NASA Space Place December 2017
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Snowy Worlds Beyond Earth
By Linda Hermans-Killiam

There are many places on Earth where it snows, but did you know it snows on other worlds, too? Here are just a few of the places where you might find snow beyond Earth:

The north pole and south pole of Mars have ice caps that grow and shrink with the seasons. These ice caps are made mainly of water ice—the same kind of ice you’d find on Earth. However, the snow that falls there is made of carbon dioxide—the same ingredient used to make dry ice here on Earth. Carbon dioxide is in the Martian atmosphere and it freezes and falls to the surface of the planet as snow. In 2017, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took photos of the sand dunes around Mars' north pole. The slopes of these dunes were covered with carbon dioxide snow and ice.

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this image of carbon dioxide snow covering dunes on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

A Moon of Jupiter: Io
There are dozens of moons that orbit Jupiter and one of them, called Io, has snowflakes made out of sulfur. In 2001, NASA's Galileo spacecraft detected these sulfur snowflakes just above Io's south pole. The sulfur shoots into space from a volcano on Io's surface. In space, the sulfur quickly freezes to form snowflakes that fall back down to the surface.

A volcano shooting molten sulfur out from the surface of Io. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A Moon of Saturn: Enceladus
Saturn's moon, Enceladus, has geysers that shoot water vapor out into space. There it freezes and falls back to the surface as snow. Some of the ice also escapes Enceladus to become part of Saturn's rings. The water vapor comes from a heated ocean which lies beneath the moon’s icy surface. (Jupiter’s moon Europa is also an icy world with a liquid ocean below the frozen surface.) All of this ice and snow make Enceladus one of the brightest objects in our solar system.

Enceladus as viewed from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Credit: NASA

A Moon of Neptune: Triton
Neptune's largest moon is Triton. It has the coldest surface known in our solar system. Triton's atmosphere is made up mainly of nitrogen. This nitrogen freezes onto its surface covering Triton with ice made of frozen nitrogen. Triton also has geysers like Enceladus, though they are smaller and made of nitrogen rather than water.

The Voyager 2 mission captured this image of Triton. The black streaks are created by nitrogen geysers. Credit: NASA/JPL/USGS

Farther out in our solar system lies the dwarf planet Pluto. In 2016, scientists on the New Horizons mission discovered a mountain chain on Pluto where the mountains were capped with methane snow and ice.

The snowy Cthulhu (pronounced kuh-THU-lu) mountain range on Pluto.

Beyond Our Solar System
There might even be snow far outside our solar system! Kepler-13Ab is a hot, giant planet 1,730 light years from Earth. It's nine times more massive than Jupiter and it orbits very close to its star. The Hubble Space Telescope detected evidence of titanium oxide—the mineral used in sunscreen—in this planet’s upper atmosphere. On the cooler side of Kepler-13Ab that faces away from its host star, the planet’s strong gravity might cause the titanium oxide to fall down as “snow.”

This is an artist’s illustration of what Kepler-13Ab might look like. Credit: NASA/ESA/G. Bacon (STScI)

Want to learn more about weather on other planets? Check out NASA Space Place: **link**

NASA Space Place November 2017
This article is provided by NASA Space Place.
With articles, activities, crafts, games, and lesson plans, NASA Space Place encourages everyone to get excited about science and technology.
Visit to explore space and Earth science!

Studying Storms from the Sky
By Teagan Wall
The United States had a rough hurricane season this year. Scientists collect information before and during hurricanes to understand the storms and help people stay safe. However, collecting information during a violent storm is very difficult.

Hurricanes are constantly changing. This means that we need a lot of really precise data about the storm. It’s pretty hard to learn about hurricanes while inside the storm, and instruments on the ground can be broken by high winds and flooding. One solution is to study hurricanes from above. NASA and NOAA can use satellites to keep an eye on storms that are difficult to study on the ground.

In Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria was so strong that it knocked out radar before it even hit land. Radar can be used to predict a storm’s path and intensity—and without radar, it is difficult to tell how intense a storm will be. Luckily, scientists were able to use information from a weather satellite called GOES-16, short for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite – 16.

The “G” in GOES-16 stands for geostationary. This means that the satellite is always above the same place on the Earth, so during Hurricane Maria, it never lost sight of the storm. GOES-16’s job as a weather satellite hasn’t officially started yet, but it was collecting information and was able to help.

From 22,000 miles above Earth, GOES-16 watched Hurricane Maria, and kept scientists on the ground up to date. Knowing where a storm is—and what it’s doing—can help keep people safe, and get help to the people that need it.

Hurricanes can also have a huge impact on the environment—even after they’re gone. To learn about how Hurricane Irma affected the Florida coast, scientists used images from an environmental satellite called Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership, or Suomi-NPP. One of the instruments on this satellite, called VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite), took pictures of Florida before and after the Hurricane.

Hurricane Irma was so big and powerful, that it moved massive amounts of dirt, water and pollution. The information captured by VIIRS can tell scientists how and where these particles are moving in the water. This can help with recovery efforts, and help us design better ways to prepare for hurricanes in the future.

By using satellites like GOES-16 and Suomi-NPP to observe severe storms, researchers and experts stay up to date in a safe and fast way. The more we know about hurricanes, the more effectively we can protect people and the environment from them in the future.

To learn more about hurricanes, check out NASA Space Place: **link**

Caption: These images of Florida and the Bahamas were captured by a satellite called Suomi-NPP. The image on the left was taken before Hurricane Irma and the image on the right was taken after the hurricane. The light color along the coast is dirt, sand and garbage brought up by the storm. Image credit: NASA/NOAA

NASA Space Place October 2017
This article is provided by NASA Space Place.
With articles, activities, crafts, games, and lesson plans, NASA Space Place encourages everyone to get excited about science and technology.
Visit to explore space and Earth science!

Spooky in Space: NASA Images for Halloween
By Linda Hermans-Killiam

Have you ever seen a cloud that looks sort of like a rabbit? Or maybe a rock formation that looks a bit like an elephant? Although you know that a cloud isn’t really a giant rabbit in the sky, it’s still fun to look for patterns in images from nature. Can you spot some familiar spooky sites in the space images below?


This might look like the grinning face of a jack-o’-lantern, but it’s actually a picture of our Sun! In this image, taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, the glowing eyes, nose and mouth are some of the Sun’s active regions. These regions give off lots of light and energy. This causes them to appear brighter against the rest of the Sun. Active regions are constantly changing locations on the Sun. On the day this image was captured, they just happened to look like a face!

Credit: NASA/ESA/A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center)

This is a Hubble Space Telescope image of Jupiter. Do you notice something that looks like a big eye peeking back at you? That’s actually the shadow of Jupiter's moon Ganymede as it passed in front of the planet’s Great Red Spot. Jupiter's Great Red Spot is a gigantic, oval shaped storm that is larger than Earth and is shrinking. It has been on Jupiter for several hundred years, and its winds can swirl up to 400 miles per hour!

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Can you see the profile of a witch in this image? This image, from NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer, shows the Witch Head nebula. The nebula is made up of clouds of dust heated by starlight. These dust clouds are where new stars are born. Here, the dust clouds happen to be in the shape of an open mouth, long nose and pointy chin.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Wisc.
The Black Widow Nebula looks like a giant spider in space. It is a huge cloud of gas and dust containing massive young stars. Radiation and winds from these stars push the dust and gas around, creating a spider-like shape. This image is from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.


Did a skeleton lose one of its leg bones on Mars? Nope! It’s just an image of a Martian rock. NASA's Curiosity rover captured this image. The rock was probably shaped to look this way over time by wind or water. If life ever existed on Mars, scientists expect that it would be small organisms called microbes. So, it isn’t likely that we’ll ever find a large fossil on Mars!

To learn some fun planet facts and make a planet mask, check out NASA Space Place: **link**

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