Open Questions: Solar System and Planetary Science

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See also: Exobiology -- Extrasolar planets -- Stellar formation and evolution

Introduction

Theories of planetary formation

Planets with liquid water

Conditions for life on Mars


Recommended references: Web sites

Recommended references: Magazine/journal articles

Recommended references: Books

Introduction



Recommended references: Web sites

Site indexes

Galaxy: Solar System
Categorized site directory. Entries usually include descriptive annotations.


Sites with general resources

The Nine Planets
"A Multimedia Tour of the Solar System" by Bill Arnett. Site contains information on the nine major planets of the solar system and each of their major satellites, as well as many external links. There are also some galleries of nebulae, Messier objects, and NGC objects.
Planetary Sciences at the National Space Science Data Center
The NSSDC "is NASA's primary deep archive site for planetary and lunar data obtained from spacecraft missions (both NASA and non-NASA), as well as the primary center for distribution of planetary data and images to educators and the general public." Resources include images, online publications, planetary fact sheets, and lists of frequently-asked questions.


Surveys, overviews, tutorials

Solar system
Article from Wikipedia. See also Planet.
Recipes for planet formation
November 2009 arcticle from Physics World, by Michael Meyer. "Observations of extrasolar planets are shaping our ideas about how planetary systems form and evolve."
Once and future Mars
January 2003 article from Physics World, by Jim Bell. "As Mars nears its closest-ever position to Earth, a series of forthcoming space missions is set to revolutionize our understanding of the surface and atmosphere of the red planet. The missions could even solve the mystery of whether life once existed on Mars."
Mars Reconsidered: New Data Raises Fresh Questions
October 2004 article from Space.com. Discusses new information presented at a recent conference on discoveries by NASA's Mars Rovers, and implications for possible life on Mars.
Rover Report Card: Prospect of Mars Life More Likely
September 2004 article from Space.com. Summarizes the most important findings from the Mars Rover mission to date, especially the evidence for large bodies of water at some time in the past.
Was Venus Alive? 'The Signs are Probably There'
August 2004 interview at Space.com with planetary scientist David Grinspoon. Presents much information on theories of the evolution of Venus, including the possibilities it had oceans, plate tectonics, and perhaps even life forms for a considerable period of time.
Scientists Seek Scent of Life in Methane at Mars
August 2004 article from Space.com. Discusses controversies over possible detection of methane in the atmosphere of Mars.
The Growing Case for Water on Mars
February 2004 article from Space.com. Discusses different types of evidence for the existence of water on Mars, including the very recent findings of hematite.
Wild New Theory for Building Planets
July 2002 article from Space.com. Discusses a new theory due to Alan Boss regarding rapid planet formation. The theory helps explain shortcomings of older theories in explaining the formation of Uranus and Neptune as well as Jupiter-like extrasolar planets.
Ancient Mars: Renderings Show Raging Floods, Vast Oceans
January 2002 article from Space.com. Considers the question of whether Mars was once warm and wet.
Mars Ski Report: Snow is Hard, Dense and Disappearing
December 2001 article from Space.com. Discusses studies of the characteristics of snow in the polar caps of Mars.
Mysterious Mars: Water or No Water? Odyssey May Find Out
November 2001 article from Space.com. Describes how the Mars Odyssey mission will search for water on Mars.
New Animation Shows How Mars Evolved, Where Water Hides
October 2001 article from Space.com. Describes a computer animation study that attempts to illustrate where water on early Mars came from, where it went, and where it might be hiding now.
Water on Mars: The Debate Rages Anew
August 2000 article from Space.com. Reports on controversial claims that liquid water may have existed near the surface of Mars in recent times.
Old riddle illuminates solar system's birth
January 2001 news article from PhysicsWeb about icy debris in the Kuiper belt that shaped the early evolution of the solar system.
Hubble finds planetary transition point
June 1999 news article from PhysicsWeb about time required for planetary formation.
Solar system is chaotic
March 1999 news article from PhysicsWeb about chaotic resonance effects in planetary orbits.
Rock blasts in from the past
December 2000 article from Physics World, by Sara Russell. "Fragments of a meteorite recovered from a frozen lake in Canada earlier this year may provide a unique insight into the evolution of the solar system and life on Earth."
How Does a Planet Grow?
September 2006 Scientific American sidebar about the formation of gas giants.
Strange New World
April 2004 Scientific American In Focus article, subtitled "Piercing the haze, Huygens gets a view of Titan's surface".
A Water World on Mars?
December 2000 Scientific American news article about photographic evidence that parts of Mars were once covered with lakes.
From Pebbles to Planets
1998 article by Tom Yulsman which originally appeared in Astronomy magazine. Discusses the general theory of how planets form.
The Solar System
January 1997 sidebar by Carl Sagan in Scientific American, subtitled "What is known about the sun and the bodies in orbit around it, with special reference to the knowledge gained in 18 years of exploration by space probes launched from the earth."
Creating a warmer, wetter Mars
March 2001 news article in Science News, about how the volcanism that created the Tharsis rise released large quantities of water and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Martian leaks: Hints of present-day water
July 2000 Science News article about evidence of erosion by water on Mars.
Life on Europa: A possible energy source
January 2000 news article in Science News, about the possibility that charged particles trapped in Jupiter's magnetic field could supply energy for life in Europa's subsurface ocean.
Squeezing evident on Jupiter moon
August 2000 news article about wrinkles on the surface of Europa, which indicate compression on the crust.
Life may exist on Jupiter's moon
January 2000 news article about the possibility of formaldehyde-eating bacteria under the surface of Europa.
Cracking Europa's mysterious surface
September 1999 news article about the possibility of large tides on Europa, causing cracks in the ice crust.


Recommended references: Magazine/journal articles

Fertile Frontiers
Nadia Drake
Science News, October 8, 2011
Alien-life hunters focus on moons in outer solar system.
Enceladus: Secrets of Saturn's Strangest Moon
Carolyn Porco
Scientific American, December 2008
Wrinkled landscapes and spouting jets on Saturn's sixth-largest moon hint at underground waters.
The Chaotic Genesis of Planets
Douglas N. C. Lin
Scientific American, May 2008
The Mystery of Methane on Mars and Titan
Sushil K. Atreya
Scientific American, May 2007
The Red Planet's Watery Past
Jim Bell
Scientific American, December 2006
The Whole Enceladus
Ron Cowen
Science News, May 6, 2006
A new place to search for life in the outer solar system.
Mars: Planet Ice
Oliver Morton
National Geographic, January 2004, pp. 2-31
Describes, with many images, various landscapes of Mars, especially those shaped by ice and liquid water.
[Additional resources]
Planet Formation on the Fast Track
Ron Cowen
Science News, January 25, 2003, pp. 56-58
Older theories of planetary formation pictured a process that took several million years. A new model proposes that planets as large as Jupiter could form in just a few hundred years.
Is There Life Under the Ice?
Dana Mackenzie
Astronomy, August 2001, pp. 32-37
The surface of Jupiter's satellite Europa is a layer of water ice that may be from 1 to 10 kilometers thick, with a substantial ocean of liquid water below. The crucial question is whether a form of life similar to Earth's could arise and survive in such an environment.
Migrating Planets
Renu Malhotra
Scientific American, September 1999, pp. 56-63
The planets of the solar system may not have always had their present orbits. The orbits of the outer planets, in particular, may have shifted significantly since they were formed.


Recommended references: Books


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Copyright © 2002 by Charles Daney, All Rights Reserved