Atmospheres that intrigue, protect, and…


A new exoplanet mission is one step closer to reality. The European Space Agency’s Ariel mission has moved into its implementation phase. Ariel will survey about 1,000 exoplanets, measuring the chemical makeup of their atmospheres as they cross in front of or behind their host stars. This mission will give scientists a better idea of the possible types of worlds around other stars. Pictured: An artist’s impression of an exoplanet transiting in front of its star. Image credit: ESA/ATG medialab.


Europa’s plumes are complicated. Jupiter’s icy moon has a subsurface ocean and water plumes that vent into space. It’s easy to imagine those plumes are all linked to the ocean, but new research suggests some may originate from pockets of water within the crust, formed by comet or asteroid impacts. Not all of Europa’s plumes can be explained this way, which bodes well for missions like Europa Clipper that aim to sample ocean plumes, looking for signs that those subsurface waters could support life.


SpaceX successfully launched 4 new astronauts to the International Space Station. The Crew-1 mission marks the start of regular astronaut flights by SpaceX to the International Space Station, following a successful crewed test flight in mid-2020. The astronauts will stay aboard for about 6 months.


That’s no moon—it’s an old rocket booster! Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory were puzzled over Earth’s newest moon: an object in orbit around the Earth, temporarily captured by our planet’s gravity. Tracing the object’s trajectory back through time, they discovered it came from Earth itself in 1966, when NASA launched Surveyor 2 to the Moon. The object is likely the rocket’s upper stage.


NASA released a new selfie from its Mars Curiosity rover. The rover captured the images needed for the selfie at a location named Mary Anning where scientists suspect conditions on Mars were once favorable for life. The site is named after a 19th-century English paleontologist whose discovery of marine-reptile fossils was ignored for generations because of her gender and class. Learn why the mission matters.

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