Beyond Our Solar System

Five robotic spacecraft have sufficient velocity to escape the bounds of our solar system and travel into interstellar space, but only one—NASA’s Voyager 1—has crossed that boundary so far. Voyager 1 transitioned into interstellar space in 2012. Voyager 2 likely will be next.

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Space Tourism Posters NASA Solar System Exploration

David Delgado, creative strategy: The posters began as a series about exoplanets -- planets orbiting other stars -- to celebrate NASA's study of them. (The NASA program that focuses on finding and studying exoplanets is managed by JPL.) Later, the director of JPL was on vacation at the Grand Canyon with his wife, and they saw a similarly styled

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10 Things: Going Interstellar – NASA Solar System Exploration

This outflow is known as the solar wind. The bubble surrounds the Sun and stretches beyond the planets. Both Voyager spacecraft had to travel more than 11 billion miles (17 billion kilometers) from the Sun in order to cross the edge of the heliosphere.

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Overview Planets – NASA Solar System Exploration

Real-Time, Interactive Solar System. There are more planets than stars in our galaxy. The current count orbiting our star: eight. The inner, rocky planets are Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. NASA's newest rover — Perseverance — landed on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021. The outer planets are gas giants Jupiter and Saturn and ice giants Uranus and

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In Depth Oumuamua – NASA Solar System Exploration

It will travel beyond Saturn’s orbit in January 2019; as it leaves our solar system, ‘Oumuamua will head for the constellation Pegasus. Preliminary orbital calculations suggest that the object came from the approximate direction of the bright star Vega, in the northern constellation of Lyra.

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Exploration Mercury – NASA Solar System Exploration

The first spacecraft to visit Mercury was Mariner 10, which imaged about 45% of the surface. NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft flew by Mercury three times and orbited the planet for four years before crashing on its surface. The European Space Agency launched its first mission to explore Mercury – BepiColombo – in 2018. Significant Events.

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Overview Mercury – NASA Solar System Exploration

Introduction. The smallest planet in our solar system and nearest to the Sun, Mercury is only slightly larger than Earth's Moon. From the surface of Mercury, the Sun would appear more than three times as large as it does when viewed from Earth, and the sunlight would be as much as seven times brighter. Despite its proximity to the Sun, Mercury

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Overview Neptune – NASA Solar System Exploration

Neptune is our solar system's windiest world. Winds whip clouds of frozen methane across the planet at speeds of more than 2,000 km/h (1,200 mph)—close to the top speed of a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet. Earth's most powerful winds hit only about 400 km/h (250 mph). NASA Dryden F/A-18 #852 mission support aircraft in flight.

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Overview Comets – NASA Solar System Exploration

Comets. Comets are frozen leftovers from the formation of the solar system composed of dust, rock and ices. They range from a few miles to tens of miles wide, but as they orbit closer to the sun, they heat up and spew gases and dust into a glowing head that can be larger than a planet. This material forms a tail that stretches millions of miles.

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Overview Uranus – NASA Solar System Exploration

Uranus was discovered in 1781 by William Herschel. Uranus was the first planet found using a telescope. Uranus is an Ice Giant planet and nearly four times larger than Earth. Uranus has 27 known moons, most of which are named after literary characters. Like Saturn, Jupiter and Neptune, Uranus is a ringed planet.

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Overview Our Solar System – NASA Solar System Exploration

Five spacecraft have achieved enough velocity to eventually travel beyond the boundaries of our solar system. Two of them reached the unexplored space between the stars after several decades in space. Voyager 1 went interstellar in 2012 and Voyager 2 joined it in 2018. Both spacecraft are still in communication with Earth.

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Overview Io – NASA Solar System Exploration

Introduction Jupiter's moon Io is the most volcanically active world in the Solar System, with hundreds of volcanoes, some erupting lava fountains dozens of miles (or kilometers) high. Io is caught in a tug-of-war between Jupiter's massive gravity and the smaller but precisely timed pulls from two neighboring moons that orbit farther from Jupiter—Europa and Ganymede.

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In Depth Voyager 2 – NASA Solar System Exploration

Of the four spacecraft sent out to beyond the environs of the solar system in the 1970s, three of them -- Voyagers 1 and 2 and Pioneer 11 -- were all heading in the direction of the solar apex, i.e., the apparent direction of the Sun’s travel in the Milky Way galaxy, and thus would be expected to reach the heliopause earlier than Pioneer 10

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Cosmic Distances – NASA Solar System Exploration

This animated video illustrates how far a light second, minute and year are. Credit: NASA-JPL-Caltech For much greater distances — interstellar distances — astronomers use light years. A light year is the distance a photon of light travels in one year, which is about 6 trillion miles (9 trillion kilometers, or 63,000 AU).

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Overview Jupiter – NASA Solar System Exploration

Kid-Friendly Jupiter. Jupiter is the biggest planet in our solar system. It's similar to a star, but it never got big enough to start burning. Jupiter is covered in swirling cloud stripes. It has big storms like the Great Red Spot, which has been going for hundreds of years. Jupiter is a gas giant and doesn't have a solid surface, but it may

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Exploration Uranus – NASA Solar System Exploration

Jan. 24, 1986: NASA's Voyager 2 made the first - and so far the only - visit to Uranus. The spacecraft came within 50,600 miles (81,500 kilometers) of the planet's cloud tops. Voyager discovered 10 new moons, two new rings and a magnetic field stronger than that of Saturn. Dec. 22, 2005: NASA announces the discovery of a new pair of rings

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Exploration Titan – NASA Solar System Exploration

“Eyes on Cassini” allows you travel with Cassini at any time during the entire mission, a period of about 20 years. For example, watch the arrival at Saturn on July 1st, 2004, or see Cassini launch the Huygens probe and follow Huygens to Titan. You can see where Cassini was when it captured iconic images, and you can compare the real images

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In Depth Kepler – NASA Solar System Exploration

In Depth: Kepler. NASA's Kepler, the 10th in a series of low-cost, low-development-time and highly focused Discovery-class science missions, was designed to discover Earth-like planets orbiting other stars in our region of the Milky Way. The spacecraft was named after the famed German astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630).

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Exploration Saturn – NASA Solar System Exploration

Voyager 1. Voyager 1. Launch Date: September 5, 1977. Voyager 1 successfully flew by both the Jupiter and Saturn systems before continuing out into the farthest most reaches of our solar system. Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft to study all four of the solar system's giant planets at close range. Voyager 2.

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Exploration Neptune – NASA Solar System Exploration

1846: Using mathematical calculations, astronomers discover Neptune, increasing the number of known planets to eight. Neptune's largest moon, Triton, is found the same year. 1983: Pioneer 10 crosses the orbit of Neptune and becomes the first human-made object to travel beyond the orbits of the planets of our solar system.

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The Milky Way Galaxy NASA Solar System Exploration

Like early explorers mapping the continents of our globe, astronomers are busy charting the spiral structure of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Using infrared images from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, scientists have discovered that the Milky Way's elegant spiral structure is dominated by just two arms wrapping off the ends of a central bar of stars.

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In Depth Mercury – NASA Solar System Exploration

From an average distance of 36 million miles (58 million kilometers), Mercury is 0.4 astronomical units away from the Sun. One astronomical unit (abbreviated as AU), is the distance from the Sun to Earth. From this distance, it takes sunlight 3.2 minutes to travel from the Sun to Mercury.

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Overview Mars – NASA Solar System Exploration

Mars is one of the most explored bodies in our solar system, and it's the only planet where we've sent rovers to roam the alien landscape. NASA currently has two rovers (Curiosity and Perseverance), one lander (), and one helicopter exploring the surface of Mars.Perseverance rover – the largest, most advanced rover NASA has sent to another world – touched down on Mars on Feb. 18, …

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In Depth Opportunity – NASA Solar System Exploration

The plan was for the rover to travel into a gully that slices Endeavor and is about two football fields in length. Opportunity Principal Investigator Steve Squyres noted that scientists were “confident [that] this is a fluid-carved gully, and that water was involved.”

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Overview Oort Cloud – NASA Solar System Exploration

The Oort Cloud is the most distant region of our solar system. Even the nearest objects in the Oort Cloud are thought to be many times farther from the Sun than the outer reaches of the Kuiper Belt. Unlike the orbits of the planets and the Kuiper Belt, which lie mostly in the same flat disk around

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Cassini's Two Speeds – NASA Solar System Exploration

At that speed you could travel from New York City to Los Angeles in less than three minutes, and it would take just over an hour to travel three times around the Earth at the equator. When operating Cassini, the mission team primarily considers two speeds: the spacecraft’s speed relative to Saturn, and relative to Earth.

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In Depth Ceres – NASA Solar System Exploration

From an average distance of 257 million miles (413 million kilometers), Ceres is 2.8 astronomical units away from the sun. One astronomical unit (abbreviated as AU), is the distance from the sun to Earth. From this distance, it takes sunlight 22 minutes to travel from the sun to Ceres.

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In Depth Venus – NASA Solar System Exploration

From an average distance of 67 million miles (108 million kilometers), Venus is 0.7 astronomical units away from the Sun. One astronomical unit (abbreviated as AU), is the distance from the Sun to Earth. It takes sunlight 6 minutes to travel from the Sun to Venus. A 3D model of Venus. Credit: NASA Visualization Technology Applications and

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Orbits and Kepler's Laws NASA Solar System Exploration

Planetary Physics Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion Kepler's three laws describe how planetary bodies orbit about the Sun. They describe how (1) planets move in elliptical orbits with the Sun as a focus, (2) a planet covers the same area of space in the same amount of time no matter where it is in its orbit, and (3) a planet’s orbital period is proportional to the size of its orbit (its semi

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10 Things to Know About Parker Solar Probe – NASA Solar

That's fast enough to travel from New York to Tokyo in less than a minute! 5. Dr. Eugene Parker, mission namesake. Parker Solar Probe is named for Dr. Eugene Parker, the first person to predict the existence of the solar wind. In 1958, Parker developed a theory showing how the Sun’s hot corona — by then known to be millions of degrees

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In Depth Spirit – NASA Solar System Exploration

In Depth: Spirit. The Spirit and Opportunity rovers together represented NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Mission (MER), part of the Mars Exploration Program. Launched about a month apart in 2003, the twin rovers’ main scientific objective was to search for a range of rocks and soil types and then look for clues for past water activity on Mars.

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Overview Callisto – NASA Solar System Exploration

Introduction. Callisto is Jupiter’s second largest moon and the third largest moon in our solar system. Its surface is the most heavily cratered of any object in our solar system. Images of Callisto captured by passing spacecraft show bright white spots standing out against darker regions. Scientists think the bright areas are mostly ice and

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10 Things to Know About the Ionosphere – NASA Solar System

The ionosphere also plays a role in our everyday communications and navigation systems. Radio and GPS signals travel through this layer of the atmosphere, or rely on bouncing off the ionosphere to reach their destinations. In both cases, changes in the ionosphere's density and composition can disrupt these signals.

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Sally Ride (1951-2012) NASA Astronaut / First American

In a space agency filled with trailblazers, Sally Ride was a pioneer of a different sort. The soft-spoken California physicist broke the gender barrier on June 18, 1983, when she …

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