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Volume 1 Issue 10, October 2017

Volume 1 Issue 10

Plutoʼs varied terrain

Pluto displays a remarkable variety of geological processes, many of which are unique. Features captured by New Horizons include jagged mountain peaks abutting both a large putative icy volcanic structure (∼4 km high and 150 km across) and smoother nitrogen ice plains.

See Olkin et al. 1, 663–670 (2017)

Image: Dr. Alex Parker / NASA. Cover Design: Alex Wing.


  • Editorial |

    Our inventory of the molecular universe is continually progressing. Our understanding of the astrochemistry behind it will flourish if we are mindful of funding experimental and theoretical efforts as well as observational.


Comment & Opinion

  • Comment |

    Complex organics are now observed throughout the Universe, forming in the circumstellar environments over thousands of years and providing materials for star formation. Did the Earth inherit any of these organics at the time of its formation?

    • Sun Kwok
  • Obituary |

    Internationally respected astronomer and renowned comet physics expert Michael Francis A’Hearn (1940–2017) passed away on 29 May 2017 at the age of 76.

    • Michael J. S. Belton

Mission Control

Books & Arts

Research Highlights

News & Views

  • News & Views |

    The first extraterrestrial detections of a member of the organohalogen family of molecules have been made towards comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko and low-mass protostar IRAS 16293-2422. Chloromethane, considered to be a biomarker, can form efficiently abiotically.

    • Marcelino Agúndez
  • News & Views |

    Although predicted 50 years ago, the polarization of light from a rotationally distorted stellar atmosphere has only recently been detected, thanks to polarimetry measurements with precision at the parts-per-million level.

    • J. Patrick Harrington
  • News & Views |

    The excellent resolution provided by radio interferometry provides a unique way to probe galaxy mergers and supermassive black hole binary dynamics.

    • Sarah Burke-Spolaor


  • Review Article |

    The New Horizons spacecraft performed a flyby of Pluto and its system in July 2015, providing more than 50 Gb of high-resolution images and data that transformed our view and understanding of the dwarf planet. This Review summarizes its main discoveries.

    • Catherine B. Olkin
    • Kimberly Ennico
    • John Spencer
  • Review Article |

    The material surrounding accreting supermassive black holes connects them with their hosts. From studies in the infrared and X-rays, the structure of this material is found to be complex, clumpy and dynamic.

    • Cristina Ramos Almeida
    • Claudio Ricci



  • Letter |

    The polarization resulting from electron scattering in a stellar atmosphere has been detected towards the rapidly spinning star Regulus. Deformation of the star from spherical allows this effect to be seen, fulfilling a prediction from around 50 years ago.

    • Daniel V. Cotton
    • Jeremy Bailey
    • J. H. Hough
  • Letter |

    A tight correlation between gamma rays and optical emission in nova ASASSN-16ma indicates that the optical light comes from reprocessed emission from shocks in the ejecta, rather than an energy release near the hot white dwarf, as in the standard model.

    • Kwan-Lok Li
    • Brian D. Metzger
    • Hiroshi Itoh
  • Article |

    The authors present a spectrophotometric and hydrodynamical study of supernova OGLE-2014-SN-073, which had remarkably high inferred ejecta mass and energy, potentially higher than can be explained with canonical core-collapse neutrino-driven explosions.

    • G. Terreran
    • M. L. Pumo
    • K. Ulaczyk
  • Article |

    Experiments are presented that indicate that methane can be produced abiotically on Mars through the photocatalytic reaction of CO2, in a process called methanogenesis. Methane can then be shocked (through impacts) to form RNA nucleobases and glycine.

    • Svatopluk Civiš
    • Antonín Knížek
    • Martin Ferus


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