CPS News

Probing the Cusps of Saturn's Magnetic Field

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This illustration of the Cassini spacecraft at Saturn depicts the planet’s enormous magnetic field and the bow shock created as the solar wind runs into it. The cusps can be seen as the funnel-shaped regions that reach down to the planet’s poles. Credit: ESA

Data from the Cassini spacecraft show that the cusp regions of Saturn’s magnetic field—where it connects to the Sun’s magnetic field—have similarities to Earth’s and also intriguing differences.

Size matters in the detection of exoplanet atmospheres

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Hot Jupiter exoplanets

A group-analysis of 30 exoplanets orbiting distant stars suggests that size, not mass, is a key factor in whether a planet’s atmosphere can be detected according to a UCL-led team of European researchers.

Guest crater on the Moon

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John Guest

A crater on the Moon has been named after the late John Guest (1938-2012), a pioneer in volcanology and planetary science, who inspired generations of colleagues and students at UCL for over half a century. During his time at UCL, John established the emerging disciplines of planetary geology and physical volcanology and, in 1980, he founded the first NASA Regional Planetary Image Facility outside the USA. 

The intellectual and social benefits of astrobiology

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The International Journal of Astrobiology

In a new article soon to be published by the International Journal of Astrobiology, Professor Ian Crawford aims to explain the broader aims of astrobiology: 

Professor Ian Crawford elected Vice President of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Professor Ian Crawford

Congratulations to CPS member Professor Ian Crawford on his recent election to the role of Vice President (Geophysics) of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS).   A full report can be found in the Birkbeck news article linked below.

World’s oldest fossils unearthed

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ANCIENT HOLDFAST This filament and clump of iron ore (lower right) may have once been a strand of microbial cells attached to rocks around hydrothermal vent openings. Credit: M. Dodd

Remains of microorganisms at least 3,770 million years old have been discovered by an international team led by UCL scientists and CPS members PhD student Matthew Dodd and Dr Dominic Papineau, providing direct evidence of one of the oldest life forms on Earth.

Strong 'electric wind' strips planets of oceans and atmospheres

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Venus' electric wind (credit: Dr Glyn Collinson)

Venus has an ‘electric wind’ strong enough to remove the components of water from its upper atmosphere, which may have played a significant role in stripping the planet of its oceans, according to a new study by NASA and UCL researchers.

Liftoff to Mars!

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TGO liftoff

On 14 March, the first mission of the ESA-Russia ExoMars programme began its journey to Mars from the Baikonur cosmodrome. Soaring over the steppes of Kazakhstan, the Proton rocket and Briz upper stage both performed flawlessly, putting the first of the two ExoMars missions on course for Mars with arrival in October 2016. This opens a new era of European-Russian Mars exploration – with UCL-MSSL and UCL's Centre for Planetary Sciences (CPS) playing key roles.

Solar storms trigger Jupiter's 'Northern Light'

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Artistic rendering of Jupiter's magnetosphere (credit: JAXA)

Solar storms trigger Jupiter’s intense ‘Northern Lights’ by generating a new X-ray aurora that is eight times brighter than normal and hundreds of times more energetic than Earth’s aurora borealis, finds new UCL-led research using NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory.

Giotto at Halley: 30 years ago!

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Artist's Impression of Giotto and Comet Halley (source: ESA)

It was the year of the tragic Challenger disaster – but UCL-MSSL was making good news in space and making history too. The Giotto spacecraft carried 10 instruments, including one led by UCL-MSSL just 596 km (MSSL to ESOC distance!) from comet Halley on the night of 13th/14th March, with some spectacular results.

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