Summer break!

Hello Earthlings!

I'm boarding my spaceship to go venture for more awesome space science! I shall return in August!

If there are any space news in the meantime, I'll be sure to transmission them here!

Keep looking up- there's much to discover! Have a fantastic summer!

We need to go back...to the Moon!

  APOD August 27, 2016 image from Lunar Orbiter 1 looking at an Earthrise! Image Credit:   NASA  /  Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project

APOD August 27, 2016 image from Lunar Orbiter 1 looking at an Earthrise! Image Credit: NASA / Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project

Good morning Earthlings and Lunatics alike!

Did you know it's been almost 50 years since our very first step onto the Moon with Apollo 11? Did you know it's been 46 years since our last mission to the Moon with Apollo 17?

Since then, we've sent numerous rovers and cameras to Mars and beyond. But what about our celestial neighbor? Have we really learned everything there is to learn about our Moon? Far from it...

The debate is still on-going, mainly scientists vs government. But scientists even have debates among themselves about whether we should go back to the Moon. It is mainly looking like YES, but it is a question of HOW and WHAT. 

HOW: We have advanced our rocket systems for robotics, but not necessarily for people in a (long) while...

Maybe we need to send rovers to the Moon?

WHAT: what are some objectives to get our feet back onto the lunar soil? What are some outstanding questions we have about the Moon?

The one major debate point to date is this: our technology has changed SO MUCH that we are not 100% sure that our technology can withhold to better standards than those of the 1960s...

Hopefully, we'll find out soon!

Thank you for reading and enjoy the summer night skies!

Pyroclastics!

 Mars HiRISE image of Aureum Chaos pyroclastic textured terrain.  Image credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona 

Mars HiRISE image of Aureum Chaos pyroclastic textured terrain.  Image credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona 

Hello again, Earthlings!

Let's talk about what in the world are pyroclastics!

Pyro- meaning fire, and clastics- meaning rock chunks, are referring to globs of rock spewed from volcanoes! Pyroclastics can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but finding them can tell us many secrets about the surrounding volcanoes- mainly- how destructive they can be!

Pyroclastics on Mars was once a tricky thing to decipher from low resolution images, but the recent HiRISE camera has given us many images to look for such pyroclastic grounds. 

Why look for pyroclastics? Because finding how much and how concentrated in an area could give us insight into the past ancient dynamics of Mars' large volcanoes!

So far, recent research led by Dr. Broz of the Institute of Geophysics, The Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, has found that pyroclastic mounds are relatively recent and from majorly explosive volcanic sources! His paper is here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S001910351100457X

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at why we should go back to the Moon!

The Venus Debate: Should We Go Back?

 Image taken of the surface of Venus by Venera 13 in 1982. These images depict the distorting effects of the thick Venusian atmosphere. SOURCE: C.M. Pieters, et al., The color of the surface of Venus, Science 234:1379-1383, 1986. 

Image taken of the surface of Venus by Venera 13 in 1982. These images depict the distorting effects of the thick Venusian atmosphere. SOURCE: C.M. Pieters, et al., The color of the surface of Venus, Science 234:1379-1383, 1986. 

Venus, the hottest planet in our Solar System, has been through years of "should we go back?" and "why do we want to go back?" debates...

In recent development, NASA keeps choosing outer Solar System bodies, such as Titan or cometary bodies, for further investigations. Recently, the Venus planetary community strengthens their determination toward a Venus mission. 

Here are some facts to think about:

1- the U.S. has never landed on Venus. The U.S. sent several probes to image the atmosphere and surface via RADAR, but the landers were actually the Soviet Union. 

2-We know very little about the surface of Venus. We know there are a lot of volcanoes (A LOT- more than 400!), but not enough to know how these volcanoes are built or what kind of minerals the surface actually has!

3- Did water exist on Venus? That's a debate currently regarding the shape and locale of some of the major volcanoes and certain lava flows. Hopefully a soil sample could help us with that question!

4- What are storm systems like on Venus? We have detected lightning on Venus, but to what effect, how powerful, or how frequent- we still don't know!

Hopefully the Venus community will gain enough support to allow NASA to approve a mission to Venus!

More about the Venus Community and news: https://www.lpi.usra.edu/vexag/VISE/

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at what are "pyroclastics"?

BepiColombo!

 Artist rendition of BepiColombo approaching Mercury.  Credit: ESA/ATG medialab; Mercury: NASA/JPL

Artist rendition of BepiColombo approaching Mercury. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab; Mercury: NASA/JPL

October 2018 will be an exciting month for Mercury lovers! 

The BepiColombo spacecraft is set to launch in October as Europe's first mission to Mercury. The BepiColombo is also partnered with the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA). 

It will arrive at Mercury by 2025, swinging around Venus a few times and test out its instruments there!

Here are some more fun facts about this cool new mission!

1- It will be exposed to temperatures over 600 degrees Fahrenheit!

2-Comprises of two main parts: the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO), each with its own set of instruments!

3- It will launch from French Guiana after some more review testing for stability!

4- BepiColombo is named after Professor Giuseppe (Bepi) Colombo (1920-1984) from the University of Padua, Italy, a mathematician and engineer of astonishing imagination. He was the first to see that an unsuspected resonance is responsible for Mercury's habit of rotating on its axis three times for every two revolutions it makes around the Sun. He also suggested to NASA how to use a gravity-assist swing-by of Venus to place the Mariner 10 spacecraft in a solar orbit that would allow it to fly by Mercury three times in 1974-5.

Thank you reading and come back next week for a look at some Venus debates!

Hazy, crazy days of Titan

 (Top view) near-infrared wavelength image. (Bottom view) longer wavelength image of same location at same time! Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Univ. Arizona/Univ. Idaho

(Top view) near-infrared wavelength image. (Bottom view) longer wavelength image of same location at same time! Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Univ. Arizona/Univ. Idaho

Hello Earthlings!

This week we peer into the mysterious cloud cover of Saturn's largest moon, Titan!

Titan is home to some extraordinary and rather unique features for such a large moon, one of which being the only moon with a thick atmosphere and similar surface pressure to that of Earth! With the clouds, planetary scientists were able to image with the Cassini probe weather and a type of cycle, similar to our Earthly water cycle. 

Except water is too cold at Titan's temperatures...what else is a liquid at the surface? Methane!

Cassini took images in the near-infrared of the cloud tops of Titan...and found very little. Some little wispy cloud bands and that's about it.

BUT when the images were taken in longer wavelengths...large blotches of clouds appear!

How? Why? We still don't know...but it may have something to do with that methane water-like cycle and the concentration of clouds around the larger polar lake regions!

Hopefully the mystery will unveil itself as planetary scientists are still sifting through the last of Cassini's data. 

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at what BepiColombo is all about!

 

Paleolakes! On Mars?

 Possible Intravalley Paleolake in Shalbatana Vallis. Image credit: HiRISE/ASU PSP_010316_1830

Possible Intravalley Paleolake in Shalbatana Vallis. Image credit: HiRISE/ASU PSP_010316_1830

Good morning, Earthlings!

Let us dive right in to what is one of the most discussed debates in the Martian community- water on Mars! Not just if there is present water on this dusty red planet, but rather how much water would there have been in the planet's dynamic past?

Well, we have some geologic clues...One of which are paleolakes!

Paleolakes, as the name suggests, are ancient, dried, flat plains that have clues about once having some sort of water interaction. But these are not little ponds, but rather larger standing bodies of water. 

The hypothesis goes that the northern latitude has large lowland plains and basin-like features, enough to house plentiful water. On a timescale though, this may have been relevant over 3.7 million years ago!

The existence of seas or lakes is supported by a large variety of morphologic landforms, including ridges and coastal cliffs. Some of these morphologies appear along two global “paleoshorelines” that represent the two most continuous contacts on Mars. 

If interested, here is a 2014 blog post from Dr. Erkeling with more information about paleolakes on Mars! Great read! https://planetarygeomorphology.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/paleolakes-on-mars/

 Paleolake candidate on Mars. Image credit: HiRISE/ASU ESP_012541_1600

Paleolake candidate on Mars. Image credit: HiRISE/ASU ESP_012541_1600

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look into cloud systems on Titan!

Say what, Seyfert?

 NGC 1275 Type I Seyfert Galaxy. Image credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration

NGC 1275 Type I Seyfert Galaxy. Image credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration

Here's to another week in 2018! Let's chat about Seyfert Galaxies...

Seyfert Galaxies are in the category of "active galaxies" along with quasars. Both are very luminous, distant, and with intense radiation. Seyfert Galaxies, however, have a clear host galaxy!

To the telescope, Seyfert Galaxies look like young spiral galaxies. But looking at these through multiple wavelengths reveals that Seyfert galaxy cores could be as large as the Milky Way! WOW!

Seyfert galaxies make up about 10% of all galaxies and are considered one of the most highly studied astronomical objects. 

There are two main types of Seyferts- Type I and Type II- depending on the wavelengths and compositions seen in emission spectroscopy. Type I are mainly very bright in the xray and ultraviolet wavelengths, whereas Type II is mainly in the infrared and visible. 

 NGC 3081 Type II Seyfert Galaxy. Image credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration

NGC 3081 Type II Seyfert Galaxy. Image credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at paleolakes on Mars!

Venus Tectonics

 Sample of Venus' surface taken from Magellan. Image credit: NASA/JPL

Sample of Venus' surface taken from Magellan. Image credit: NASA/JPL

Good morning, Earthlings!

Earth has faults, mountains, folds, volcanoes all due to plate tectonics. These plates of rock slide and crash into each other, creating such interesting geologic features!

Venus ALSO has volcanoes, mountains, folds...and no plate tectonics...

That is due to Venus being extremely hot and dry, so the crust is not broken into sliding pieces, but rather like a bendable plastic. A good example of how folds work on Venus is to squeeze a stress ball. As you squeeze it, crease lines form, then relax. We think Venus works the same way!

If something were to "break" on the surface of Venus, it is still volcanically active and fluid that it can essentially "heal" itself. This is why we think we don't see noticeable craters- volcanic fluids cover those up too!

A type of ridge-like faults, known in the planetary community as rupes, are found across the surface of Venus. This is the result of what is called "crustal shortening", or when the crust overlaps and sticks. 

 Magellan image of Lakshmi Planitia (north of image) bounded by Danu Montes mountain range (south). Image credit: NASA/JPL

Magellan image of Lakshmi Planitia (north of image) bounded by Danu Montes mountain range (south). Image credit: NASA/JPL

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at what Seyfert Galaxies are! 

Lobate Debris Aprons

 Lobate debris apron in Phlegra Montes, as seen by HiRISE. Scale bar is 500 meters long.

Lobate debris apron in Phlegra Montes, as seen by HiRISE. Scale bar is 500 meters long.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Lobate debris aprons, or LDA, are features on Mars that give clues as to how material moves from rocky cliffs and past glaciers. 

Let's take a look at the word, piece by piece:

Lobate- the material falling from the cliffs and glaciers leave tongue-like lobes

Debris-the type of material is thought to be a mixture of water ice and rock. 

Aprons-the material skirts around the cliff or glacier

These features were actually first discovered by the Viking orbiter. The cool part is that shallow radar onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter had detected that these aprons are mainly made from water ice, causing a slippery friction to slide down the cliff faces.

Detecting these features have become more popular as the detection of water ice associated with these LDAs may prove resourceful for future astronauts. 

 Wide view of mesa with surrounding lobate debris apron, as seen by CTX and HiRISE. Location is the Ismenius Lacus quadrangle.

Wide view of mesa with surrounding lobate debris apron, as seen by CTX and HiRISE. Location is the Ismenius Lacus quadrangle.

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at tectonics on Venus!

49th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference!

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Hello Earthlings!

I have just come back from an exciting trip to Houston to attend the 49th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference! This conference happens every March for an entire week filled with planetary research! Nearly 2,000 researchers, professionals, and students come here to present and network!

From Mercury all the way to Pluto and everything- and I mean EVERYTHING- in between!

Much research has been done, but many more questions remain and discover about our Solar System! 

The Arkansas Center for Space and Planetary Sciences had quite the group! Check it out:

-Glaciers on Pluto (C. Ahrens)

-Mars Simulation Chamber experiments (R. Slank)

-Rain on Titan (K. Farnsworth)

-Evaporites on Titan (E. Czaplinski)

-Frost mineralogy on Venus (S. Port)

-Swiss cheese features on Mars (M. Fusco)

-Terrestrial analogues on Earth for Mars (P. Knightly)

-Enceladus' core material experimentation (C. Nunn)

-Astrobiological microbes on Mars (M. Silver)

If you have a Twitter, I encourage you to check out the hashtag #LPSC2018 to look at all the blogging that was going on during the conference!

Next week, we'll take a look at lobate aprons on Mars!

White Dwarf Planets

 White dwarf compared to Earth size. Image credit: Ohio State University/Richard Pogge

White dwarf compared to Earth size. Image credit: Ohio State University/Richard Pogge

Our Sun will eventually have the ultimate fate of becoming a white dwarf surrounded by gaseous remnants of its former life. White dwarfs are called "skeleton stars", no longer developing. What if solar systems with Sun-like stars still survive? What happens to these planets?

First, how close is that planet? For Earth, if we don't get engulfed in our own Sun when it goes into its Red Giant stage, we would have to endure intense solar winds as it transforms from Red Giant to barely the size of Earth in a matter of seconds! For our Sun in reality, Earth would very much get destroyed. Planets out by Jupiter and beyond are considered "safe."

Then, once our Sun has gone through those stages, the orbits of such planets would be in a bit of a chaotic mode then settle, first going outward due to tidal pressures from the Red Giant phase, then slowly inward as the white dwarf resumes smaller gravity. 

The current research involving detecting such planets around white dwarfs include three main questions:

1- How far out does a planet need to orbit to escape engulfment, and what happens to its orbit as the star evolves?

2 -What happens to a planet that survives engulfment? Under what conditions might it survive?

3- Suppose an Earth or super-Earth is detected in the habitable zone of a white dwarf. What are the chances that it is actually habitable instead of a burnt-out cinder?

 The fate of planets around a white dwarf star. Image credit: Figure 4 from "On the Orbits of Low-Mass Companions to White Dwarfs and the Fates of the Known Exoplanets" by Nordhaus and Spiegel, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

The fate of planets around a white dwarf star. Image credit: Figure 4 from "On the Orbits of Low-Mass Companions to White Dwarfs and the Fates of the Known Exoplanets" by Nordhaus and Spiegel, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Thank you for reading and come back March 26th for highlights from the 49th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference!

The Tales and Tails of Comet 67P

 Evolution of vapor tails of 67P through the Rosetta mission. Image credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Evolution of vapor tails of 67P through the Rosetta mission. Image credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Good morning, Earthlings!

This week is a special look at Comet 67P from the Rosetta mission. Although the mission has ended in late 2016, images are still being processed and data results are pouring in!

Here are some amazing details about this interesting comet:

1- This comet is called a "Jupiter Family Comet" (JFC) due to its orbit reaching within the bounds of Jupiter's orbit, whereas most comets are beyond any planetary orbit. 

2- The Rosetta mission is part of the European Space Agency. Rosetta rendezvoused with the comet, then sent a small lander named Philae, being the first spacecraft to land on the comet. Unfortunately, Philae landed in a shadowed region and could not maintain its solar battery life for very long.

3- At its longest and widest dimensions, it is only 2.7 by 2.5 miles, respectively.

4- 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is named after two Soviet astronomers who discovered the comet via glass plates

5- There are varying regions of different textures- ranging from extremely smooth to rocky, bouldering chunks.

6- Work is currently in two-fold: "surface processes and building" and "vaporization/sublimation"

7- Vapor tails are being studied through different times of the Rosetta mission

8- Surface process research includes how the surface may change during the Rosetta mission

 Imhotep region on Comet 67P. Image credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Imhotep region on Comet 67P. Image credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at White Dwarf Planets

Graphite on Mercury?

 Carbon-encrusted impact crater taken from MESSENGER. Image credit: NASA/JHU Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Carbon-encrusted impact crater taken from MESSENGER. Image credit: NASA/JHU Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Good morning, Earthlings!

The discovery of graphite on Mercury was certainly a surprise on a few levels, but one thing that came to mind to hundreds of planetary scientists- can we make pencils?

We know Mercury lacks iron...so why is it darker than the moon? The Mercury MESSENGER orbiter found dustings of soft carbon- much more in abundance than Mars, Moon, and even Earth!

The carbon is suspected to come from Mercury's early crust (so about 4.5 billion years old!)

That is some very old pencil lead...

With Earth, minerals from magma would just crystallize and fall into the iron core. Since Mercury is only partially melted with a core, the carbon is less dense and floats to the top, waiting to get exposed from impact cratering events!

What planetary scientists are looking into now is how much abundance is that carbon on a localized and global scale!

Thank you for reading and next week we'll take a look at some spectacular Rosetta images of a bizarre comet!

A group of its own

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Meteorites, just like famous diamonds, are given special names- at least those at the top of their class used for comparison reasons. Campo de Cielo, Canyon Diablo, Murchison, Sikhote-Alin to name a few...

But there is one that recently has taken it's own classification- Black Beauty.

Formally known as NWA 7034, the exact drop point is unknown due to it being collected haphazardly and eventually donated for research purposes. 

Here's some incredible facts about this beautiful specimen from space!

1-it is a volcanic breccia (or broken pieces of minerals melded together from extreme temperature and pressure) from Mars! Minerals include pyroxene and feldspars. 

2-The iron/manganese chemical ratio matches other samples from Mars

3-The oxygen isotopes, however, do not correlate with other Martian samples, suggesting it had once been buried in the crust or impact temperatures messed up the oxygen isotopes!

4-Found in 2011 and recognized officially by the Meteoritical Society in 2013. It was then that it received its own meteorite category "Martian breccia"

5-Has the highest water content in any Martian sample to date! Reasons are still unknown.

6- It is claimed to be the second oldest Martian meteorite to date! (It dates back about 2 billion years!)

Thank you for reading and next week- what is graphite like on Mercury?

45 Years After Apollo 17

 Looking south from the Apollo 17 landing site. Image credit: NASA

Looking south from the Apollo 17 landing site. Image credit: NASA

Happy Monday, Earthlings!

Wow...45 years after Apollo 17's exploration of the Taurus-Littrow Valley and we are still fascinated by the mysteries of our own natural satellite. 

This year's Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (March 2018) will feature the Apollo 17 Flight Director, G. Griffin, and numerous presentations by planetary scientists who have studied the Valley, mission, and moon samples brought back by the astronauts. 

Here is a summary of major findings from this Valley:

1- Lunar samples have been identified as once been material from the deep mantle of the Moon!

2-Some material suggests pyroclastics and possible early volcanic events

3-Discovery of a thrust fault dated at about 75 million years!

4-Certain minerals will be used to "date" these rocks by the amount of radiation and weathering. 

 Marked map of Taurus-Littrow Valley Apollo 17 landing site. Image credit: NASA

Marked map of Taurus-Littrow Valley Apollo 17 landing site. Image credit: NASA

Thanks for reading and come back next week for a look at the Black Beauty meteorite. 

Pluto's Ocean?

 Thicknesses of Pluto's subsurface layers and possible ocean are yet to be determined! Image credit: NASA/SwRI/JHUAPL

Thicknesses of Pluto's subsurface layers and possible ocean are yet to be determined! Image credit: NASA/SwRI/JHUAPL

Happy Monday, Earthlings!

This week we are going to look at what lurks beneath Pluto's bright heart shape surface. This heart, Sputnik Planitia, is an in-filled impact basin. And a HUGE one at that. 

The impact would have caused extensive stresses and large cracking. For the dwarf planet to "settle" from such an event, two things would need to happen.

First, the in-filling of the basin from any subsurface material to essentially "heal" itself. We see this with most icy bodies where subsurface materials are slushy and cover any exposed areas and freeze. Nitrogen several miles thick has now covered it. 

Second, the impact would have made the orientation of Pluto wobble. Pluto has now regained control for several thousand years and re-oriented itself!

For both things to happen though, according to modeling, a subsurface ocean would have to be a major factor!

What kind of ocean? For it to be denser than nitrogen, the logical explanation would be water. 

But how warm and if there are any salts involved? What about silicate materials? That we are not sure YET!

Stay tuned next week for a look at the 45th anniversary of Apollo 17 journeys!

Salty Mars?

Happy Monday, everyone!

Mars has a surprising amount of salt! But what are the implications of this?

Salt on Earth is typically formed by the evaporation, or drying, of salty water (sea water) which contained dissolved sodium and chlorine ions. Rock salt deposits on dry lake beds and enclosed bay areas in arid regions around the world. 

On Mars, it may prove something similar. What was once a water-filled landscape turned dry and dusty may still hold water beneath the surface. As that liquid reaches the surface, the exposure to radiation immediately dries it out, creating a film of hydrated salts. 

Cameras from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the spectral camera CRISM have caught glimpses of these salt deposits. 

What kind of salt are these? We still don't know. Graduate students here at the Arkansas Space and Planetary Science Center are working on that very problem!

What are the implications? Salt would have to come from some sort of liquid base to dry out. And where there is liquid, there might be the potential for microbial life!

Thank you for reading and come back next week for how there might be an ocean under Pluto!

 Mars HIRISE image of a possible chloride salt deposit. Image credit: NASA/HiRISE/ASU

Mars HIRISE image of a possible chloride salt deposit. Image credit: NASA/HiRISE/ASU

Water, water everywhere...

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Happy Monday, everyone!

You wouldn't think two hydrogen atoms with an oxygen atom could be so complex, but in the grand scheme of our universe, it truly is!

The cool question to ask in all this- where did water actually begin? Turns out, in the atmospheres of dying stars as gases are flung out into space, hydrogen and oxygen molecules are squeezed together as water projectiles. The Hubble Space Telescope actually verified this by observing water within the Helix Nebula.

So our water comes from dying stars! Now what?

Well, how does that water get to planets? Water, in the freezing temperatures of space, conglomerate, and potentially form comets. Comets can then be gravitationally attracted to other Solar Systems and eventually planets. OR- ice can be within a baby solar system and concentrate in certain areas around the host star.

For our Solar System, this is still a debatable topic. Every Solar System has a "frost line"- or a limit where water is too frozen to be liquid at a distance from the host star. That's why Earth is very much liquid, and Mars and beyond are solid. 

But there are some exceptions to this rule. This rule only applies to the surface! We have quite a bit of ocean worlds- mainly moons- that house deep oceans! This includes Europa and Enceladus mainly, but asteroids and Pluto/Triton may have pockets of water!

The term "ocean" to apply to moons and other solar system bodies is being re-defined recently depending on the content of the oceans, thickness, and distribution throughout the planetary body.

Take a look at this NASA link for more information! https://www.nasa.gov/specials/ocean-worlds/

Thank you for reading and next week, we'll look at how salty Mars can be!

Frosty Dunes

 Northern dune in the early spring season defrosting! Image credit: NASA/HiRISE/ASU

Northern dune in the early spring season defrosting! Image credit: NASA/HiRISE/ASU

Greetings, Earthlings! Hope everyone is keeping warm!

Meanwhile on Mars...

When the winter season overtakes the hemispheres of Mars, a light covering of carbon dioxide frosts over the northern or southern sandy hills and plains, almost preserving the sandy dunes in time. As sunlight is able to penetrate through this frost layer, the carbon dioxide *pops* and blackens the sand temporarily due to immediate exposure!

 Ice spiders emerging! Image credit: NASA/HiRISE/ASU

Ice spiders emerging! Image credit: NASA/HiRISE/ASU

These little black spots are affectionately known as "ice spiders"!

Thanks for reading and come back next week for what ocean worlds are up to!

 Larger and longer dune fields defrosting! Image credit: NASA/HiRISE/ASU

Larger and longer dune fields defrosting! Image credit: NASA/HiRISE/ASU