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.

Capturing the Rhythm of Space: Insights from 47th DPS Meeting

Posted by Deepak Dhingra on 2016/01/07 06:33 CST

The Division of Planetary Science (DPS) Meeting saw many exciting scientific discussions spanning the range of processes on different planetary bodies, as well as their replication in the laboratory and in models.

Read More »

A Lander for NASA’s Europa Mission

Posted by Van Kane on 2016/01/05 07:03 CST | 9 comments

While there’s at least eight years until it launches, this has been a pivotal year for developing NASA’s Europa mission.

Read More »

Jupiter's Great Red Spot

Posted by Björn Jónsson on 2015/12/07 06:59 CST | 1 comment

On the 20th anniversary of Galileo's orbit insertion around Jupiter, amateur image processor Björn Jónsson shares some of the mission's first images of Jupiter's iconic massive storm.

Read More »

Watch the entire Cassini mission image catalog as a movie

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/11/20 09:43 CST | 2 comments

If you were to download the entire catalog of photos taken at Saturn to date by Cassini and then animate them like a flipbook, how long would it take to watch them all pass by? The Wall Street Journal's Visual Correspondent Jon Keegan has your answer: nearly four hours.

Read More »

A Day in the Solar System: 28 October 2015

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2015/11/09 07:44 CST | 5 comments

On October 28th, the Cassini spacecraft flew through the geyser plume of Saturn's moon Enceladus. But Cassini was not the only spacecraft operating in the solar system that day.

Read More »

Jupiter Weather Report: 2014/15 Apparition

Posted by Leigh Fletcher on 2015/11/05 01:44 CST

A summary of Jupiter's changing face as seen from Earth during its 2014/2015 apparition.

Read More »

New Concepts to Explore the Jovian System

Posted by Van Kane on 2015/10/28 08:04 CDT | 2 comments

Last year, NASA’s managers invited the European Space Agency to propose a small spacecraft to explore the Jovian system. Van Kane describes the recently-posted results of ESA's concept studies for two possible missions.

Read More »

Filling in the Enceladus map: Cassini's 20th flyby

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/10/16 06:19 CDT | 7 comments

A couple of days ago, Cassini flew past Enceladus for its 20th targeted encounter. Cassini has seen and photographed quite a lot of Enceladus before, but there's still new terrain for it to cover.

Read More »

Towards a Jupiter Weather Forecast

Posted by Leigh Fletcher on 2015/09/24 08:04 CDT

Trying to keep track of the ever-changing face of Jupiter is a pretty big challenge—its a dynamic world that can fascinate and surprise every time we turn our telescopes towards it.

Read More »

Checking in on Uranus and Neptune, September 2015 edition

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/09/22 01:28 CDT | 5 comments

There are no spacecraft at Uranus or Neptune, and there haven't been for 30 and 25 years, respectively. So we depend on Earth-based astronomers to monitor them, including Damian Peach.

Read More »

Items 11 - 20 of 100  Previous12345678910Next
Facebook Twitter Email RSS AddThis

Essential Advocacy

Our Advocacy Program 
provides each Society member 
a voice in the process.



Funding is critical. The more 
we have, the more effective 
we can be, translating into more 
missions, more science, 
and more exploration.

Donate

Featured Images

Simulated view of the lunar farside: 11 days old
Simulated view of the lunar farside: 6 days old
Simulated view of the lunar farside: 22 days old
Dark side of the Moon through light phases (simulation)
More Images

Featured Video

Intro Astronomy 2016. Class 12: Exoplanets, the Sun, and Solar Physics

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, YouTube and more…
Continue the conversation with our online community!