Help Shape the Future of Space Exploration

Join The Planetary Society Now  arrow.png

Join our eNewsletter for updates & action alerts

    Please leave this field empty
Explore

Outer Planets

Jupiter. Saturn. Uranus. Neptune. Each of these giant planets is the center of its own miniature solar system. Each is spectacularly beautiful and scientifically fascinating, which are reasons enough to explore them. But by studying the giant planets and their rings and moons, we can also learn about the forces that operated during the formation of our own solar system, as well as the origins of the hundreds of new extrasolar planetary systems that we discover every year.

And their moons are worlds in their own right. There are at least 16 outer planetary moons that would be called dwarf planets if they orbited the Sun rather than a planet. Two (Jupiter's Ganymede and Saturn's Titan) are larger than the planet Mercury, and one (Triton) is probably a captured Kuiper belt object.

But it is challenging and expensive to explore the outer planets, and missions to the outer planets take a very long time to develop, fly, and operate. Cassini will be orbiting Saturn until 2017, and Juno will operate at Jupiter from 2016 to 2017. After that, it's not clear if anyone will be sending a followup mission to Saturn or Jupiter or its moons, or an orbiter to survey the Uranus or Neptune systems. And there is a critical shortage of the isotope of plutonium that is needed to generate power for outer planetary missions.

A few gems from the latest Cassini image data release

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/04/24 06:30 CDT | 2 comments

I checked out the latest public image release from Cassini and found an awesome panorama across Saturn's rings, as well as some pretty views looking over Titan's north pole.

Read More »

NASA's Mission to Europa May Get More Interesting Still

Posted by Van Kane on 2015/04/11 04:08 CDT | 7 comments

NASA officials have asked their European counterparts if they would like to propose contributing a small probe to NASA's Europa mission planned for the mid-2020s.

Read More »

A moon with atmosphere

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/04/08 01:27 CDT | 10 comments

What is the solar system moon with the densest atmosphere? Most space fans know that the answer is Titan. A few of you might know that Triton's is the next densest. But what's the third? Fourth? Do any other moons even have atmospheres? In fact, they do; and one such atmosphere has just been discovered.

Read More »

Ceres Gets Real; Pluto Lurks

Posted by Paul Schenk on 2015/03/27 04:10 CDT

Although we are still along way from understanding this fascinating little body, Ceres is finally becoming a real planet with recognizable features! And that's kinda cool.

Read More »

Four Ideas to Bust the Floor on Outer Planet Mission Costs

Posted by Van Kane on 2015/03/26 08:25 CDT | 7 comments

The road to lower costs outer planet missions has been paved by NASA’s first two New Frontiers missions, the $700M New Horizons mission to Pluto and the $1.1B Juno mission to Jupiter. But can the cost of a mission to the outer solar system be cut to $450M, the limit for a Discovery mission?

Read More »

LPSC 2015: Aeolian Processes on Mars and Titan

Posted by Nathan Bridges on 2015/03/26 04:05 CDT

Planetary scientist Nathan Bridges reports on results from the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference about the action of wind on the surfaces of Mars and Titan.

Read More »

Prometheus, Pandora, and the braided F ring in motion

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/03/23 05:19 CDT

Cassini recently took a long, high-resolution movie of the F ring, catching a view of its ringlets, clumps, and streamers, and two potato-shaped moons, Prometheus and Pandora.

Read More »

An internal ocean on Ganymede: Hooray for consistency with previous results!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/03/12 07:25 CDT | 8 comments

A newly published paper confirms a subsurface ocean at Ganymede. An ocean there was already suspected from its magnetic field and predicted by geophysics; new Hubble data confirms it, and even says it is in the same place we thought it was before. Such consistency is rare enough in planetary science to be worth celebration.

Read More »

A Sky Full of Stars

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2015/03/09 08:03 CDT | 3 comments

In pictures of the planets, the stars aren't usually visible. But when they do appear, they're spectacular.

Read More »

Mapping Europa

Posted by Björn Jónsson on 2015/02/18 01:38 CST | 2 comments

Several global maps have been made of Europa, but amateur image processor Björn Jónsson felt they could be improved—so he decided to make a new one.

Read More »

Items 1 - 10 of 100  12345678910Next
Facebook Twitter Email RSS AddThis

JOIN THE
PLANETARY SOCIETY

Our Curiosity Knows No Bounds!

Become a member of The Planetary Society and together we will create the future of space exploration.

Join Us

Featured Images

Mariner 7 approaches Mars
Global color view of Titan from the north, June 10, 2014
Panorama across the lit side of Saturn's rings, May 10, 2014
Cassini looks across Titan's north pole, May 19, 2014
More Images

Featured Video

All those Asteroids with Amy Mainzer

Watch Now

Space in Images

Pretty pictures and
awe-inspiring science.

See More

Join the New Millennium Committee

Let’s invent the future together!

Become a Member

Connect With Us

Facebook! Twitter! Google+ and more…
Continue the conversation with our online community!