Lunar and Planetary Institute

LPI Earth and Space Science Newsletter

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Deep Ocean Inside Enceladus
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has found further evidence of a deep underground ocean on Saturn's moon Enceladus. Scientists have suspected an underground sea of water, particularly when Cassini observed water and ice plumes spewing through vents on Enceladus; new gravitational measurements support a large ocean 6 miles deep beneath an ice sheet.

Volcanic Explosions on Mercury
Analysis of data from the MESSENGER mission shows that Mercury had explosive volcanism for extended periods in the planet's history. The findings are surprising considering Mercury wasn't supposed to have explosive volcanism in the first place, and they could have implications for understanding how Mercury formed.

Most Distant Object in the Solar System
Scientists have found a new most-distant member of the solar system--a dwarf planet even further than Sedna, beyond the Kuiper Belt and possibly part of the inner Oort cloud. The data also suggest that there may be a large planet influencing the orbit of the new object and other Oort cloud objects.

Mercury Shrunk More Than Thought
New data from the MESSENGER mission show that Mercury has contracted far more than previous estimates. Earlier estimates suggested that as Mercury cooled, it contracted about 0.5 to 2 miles in its radius, wrinkling its surface. New images and topographic data show that it contracted as much as 4.4 miles. These findings will help scientists understand the planet's geologic history and structure.

Evidence for Cosmic Inflation
Astronomers have announced evidence of gravitational waves in the cosmic microwave background. This is the first direct evidence the universe underwent a brief accelerated expansion (called inflation) immediately following the Big Bang.

White Dwarf Stars' Metal from Rocky Planets
New research suggests that in one-third of white dwarf stars, the ratio of metals matches that of terrestrial planets, suggesting that these small remnant stars were "polluted" by materials left over from planets and other rocky bodies.

NASA Scientists Find Evidence of Water in Meteorite
Scientists have found evidence of past water movement throughout a Martian meteorite, offering clues to the past habitability of Mars.

Hubble Witnesses Asteroid's Mysterious Disintegration
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has recorded the never-before-seen break-up of an asteroid. It happened to slowly to be the result of a collision with another asteroid; scientists suspect that the asteroid pulled apart due to centrifugal force.

Supernovas Slosh Before Exploding
How supernovas explode has been a mystery for a long time. When researchers simulate supernova blasts using computers, as a massive star dies and collapses, the main shock wave often stalls out and the star fails to shatter. The latest findings from an X-ray observatory NuSTAR strongly suggest the exploding star literally sloshed around, re-energizing the stalled shock wave and allowing the star to finally blast off its outer layers.

Potential ‘Goldilocks’ Planet Found
A new-found planet is in a "just-right" location around its star where liquid water could possibly exist on the planet’s surface. A team of international astronomers have discovered a potentially habitable super-Earth orbiting a nearby star in a habitable zone, where it isn’t too hot or too cold for liquid water to exist. The team said this discovery demonstrates that habitable planets could form in a greater variety of environments than previously believed.

Meteorites Brought Ammonia to Earth?
Researchers have teased ammonia of a carbon-containing meteorite from Antarctica, and propose that meteorites may have delivered that essential ingredient for life to an early Earth.
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