Image Gallery: icy cracked plains on Pluto

Photo Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

A new close-up view of Pluto’s surface was released today, this time showing an expanse of icy plains next to the previous mountains imaged earlier. More bizarre and unexpected terrain, with polygons similar to ones seen in icy regions on Mars and Earth, but on a larger scale, and how they’re formed here isn’t known yet. Other mounds and small pits are also visible. As noted in the press conference again, Pluto is turning out to show much more evidence for geological activity than had been anticipated. This image version still has compression artifacts in it, but there are more and higher-resolution images to come!

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Image Gallery: the mountains and canyons of Pluto and Charon

The icy mountains of Pluto. Photo Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
The icy mountains of Pluto. Photo Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

The first-ever closeup view of Pluto’s surface from the flyby by New Horizons has been released, as well as the best view yet of Pluto’s largest moon, Charon. The new Pluto image shows mountains up to  3,500 metres (11,000 feet) tall in this region, unexpected on such a small, cold planetary body. They are thought to be made of solid water ice and no more than 100,000 years old, which is very young geologically. Those and other features suggest that Pluto may still be geologically active even now.

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Curiosity finds first evidence for possible ‘continental crust’ on Mars

View of an igneous clast named Harrison which is embedded in a conglomerate rock in Gale crater, and features elongated light-toned feldspar crystals. This mosaic is a combination of an image from Mastcam with higher-resolution images from ChemCam’s Remote Micro-Imager. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/IRAP/U. Nantes/IAS/MSSS
View of an igneous clast named Harrison which is embedded in a conglomerate rock in Gale crater, and features elongated light-toned feldspar crystals. This mosaic is a combination of an image from Mastcam with higher-resolution images from ChemCam’s Remote Micro-Imager. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/IRAP/U. Nantes/IAS/MSSS

The Curiosity rover, still roaming in Gale crater, has discovered the first evidence for a potential ancient “continental crust” on Mars, which would be a very significant finding regarding Mars’ early history and to what degree it may have paralleled Earth’s.

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Image Gallery – Pluto and Charon, July 11, 2015

Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI
Pluto. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

The latest image of Pluto from New Horizons, taken on July 11, 2015, has just been posted. More interesting geological features can now be seen, including possible cliffs and a crater, as well as the other bright and dark patches. There is also a new image of Pluto’s largest moon Charon, showing chasms, craters and the large dark area at the north pole. It is now less than two days until closest approach, at 7:49 AM EDT on July 14!

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Muddy Mars: new evidence for liquid water flows within past million years

Illustration of debris flows inside Istok crater on Mars, which have provided evidence of large amounts of flowing water and mud in the past. The flows are very similar to ones on Earth in Arctic regions such as Iceland. Image Credit: Nature Communications
Illustration of debris flows inside Istok crater on Mars, which have provided evidence of large amounts of flowing water and mud in the past. The flows are very similar to ones on Earth in Arctic regions such as Iceland. Image Credit: Nature Communications

The fact that Mars used to have large amounts of liquid water on its surface is pretty much accepted among scientists, but there is still the question of how long that water lasted. How long ago was it still present? A billion years? A few million? New evidence based on data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) suggests that water was still on the surface within the past million years, perhaps even as recently as 500,000 years ago, which is indeed recent, geologically speaking.

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Impact glass discovered on Mars: how it might help in search for evidence of past life

Image from the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, showing deposits of impact glass (green) in Alga Crater. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHUAPL/Univ. of Arizona
Image from the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, showing deposits of impact glass (green) in Alga Crater. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHUAPL/Univ. of Arizona

For the first time, impact glass has been detected on the surface of Mars; the discovery not only provides new information about the formation of impact craters, but might even offer clues to the possibility of ancient life on the Red Planet. The discovery was made by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spacecraft.

Read MoreImpact glass discovered on Mars: how it might help in search for evidence of past life