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Solving the mystery of Pluto's giant blades of ice

Science Daily: Pluto -

NASA's New Horizons mission revolutionized our knowledge of Pluto when it flew past that distant world in July 2015. Among its many discoveries were images of strange formations resembling giant knife blades of ice, whose origin had remained a mystery. Now, scientists have turned up a fascinating explanation for this "bladed terrain": the structures are made almost entirely of methane ice, and likely formed as a specific kind of erosion wore away their surfaces.

Farthest active inbound comet yet seen

Science Daily: Comets and Asteroids -

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has photographed the farthest active inbound comet ever seen, at a whopping distance of 1.5 billion miles from the Sun (beyond Saturn's orbit). Slightly warmed by the remote Sun, it has already begun to develop an 80,000-mile-wide fuzzy cloud of dust, called a coma, enveloping a tiny, solid nucleus of frozen gas and dust. These observations represent the earliest signs of activity ever seen from a comet entering the solar system's planetary zone for the first time.

The volatile processes that shaped Earth

Science Daily: Comets and Asteroids -

Although it is widely understood that Earth was formed gradually, from much smaller bodies, many of the processes involved in shaping our growing planet are less clear. Astronomers have now untangled some of these processes, revealing that the mini-planets added to Earth had previously undergone melting and evaporation. They also address another scientific conundrum: Earth's depletion in many economically important chemical elements.

Rift on Pine Island Glacier

NASA: Image of the Day -

A new iceberg calved from Pine Island Glacier—one of the main outlets where ice from the interior of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet flows into the ocean. The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the Landsat 8 satellite captured this natural-color image on September 21, 2017, just before the break.

The strange structures of the Saturn nebula

Science Daily: Saturn -

The spectacular planetary nebula NGC 7009, or the Saturn Nebula, emerges from the darkness like a series of oddly-shaped bubbles, lit up in glorious pinks and blues. This colourful image was captured by the MUSE instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT). The map -- which reveals a wealth of intricate structures in the dust, including shells, a halo and a curious wave-like feature -- will help astronomers understand how planetary nebulae develop their strange shapes and symmetries.

Near-Earth asteroid CubeSat goes full sail

Science Daily: Comets and Asteroids -

NASA's Near-Earth Asteroid Scout, a small satellite the size of a shoebox, designed to study asteroids close to Earth, recently performed a full-scale solar sail deployment test. The test was performed in an indoor clean room to ensure the deployment mechanism's functionality after recent environmental testing.

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