Planets

The search for life beyond our solar system requires unprecedented cooperation across scientific disciplines. NASA's NExSS collaboration includes those who study Earth as a life-bearing planet (lower right), those researching the diversity of solar system planets (left), and those on the new frontier, discovering worlds orbiting other stars in the galaxy (upper right) (Image NASA)

NASA has announced the creation of the NExSS (Nexus for Exoplanet System Science), coalition, an initiative dedicated to the search for life on planets outside the solar system. It puts together different disciplines because this research goes beyond just astronomy: for example, it’s of interest to planetary and climate science researchers.

Images of the huge storm on Saturn taken by the Cassini space probe (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

In late 2010, NASA’s space probe Cassini started observing a huge storm on Saturn lasting for several months. In recent days, an article was published on the journal “Nature Geoscience” that provides an explanation for this phenomenon that had been observed a number of times in the last 140 years but had remained mysterious. According to a team led by Cheng Li of CalTech, Pasadena, the presence of water is the key to its origin.

Artistic representation of the impact of Theia with the primordial Earth (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Research on the origin of the Moon agree more and more on the giant impact hypothesis. According to this theory, about 150 million years after the birth of the solar system, the early Earth was hit by a planet the size of Mars. This caused the expulsion of a huge amount of debris that formed the Moon. Doubts still exist concerning the composition of the Earth and the Moon but two research just published in the journal “Nature” add new information about the giant impact hypothesis.

The Mars Rover Opportunity complete path on Mars (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/NMMNHS)

NASA has confirmed that the Mars Rover Opportunity’s flash memory has been successfully reformatted so that it doesn’t use a corrupted memory bank. The agency also announced that yesterday Opportunity completed the marathon traveling for 42.195 kilometers (26.219 miles) on Mars. Sure, it took a bit since about two months it celebrated 11 Earth’s years on the red planet but it’s another record for this extraordinary rover.