Posts Tagged: Nature Astronomy

Think Saturn’s rings are old? Not so fast

A team of researchers has reignited the debate about the age of Saturn’s rings with a study that dates the rings as most likely to have formed early in the solar system.

In a paper published today in Nature Astronomy and presented at the EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019 in Geneva, the authors, including LASP research associate, Sean Hsu, suggest that processes that preferentially eject dusty and organic material out of Saturn’s rings could make the rings look much younger than they actually are.

Stolen electrons key to unusual Mars aurora

Auroras appear on Earth as ghostly displays of colorful light in the night sky, usually near the poles. Our rocky neighbor Mars has auroras too, and NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft just found a new type of Martian aurora, according to a study led by LASP scientists. This phenomenon occurs over much of the day side of the Red Planet, where auroras are very hard to see.

Auroras flare up when energetic particles plunge into a planet’s atmosphere, bombarding gases and making them glow. While electrons generally cause this natural phenomenon, sometime protons can elicit the same response, although it’s more rare. Now, the MAVEN team has learned that protons were doing at Mars the same thing as electrons usually do at Earth—create aurora.