Orbital Chaos Inevitable

It’s a little bit less certain that the inner planets— Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars—will still be around to die that way. “There is a one percent chance the inner solar system will go dramatically unstable during the next five billion years,” says Laughlin. The problem is a weird long-distance connection between Jupiter and Mercury. When Jupiter’s closest approach to […]

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The Sun Is Coming!

Earth got off relatively easy last week after being hit by the biggest blast of solar radiation since 2005—but we may not be so lucky next time. Last week’s coronal mass ejection, in which a solar flare whipped an arc of magnetic particles toward Earth at 4 million mph, led some airlines to reroute flights away from the poles, where […]

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The Seasons Of Antarctica

Winter in Antarctica, it is dark all of the time. In the Antarctic summer, (between January and March, when there is plenty of daylight—twenty-four hours a day! In September, the Sun rises, and then doesn’t set again until March. Why does Antarctica have six whole months of darkness in the winter and six whole months of lightness in the summer? […]

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How the moon was made

How the moon was made

People always wonder how the moon was made. The birth of the planets 4.5 billion years ago was extremely violent. They grew to full size by absorbing rival planet embryos in a series of titanic collisions—one of which probably gave Earth its moon (below). The moon’s large size, low density, and other features suggest that it emerged from an explosion […]

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The most Earth-like planet yet

Have we found Earth’s twin? For the first time, astronomers have identified a planet outside our solar system that is both Earth-size and orbits its star in the so-called Goldilocks zone, where temperatures may be “just right” for supporting liquid water—and, therefore, life. Researchers discovered the planet while reviewing data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope, which has spent the past […]

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Mapping the moon

Two NASA probes that spent last year orbiting the moon have returned stunning new geological maps that could help explain how it, Earth, and other planets in our solar system formed. The probes, named Ebb and Flow, flew identical orbits just miles above the moon’s surface to measure its gravity field. Slight disruptions in their paths—caused by the push and […]

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Solar storm blasts Earth

The largest solar storm since 2005 swept across the planet this week, forcing airlines to reroute flights and disrupting communications from global positioning satellites. This spontaneous blast of solar radiation may have affected power grids and high-frequency radio communications in the northern latitudes, said the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center. A number of airlines, which route some U.S.-Asia flights over […]

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