Space Science Highlights


2020-10-20 08:36:00

Ice Giant Systems 2020

APL researchers played a major role in organizing and participating in this international workshop focused on future exploration of the Ice Giants

2020-10-13 08:30:00

Earliest Use of the Term “Habitable Zone”?

E. Walter Maunder defined the habitable zone in a popular book published in 1913.

2020-10-06 07:56:00

Where do magnetospheric ions come from and how are they energized?

New observations from NASA’s MMS mission find that ions observed in the magnetotail are often of solar wind origin – and that these higher charge ions more easily attain higher energies

2020-09-29 08:25:00

Energetic particles in Saturn’s magnetosphere

Plasma injections can be used to quantify the flow of mass and energy in a magnetosphere.

2020-09-15 09:00:00

Asteroid Bennu’s surface is like loose, dry sand

These OSIRIS-REx observations mean that resurfacing is frequent and that Bennu’s surface is ten times younger than previously believed.

2020-09-09 20:44:00

Auroral Reconstruction CubeSwarm


2020-09-02 13:54:00

Altitude-dependent nitrogen concentrations in Venus’ atmosphere

MESSENGER-measured neutron fluxes reveal higher amount of nitrogen gas by volume at altitudes >50 km than at low altitudes.

2020-08-25 06:00:00

Active/Passive Multiple Polarization Sea Ice Detection

Automated ice detection based on a new, high-resolution, synergistic algorithm provides between factors of two and eight improvement in ice edge locations, relative to ground truth, over current autom

2020-08-18 09:00:00

Simulating Artificial Lunar Atmospheres

Monitoring the lunar atmosphere during and after lunar landings can help in planning missions and can address outstanding science questions.

2020-08-11 08:30:00

High-Latitude Ionospheric Variability measured from Antarctica

First-principles modeling accurately predicts a major form of Space Weather at high latitudes

2020-08-04 09:37:00

A New Method For Studying Exoplanet Atmospheres

Planetary Infrared Excess (PIE) could revolutionize how we study exoplanet atmospheres.

2020-07-20 10:44:00

Origin of Bennu and Ryugu

The asteroids Ryugu and Bennu are aggregates born from the disruption of a large parent asteroid.

2020-07-14 08:05:00

Discovery of the Mechanism Behind Saturn’s Periodic Radio Emissions and Implications for Brown Dwarfs

Temperature anisotropy in energetic particle injections leads to the generation of upper hybrid plasma waves, which in turn converts to the periodic 5 kHz radio emissions

2020-06-30 08:33:00

Ion acceleration at stream interaction regions (SIRs) observed by the extraordinary measurements of Parker Solar Probe (PSP)

Parker Solar Probe is unlocking the mysteries of particle acceleration within the inner heliosphere!

2020-06-16 09:08:00

Solving the Mystery of Auroral Beads

First of its kind global magnetosphere simulation undertaken at t.he APL-led Center for Geospace Storms (CGS) connects the vastly disparate scales of auroral beads and the global magnetosphere to unra

2020-06-02 09:47:00

Predictive capabilities of Stream Interaction Regions at Different Solar Longitudes

A multi-point, string-of-pearl type mission architecture would improve capabilities of capturing and predicting SIRs

2020-05-19 08:03:00

Juno identifies three distinct auroral acceleration zones at Jupiter

It is greatly surprising that Zone-I and Zone-II can generate equally intense auroral emissions, contrary to expectations from Earth

2020-05-11 11:38:00

Why Land on Mercury?

Mercury is the only major terrestrial body for which in situ surface data are lacking, yet the planet holds unique value in understanding how rocky worlds form and evolve.

2020-05-05 09:48:00

Juno discovers persistent megavolt potentials over Jupiter’s polar caps

Downward megavolt potentials (1-10 MV) fill broad regions of Jupiter’s polar caps, poleward of Jupiter’s main aurora

2020-04-30 13:50:00

Investigating the formation of iron meteorites through laboratory experiments

Lab experiments that mimic the chemistry of iron meteorites provide insight into the evolution of asteroids in the early Solar System

2020-04-21 09:52:00

Substorm Energy Transport from the Magnetotail to the Nightside Ionosphere

The field-aligned energy transport in the plasma sheet and subsequent deposition into the poleward boundary of the auroral bulge is most critical for substorm energy budget

2020-04-07 08:22:00

Solar Illumination Dependence of the Auroral Electrojet Intensity: Interplay between the Solar Zenith Angle and Dipole Tilt

The westward auroral electrojet is more intense, probably because of higher ionospheric conductance due to more intense auroral precipitation, when the ionosphere is dark than when it is sunlit.

2020-04-01 10:33:00

Major Geochemical Terranes of Mercury's Northern Hemisphere

Although not mineralogically pure end?members, individual Principal Component maps are a measure of the relative variability of pyroxenes (PC1), plagioclase (PC2), and olivine (PC3).

2020-03-10 07:53:00

Impact of Deep Local Dipolarization on Electron and Ion Pitch Angle Distributions

First statistical picture of the response of electron and ion PADs to local dipolarizations inside GEO

2020-02-17 11:30:00

Using Gamma-ray and Neutron “Glasses” to Measure Phobos’ Elemental Composition

By measuring the composition of Phobos, MEGANE will help resolve the question of whether Phobos is a captured asteroid or the remnants of a giant impact into Mars.

2020-02-11 08:16:00

What are “negative injections” in the Earth’s magnetosphere?

These unique “negative injection” signatures are the result of the same phenomenon as the typical energetic particle injections that we’ve been studying for decades, but under different conditions.

2020-02-06 08:27:00

The variable depth-to-diameter ratios of impact crater candidates on Bennu

Candidate impact craters on the tiny asteroid Bennu exhibit striking variation in depth-to-diameter ratios. These variations provides clues to the physical properties of this tiny asteroid and insight

2020-01-28 08:30:00

APL Geospace Simulations at Hayden Planetarium

APL Simulations of the Geospace System Featured in a New Hayden Planetarium Show

2020-01-21 09:00:00

Measuring hydrogen on Mercury using MESSENGER’s Gamma-Ray and Neutron Spectrometer

MESSENGER GRNS data reveal that more hydrogen exists in the subsurface at Mercury’s cold poles than Mercury’s hot poles.

2020-01-14 08:44:00

Predicting the Geoeffective Properties of CMEs: Status, Open Issues, and Path Forward

Reliable Space Weather prediction requires targeted investment to improve observational and modeling capabilities and basic research


2019-12-24 09:00:00

Probing Io’s Environment with Juno/JEDI

Io’s effect on the Jovian magnetosphere is likely mediated by wave-particle interactions.

2019-12-10 09:30:00

Benchmarking Impact Hydrocodes for the DART Mission

When similar strength models are used across codes, variations in predictions for crater size and momentum enhancement from a kinetic impactor are within 15-20%.

2019-12-03 07:05:00

Can EMIC waves be produced off the magnetic equator?

EMIC waves can be generated well away from the magnetic equator, given the right local conditions mainly found in the outer magnetosphere.

2019-11-27 09:00:00

Anomalous Clay-Bearing Outcrop South of Valles Marineris, Mars

The identification of Fe/Mg-bearing clay layers above Al-clays means that aqueous weathering on early Mars involved multiple events and/or processes.

2019-11-19 08:16:00

Energetic Oxygen and Sulfur Charge States in the Outer Jovian Magnetosphere: Insights from the Cassini Jupiter Flyby

These results indicate a charge-dependent heating/energization or an energy dependence of the charge state abundance in the outer magnetosphere of Jupiter.

2019-11-12 10:30:00

How much of Mt. Sharp was fluvial?

Volume balance calculations indicate that mechanisms other than flowing water are required to account for the majority of sediments transported into Gale crater, Mars.

2019-11-05 06:51:00

Understanding the Structure of the Solar Corona

Individual Images available to the public at

2019-10-29 07:34:00

Know before you go: Lunar seasons produce dynamic thermal environment in polar regions

Plans for exploration in seasonally shadowed regions should consider seasonal effects on frost stability, subsurface ice stability, and trafficability.

2019-10-22 08:25:00

Solar Wind Entry Into the Magnetosphere

New APL-built model for the first time simultaneously captures both proposed mechanisms of solar wind plasma entry into the magnetosphere and suggests an explanation for the observed dawn-dusk asymme

2019-10-16 08:39:00

Dragonfly: A mission to explore organic chemistry and habitability on Saturn’s moon Titan

Dragonfly will explore an ocean world to determine how far chemistry has progressed in environments providing key ingredients for life

2019-10-08 14:34:00

Composition of Suprathermal Ions in Corotating Interaction Regions

The composition of CIRs exhibits clear correlation with solar activity

2019-09-24 12:12:00

Don’t Judge The Moon By It’s Cover:Getting Beneath the Surface with Radar

Radar can detect variations in roughness that reveal otherwise difficult to observe features.

2019-09-18 07:33:00

Contribution of bursty bulk flows to the global dipolarization of the magnetotail during an isolated substorm

Dungey cycle at work: Global substorm dipolarization of the nightside magnetosphere is an accumulation of localized geomagnetic field enhancements carried by bursty plasma flows

2019-09-03 12:00:00

The largest asteroids are likely icy objects

Instead of being most similar to carbonaceous chondrites, a detailed study of large asteroids’ composition finds them to differ from those meteorites and be similar to icy asteroids like Ceres and The

2019-08-29 08:23:00

Ionospheric O+ ion outflow “off the beaten path”

First observations of ionospheric O+ ion outflow directly into the nightside inner magnetosphere from an equatorial vantage point.

2019-08-20 09:00:00

Comet 45P – A case of nature vs. nurture

Comet 45P retains its primitive character despite intense heating and erosion

2019-08-12 23:00:00

Rocket Investigation of Current Closure in the Ionosphere (RICCI): A novel application of CubeSats from a sounding rocket platform

The RICCI mission concept uses the novel deployment of multiple CubeSats as miniature ?sub-payloads to obtain the first direct in-situ measurement of ionospheric closure currents.

2019-07-30 07:54:00

Cosmic-ray Irradiation Experiments with Iron Meteorites

Psyche Gamma-Ray and Neutron Spectrometer measurements of cosmic-ray activation products are a new technique for deriving surface composition from orbit.

2019-07-16 07:00:00

Defining Expected Science Value from Missions

Probabilistic science value metrics defined using information theory and operations research enable the quantification of potential “science value” of potential spacecraft missions.

2019-07-02 07:33:00

The influence of collisions on ion dynamics in the inner comae of four comets

Collisions between ions and neutrals in the inner coma of a comet reduce the ion velocity and result in chemistry that changes the composition of the ions

2019-06-25 08:13:00

Empirical Modeling of Extreme Space Weather Events: Storm-Time Geomagnetic Field, Electric Current, and Plasma Pressure

Application of modern data-mining and machine-learning techniques to the largest spaceborne magnetometer database enables reconstruction of the magnetic field, current and plasma pressure distributio

2019-06-18 07:50:00

Floor-fractured craters on Ceres: Cryovolcanism or Solid State Flow?

New models suggest that some of Ceres' fractures on crater floors may have formed due to solid state flow of a low-viscosity, low-density material.

2019-06-11 08:06:00

Is there a Europa neutral torus?

Yes, Europa is producing a neutral torus

2019-06-04 08:00:00

Recent innovations at the JHUAPL Planetary Impact Lab

The JHU/APL Planetary Impact Lab developed an 3D-printed sabot for use in high-velocity gun experiments, an innovation that provides significant mass and cost savings compared to sabots manufactured u

2019-05-28 17:53:00

Low Energy Precipitating Electrons in the Diffuse Aurorae

High fluxes of low energy electrons observed by the DMSP can be attributed to the secondary electrons that bounce between the conjugate points in the ionosphere.

2019-05-21 08:00:00

Areas With Unusual Ultraviolet SignaturesDiscovered on the Moon

Investigation of anomalous FUV regions may help in the understanding of lunar surface processes, including the formation of lunar swirls.

2019-05-07 14:36:00

3D Reconstruction of Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) and Their Shocks

Multi-viewpoint coronal imaging allows the extraction of the 3D properties of CMEs and shocks and the assessment of their potential for Space Weather.

2019-04-30 08:00:00

Mars: Composition Beneath the Dust

Composition of the youngest rocks are comparable to intermediate-aged volcanic terrain. The mostancient volcanic material is compositionally distinct, suggesting early igneous evolution of the crust.

2019-04-23 08:30:00

Measuring Earth radiation with the RAVAN CubeSat

RAVAN demonstrates new technologies that enable future Earth radiation budget (ERB) measurements and establishes a benchmark for an ERB small satellite constellation.

2019-04-16 08:30:00

Storm-Driven Rebuilding and Intensification of Earth's Radiation Belt

Geomagnetic storms can act as a "reset" button for the outer radiation belt. At storm onset, the existing outer belt is largely annihilated and a new, more intense belt is rebuilt. New APL-built mode

2019-04-09 08:00:00

Bennu asteroid map

OSIRIS-REx explores why asteroid Bennu doesn't break apart?

2019-03-26 08:24:00

What is the Origin of Daytime Auroral Pulsations?

Daytime Pc3 auroral pulsations are directly linked to upstream-generated compressional Pc3 waves and their modulations of chorus waves and keV electrons in the outer magnetosphere

2019-03-19 08:00:00

Small Body Mapping Tool

Make your own asteroid maps!

2019-03-12 11:02:00

Mercury: The view after MESSENGER

Compendium of Science from MESSENGER Just Published!

2019-03-05 08:00:00

How many near-Earth asteroids have water in their minerals?

Water on asteroids is more accessible than water on the moon.

2019-02-26 08:00:00

Recurrent Formation of a Dawnside Electric Current System During Geomagnetic Storms

An intense auroral current system forms recurrently on the dawn side during major geomagnetic storms causing large magnetic disturbances at midlatitudes.

2019-02-12 08:00:00

The First Multi-Viewpoint Catalog of Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) Properties

The first-ever ‘stereoscopic’ catalog of CME properties (based on simultaneous 2 viewpoint observations from the STEREO mission).

2019-02-05 12:36:00

The Dynamics of Crater Ejecta Emplacement

Crater ejecta slides violently away from the crater after landing, eroding and shearing the surface and subsurface to significant depths.

2019-01-29 08:00:00

High-Energy Particle Transport and Acceleration at Earth

Magnetic trapping enables transport and energization of energetic ions and relativistic electrons deep into the near-Earth space

2019-01-22 08:00:00

The case for seasonal surface changes at Titan's lake district

Titan’s north polar lakes experience seasonal shoreline change.

2019-01-15 08:00:00

Sources of Plasma at Saturn

Two important processes contribute to solar wind particle entry into the magnetosphere of Saturn

2019-01-08 07:57:00

The curious case of a missing meteoritic signature

Two impact craters in Canada formed in nearly identical targets have starkly different meteoritic signatures.


2018-12-18 08:22:00

Improved Lunar Prospector Neutron Spectrometer Map

Reconstruction of Lunar Prospector thermal neutron data reveal 100 km sized regions of nearly pure anorthosite in basins on the lunar farside.

2018-12-11 08:04:00

What can Apollo soil samples tell us about the Moon’s environment?

The physical, chemical, and spectral properties of lunar agglutinates hold clues about the space weathering processes that formed them.

2018-12-04 08:20:00

Modeling impact outcomes for the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) Mission

Material porosity and internal structure can significantly affect crater shape, ejecta field, and momentum enhancement from a kinetic impactor.

2018-11-27 07:58:00

Wind-sculpted Landscape on Olympus Mons, Mars

The Olympus Maculae reveal multiple episodes of wind-driven deposition and erosion, suggesting fluctuating atmospheric conditions in the Late Amazonian.

2018-11-20 08:29:00

Antarctica Balloon Flight Tests New Science Instruments

High-altitude balloon flights provide a cost-effective means to test planetary gamma-ray and neutron spectrometers in a space-like radiation environment.

2018-11-06 08:30:00

A proxy for solar wind conditions near Mars

The proxy we derive for magnetic field direction upstream of Mars will be useful when MAVEN’s orbit gets lowered such that it goes into the solar wind less often.

2018-10-30 08:25:00

Projectile preservation during oblique impacts

Oblique impacts significantly enhance projectile preservation. The results suggest a new strategy for sample return missions that rely on impact capture. Moreover, our findings imply that M-type aster

2018-10-23 04:14:00

Red sand, Blue sand

The color of sand on Mars’ dunes depends on grain size, composition, and oxidation state.

2018-10-16 10:51:00

The delivery of water by impacts

Water delivered by impactors can be trapped in significant quantities within impact glasses and melt-bearing breccias, thereby contributing to the early accretion of water during planet formation.

2018-10-09 04:51:00

Methane Rain Clouds at Titan

Titan's weather patterns suggest liquid methane reservoirs below the surface near Titan's poles.

2018-09-28 04:44:00

Atmospheric drag is eroding Saturn’s inner ring

More than ten tons of molecules and small neutral particles every second are flowing into Saturn from its rings because of the interaction between Saturn’s atmosphere and the rings.

2018-09-11 11:27:00

How did Mercury get its ice?

The Hokusai impact could be the source of Mercury’s water ice.

2018-09-04 10:09:00

Investigating the Ages of Mercury’s Explosive Volcanic Deposits

Explosive volcanism on Mercury extended into Recent Geologic History, well after the presumed cessation of volcanic activity early in Mercury’s history.

2018-08-28 16:10:00

Asteroid shapes from disruption and reaccumulation

Energetic disruption and reaccumulation produces top-shaped asteroids. More elongated asteroids like Eros and Itokawa form less commonly.

2018-08-21 16:13:00

MESSENGER Advanced Products (MEAPs)

The MESSENGER Advanced Product (MEAP) project enhances the utility of MESSENGER data from the planet Mercury to the planetary science community.

2018-08-14 16:47:00

Identifying buried, compositionally-distinct materials on Mars using gamma-ray measurements

Gamma-ray measurements can reveal the presence of compositionally-distinct deposits buried several 10s of cm below Mars’ surface.

2018-08-07 14:32:00

Prebiotic Molecules Storage in Comets

The remarkable chemical diversity of comets reflects the range of conditions in the early Solar System

2018-08-02 11:32:00

The APL Planetary Impact Lab

The APL Planetary Impact Lab (PIL) includes a Vertical Gun Range and Ejecta Catapult that enable state-of-the-art studies of impact cratering processes.

2018-07-31 15:29:00

Mapping Ice at Mercury’s South Pole

The uneven distribution of Mercury’s ice supports a comet impact origin

2018-07-26 14:37:00

An exogenic origin for Iapetus’ ridge

A collapsing disk of debris could build topography to create a ridge around Iapetus

2018-07-24 14:32:00

Impact Melting on Vesta at the Rheasilvia Antipode

Giant impact melting may have prolonged igneous activity on protoplanets

2018-07-19 15:15:00

Effect of Re-impacting Debris on the Solidification of the Lunar Magma Ocean

Debris generated after the Moon-forming impact would have re-impacted the Moon, introducing additional heat transfer mechanisms to the conventional conductive-lid scenario.

2018-07-17 11:00:00

Mercury’s Dark Secret

Low Reflectance Material on Mercury is enriched in carbon, and is native to Mercury.

2018-07-12 14:36:00

Evidence for volatiles on the surface of 433 Eros and 1036 Ganymed

We have detected hydrated minerals on the two largest near-Earth asteroids, expected to be anhydrous. They likely are delivered by external sources such as solar wind or dust.

2018-07-10 14:37:00

A Fresh Look at Older Mars Odyssey Neutron Spectrometer Data Yields a Surprise at the Equator

An improved-resolution map of the MONS epithermal neutron data was created and reveals substantial, unexpected H deposits near the equator.

2018-07-03 14:37:00

Mars: Destroyer of Sand Dunes

Mars’ current climate may be eroding away the most upwind sand dunes