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Solar System: Things to Know This Week

Solar System: Things to Know This Week

In addition to the Mercury transit of the sun today, there are a few other things you should know about our solar system this week:

1. Mars, Ready for its Close-Up

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Mars will soon be closer to Earth than it has been for 11 years, presenting a great opportunity for backyard sky watchers.

2. Fire and Ice

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Our spacecraft have an even closer view of Mars, and that fact regularly leads to some intriguing discoveries. The latest: volcanoes may have erupted beneath an ice sheet there billions of years ago. The above image is a mineral map of part of the Martian surface.

3. Icy Hydra

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Meanwhile, our New Horizons spacecraft has sent home the first compositional data about Pluto’s four small moons. The new data show the surface of Hydra is dominated by nearly pristine water ice–confirming hints that scientists picked up in images showing Hydra’s highly reflective surface.

4. Ceres, Ever Sharper

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The mission director for our Dawn mission writes, “Ceres, which only last year was hardly more than a fuzzy blob against the stars, is now a richly detailed world, and our portrait grows more elaborate every day.”

5. Join us at Jupiter

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Our Juno mission arrives at the giant planet on Jul. 4. Meanwhile, all amateur astronomers are invited to take part in a worldwide effort to identify potential observations for the spacecraft to make once it’s in orbit. Find out how to join HERE.

Want to learn more? Read our full list of the 10 things to know this week about the solar system HERE.

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