensity and long-lived turbulence. A new paper in the journal Icarus reveals another facet of the storm's explosive power: its ability to churn up water ice from great depths. This finding, derived from near-infrared measurements by NASA's Cassini spacecraft, is the first detection at Saturn of water ice. The water originates from deep in Saturn's atmosphere.
18 Jul 2013 MAVEN Spectrometer Opens Window to Red Planet's Past
When NASA's MAVEN mission begins its journey to the Red Planet later this year, it will be equipped with a special instrument to take the planet back in time. That instrument is the Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer, a network of electrically charged rods that will measure the charged gas particles -- or ions -- making up Mars' upper atmosphere.
18 Jul 2013 Reports Detail Mars Rover Clues to Atmosphere's Past
A pair of new papers report measurements of the Martian atmosphere's composition by NASA's Curiosity rover, providing evidence about loss of much of Mars' original atmosphere.
18 Jun 2013 The Fast Winds of Venus Are Getting Faster
The most detailed record of cloud motion in the atmosphere of Venus chronicled by ESA's Venus Express has revealed that the planet's winds have steadily been getting faster over the last six years.
13 Jun 2013 MAVEN's Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph May Help Paint Total Atmospheric Picture
The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission, or MAVEN, will travel to the Red Planet in 2013 with instruments designed to answer specific questions about the planet's atmosphere, and one instrument will help piece together the bigger picture. The Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph, IUVS for short, designed and built at the University of Colorado Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, known as LASP, will measure Mars' global atmosphere to help solve the mystery of how the planet became frozen and barren.
12 Jun 2013 Mars Water-Ice Clouds Are Key To Odd Thermal Rhythm
Researchers using NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have found that temperatures in the Martian atmosphere regularly rise and fall not just once each day, but twice. "We see a temperature maximum in the middle of the day, but we also see a temperature maximum a little after midnight," said Armin Kleinboehl of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., who is the lead author of a new report on these findings. Temperatures swing by as much as 58 degrees Fahrenheit (32 kelvins) in this odd, twice-a-day pattern, as detected by the orbiter's Mars Climate Sounder instrument. He and his four co-authors found the answer in the water-ice clouds of Mars.
7 Jun 2013 Noctilucent Clouds Get an Early Start
Every summer, something strange and wonderful happens high above the north pole. Ice crystals begin to cling to the smoky remains of meteors, forming electric-blue clouds with tendrils that ripple hypnotically against the sunset sky. Noctilucent clouds -- a.k.a. "NLCs"-- are a delight for high-latitude sky watchers, and around the Arctic Circle their season of visibility is always eagerly anticipated. This year, NLCs are getting an early start. NASA's AIM spacecraft, which is orbiting Earth on a mission to study noctilucent clouds, started seeing them on May 13th.
5 Jun 2013 Cassini Sees Precursors to Aerosol Haze on Titan
Scientists working with data from NASA's Cassini mission have confirmed the presence of a population of complex hydrocarbons in the upper atmosphere of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, that later evolve into the components that give the moon a distinctive orange-brown haze. The presence of these complex, ringed hydrocarbons, known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), explains the origin of the aerosol particles found in the lowest haze layer that blankets Titan's surface. Scientists think these PAH compounds aggregate into larger particles as they drift downward.
24 May 2013 Big Weather on Hot Jupiters
Among the hundreds of new planets discovered by NASA's Kepler spacecraft are a class of exotic worlds known as "hot Jupiters." Unlike the giant planets of our own solar system, which remain at a safe distance from the sun, these worlds are reckless visitors to their parent stars. They speed around in orbits a fraction the size of Mercury's, blasted on just one-side by starlight hundreds of times more intense than the gentle heating experienced by Jupiter here at home. Meteorologists are probably wondering what kind of weather a world like that might have. The short answer is "big."
21 May 2013 Forecast for Titan: Wild Weather Could Be Ahead
Saturn's moon Titan might be in for some wild weather as it heads into its spring and summer, if two new models are correct. Scientists think that as the seasons change in Titan's northern hemisphere, waves could ripple across the moon's hydrocarbon seas, and hurricanes could begin to swirl over these areas, too. The model predicting waves tries to explain data from the moon obtained so far by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Both models help mission team members plan when and where to look for unusual atmospheric disturbances as Titan summer approaches.
30 Apr 2013 Why LADEE Matters
Earth's atmosphere is critically important to all of us. In addition to providing us with air to breathe, it protects us from temperature extremes, harmful space radiation and vast numbers of incoming meteoroids. The atmosphere is a very complex system that we are only beginning to understand. Gaining a better understanding of the atmosphere, how it protects us and how we can protect it is in all of our interests. In order to understand Earth's atmosphere and how it works, it is essential to study atmospheres under a wide range of conditions beyond Earth. Examining atmospheres on other planets allows this.
29 Apr 2013 Cassini Gets Close-up Views of Large Hurricane on Saturn
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has provided scientists the first close-up, visible-light views of a behemoth hurricane swirling around Saturn's north pole. In high-resolution pictures and video, scientists see the hurricane's eye is about 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) wide, 20 times larger than the average hurricane eye on Earth. Thin, bright clouds at the outer edge of the hurricane are traveling 330 mph (150 meters per second). The hurricane swirls inside a large, mysterious, six-sided weather pattern known as the hexagon.
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.
26 Oct 2012 Saturn Storm Cranks the Heat WAY Up
Observations taken in the infrared by Cassini as well as from Earth show that a massive storm on Saturn was not just big and violent, it also formed a vortex (a storm within a storm, if you like) that got hot - well, hot for frigid Saturn, that is. In the heart of the system, the temperature rose by an incredible 80° Celsius - a difference in temperature that's like starting in the depths of winter in Anchorage, Alaska and then going to the height of summer in the Sahara!
25 Oct 2012 Cassini Sees Burp at Saturn After Large Storm
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has tracked the aftermath of a rare massive storm on Saturn. Data reveal record-setting disturbances in the planet's upper atmosphere long after the visible signs of the storm abated, in addition to an indication the storm was more forceful than scientists previously thought.
17 Oct 2012 Keck Observations Bring Weather of Uranus Into Sharp Focus
In 1986, when Voyager swept past Uranus, the probe's portraits of the planet were "notoriously bland," disappointing scientists, yielding few new details of the planet and its atmosphere, and giving it a reputation as a bore of the solar system.  Now, however, thanks to a new technique applied at the Keck Observatory, Uranus is coming into sharp focus through high-resolution infrared images, revealing in incredible detail the bizarre weather of the seventh planet from the sun.
17 Oct 2012 Jupiter: Turmoil from Below, Battering from Above
As Jupiter gets peppered continually with small space rocks, wide belts of the atmosphere are changing color, hotspots are vanishing and reappearing, and clouds are gathering over one part of Jupiter, while dissipating over another.
18 Jul 2012 Cassini Spots Daytime Lightning on Saturn
Saturn was playing the lightning storm blues. NASA's Cassini spacecraft has captured images of last year's storm on Saturn, the largest storm seen up-close at the planet, with bluish spots in the middle of swirling clouds.
10 Jul 2012 The Titanian Seasons Turn, Turn, Turn
Images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft show a concentration of high-altitude haze and a vortex materializing at the south pole of Saturn's moon Titan, signs that the seasons are turning on Saturn's largest moon.
25 Jun 2012 Cassini Shows Why Jet Streams Cross-Cut Saturn
Scientists used images collected over several years by NASA's Cassini spacecraft to discover that the heat from within the planet powers the jet streams.
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