Scratching the Surface

The Pluto Manager gets us up to speed on multi-ring basins and how they are formed on moons and planets.

The highly-anticipated Mars 2020 mission has picked its landing zone on the Red Planet. Today, Caitlin Ahrens, The Pluto Manager, let's us in on the details.

Scratching the Surface: The Plumes of Io

Dec 7, 2018

Far from the sun? Check. No tectonic plates? Check. Crazy active volcanoes? Also, check.

Io - Jupiter's small, yellow moon - is covered with fiery mountains which create massive plumes that rise high above its surface. Despite its distance from solar heat (778 million kilometers, to be exact), Io is the most volcanically active body in the solar system.

In this episode, Caitlin Ahrens explains how Io's proximity to Jupiter and a "magma ocean" could explain the moon's misplaced volcanoes. 

Scratching the Surface: Glaciers on Mars

Nov 16, 2018

What appeared to be large boulders on Mars's rocky surface are actually dust-covered glaciers. While the large bodies of frozen water might not seem exciting, the frosty masses could tell us more about the posibilty of life-supporting water on the red planet. 

Caitlin Ahrens takes a look at the discovery of Martian glaciers and what it means for the planet's capacity to harbor life. 

Scratching the Surface: It's A Comet, It's An Asteroid... No, it's 'Oumuamua'

Jul 16, 2018
European Southern Observatory/M. Kornmesser / NASA

In October 2017 the Pan Starrs telescope in Haleakala, Hawaii caught a glimpse of something unusual. Initially classified as a comet and then as an asteroid, the small (800 feet)  disc-shaped rock called 'Oumuamua tumbled into our orbit and became the first of a new class of interstellar objects.