• Recently, Chris McKay, a planetary research scientist at NASA Ames Research Center, gave a public lecture, sponsored by the Planetary Society, in which he talked about the scientific results of the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and Titan. In this, the third in a four-part series, McKay explains why Titan’s greenhouse effect is unique and how its anti-greenhouse effect works.

  • This week’s Earth flyby is the first of a number of critical mission milestones during MESSENGER’s circuitous journey toward Mercury orbit insertion. MESSENGER will conduct the first orbital study of Mercury, the least explored of the terrestrial planets that include Venus, Earth and Mars.

  • In this essay, Bernard Foing ponders what steps will need to be taken to establish future human bases on the Moon. The Moon has one-sixth of Earth’s gravity and no atmosphere, but the difficulties of living there could be eased by something as beautiful and delicate as a flower.

  • At the recent Earth System Processes II conference, Farmer gave a talk on the current state of understanding about Mars: what we know and what we’d like to know. In this, the second of a three-part series, he discusses what scientists have learned from recent NASA and ESA missions to the red planet.

  • With the help of NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers have conducted the most comprehensive structural analysis of our galaxy and have found tantalizing new evidence that the Milky Way is much different from your ordinary spiral galaxy.

  • The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter launched on August 12, and when it arrives at Mars it will search for evidence of water in the martian atmosphere, surface, and subsurface. This orbiter also will provide detailed surveys of the planet, identifying any obstacles that could jeopardize the safety of future landers and rovers.

  • Astrobiology Magazine caught up with Rees as he ponders the effect of interplanetary travel on human evolution, the origin of life on Earth, and the limits of human intelligence.

  • Jessica Sunshine is the Deep Impact mission scientist responsible for the onboard infrared spectrometer. In the first half of this two-part interview, she discusses what the comet’s nucleus looked like before and after impact, and explains why it’s so difficult to piece together the spectroscopic data.

  • Samples of the comet Wild 2 will come down to Earth on January 15, 2006. But what kind of shape will they be in? Worries about the sample return capsule’s parachutes – and memories of the Genesis mission – add nail-biting drama to the event.

  • At the recent Earth System Processes II conference, Farmer gave a talk on the current state of understanding about Mars: what we know and what we’d like to know. In this, the first of a three-part series, he explains why “following the water” is central to NASA’s program of Mars exploration.

  • A region of Mars that some planetary scientists believe was once a shallow lakebed and likely habitable for life may not have been so wet after all, according to a new University of Colorado at Boulder study.

  • Brother Guy Consolmagno, astronomer to the Vatican, discusses his views of the controversy over intelligent design, as well as the historical clashes between science and religion.

  • One of the thousands of asteroids orbiting the sun has been found to have a mini planetary system of its own.

  • The Mars Rovers Spirit and Opportunity are the Energizer Bunnies of planetary exploration. Designed to last for only 90 days, they are still going strong after nearly two years.

  • Jessica Sunshine is the Deep Impact mission scientist responsible for the onboard infrared spectrometer. In the second half of this two-part interview, she discusses whether Deep Impact has altered our ideas of how comets are formed and how important they’ve been in Earth’s history.