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It’s been a busy, busy week! I haven’t had time to write very much, so I’ll do a quick round-up of this week’s news.

Four gas giants discovered

Like I’ve said, it seems as if we are finding new planets every day. 2012 isn’t going to be any different. The year started off with the discovery of four gas giants, which according to this abstract, are larger than Jupiter. Jupiter! Wow. The planets are called HAT-P-34b, HAT-P-35b, HAT-P-36b, and HAT-P-37b.

We really have to come up with better names.


An airplane mission to Titan

An artist's conception of AVIATR, an airplane mission to the second largest moon in our solar system: Titan. Credit: Mike Malaska 2011

I wrote my first piece for Universe Today earlier this week. Yah! The article is about a concept airplane mission to Titan – Saturn’s largest moon. The plan, dubbed AVIATR (pretty neat, huh?), would allow for a plane to soar through Titan’s skies and study its geography, atmosphere, and even potential landing sites for future missions. You gotta check out the story here.


GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B reach moon’s orbit

Artist concept of GRAIL mission. GRAIL will fly twin spacecraft in tandem orbits around the moon to measure its gravity field in unprecedented detail. Caption and image courtesy of NASA/JPL

NASA’s GRAIL (Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory) mission celebrated an exciting week. Two of the mission’s spacecrafts – GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B – finally reached the moon’s orbit. The goal of the mission is to map the moon from the surface to its core using gravity. Read more about the mission and what we could learn in this Space Oddities post.


A home for the winter

The Mars rover Opportunity will be spending the winter in a place called “Greeley Haven.” Want to see what it looks like? Look here. I love seeing photographs of Mars’ surface.