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With Explore the Planets, investigate the planets, their moons, and understand the processes that shape them. By G. Jeffrey Taylor, Ph.D. See our DVD collection.
As permafrost thaws, the land, atmosphere, water resources, ecosystems, and human communities are affected. Coastal areas and hillsides are vulnerable to erosion by thawing of permafrost.  Thawing permafrost also causes a positive feedback to global warming, as carbon trapped within the once-frozen soils is released as <a href="/physical_science/chemistry/methane.html&edu=high&dev=1">methane</a>, a powerful <a href="/earth/climate/cli_greengas.html&edu=high&dev=1">greenhouse gas</a>.
Watch the NBC Learn video - <a href="/earth/changing_planet/permafrost_methane_intro.html&edu=high&dev=1">Thawing Permafrost and Methane</a> to find out more.<p><small><em>Image courtesy of the    USGS</em></small></p>An image of Hurricane Sandy taken by the GOES-13 satellite on October 28.  This category 1 <a href="/earth/Atmosphere/hurricane/hurricane.html&edu=high&dev=1">hurricane</a> was huge, spanning a horizontal distance of about one-third the US continental landmass.  The storm came onshore in New Jersey, and gradually moved northeast.  The storm disrupted the lives of tens of millions in the eastern US, doing billions of dollars in damage, resulting in over 30 deaths.  Visit the National Hurricane Center's webpage on <a href="">Hurricane Sandy</a> for details.<p><small><em>Image courtesy of NASA</em></small></p>As temperatures rise and soil moisture decreases, plants are stressed, which can lead to <a href="/earth/climate/crops_withering.html&edu=high&dev=1">crop withering</a>. <a href="/teacher_resources/online_courses/health/events_health.html&edu=high&dev=1">Droughts</a> accompanied by increased temperatures can lead to famine, social and political disruptions. Scientists are  helping with early identification of drought that might trigger food shortages. Watch the NBC Learn video - <a href="/earth/changing_planet/withering_crops_intro.html&edu=high&dev=1">Changing Planet: Withering Crops</a> to find out more.<p><small><em>Image taken by Tomas Castelazo, Creative Commons <a href=&quot;;>Attribution 3.0 Unported</a> license.</em></small></p>According to <a href="">NASA scientists</a>, the Voyager 1 spacecraft entered interstellar space in August 2012, becoming the first spacecraft to leave the <a href="/our_solar_system/solar_system.html&edu=high&dev=1">solar system</a>. The space probe is about 19 billion km from the <a href="/sun/sun.html&edu=high&dev=1">Sun</a>.  <a href="/space_missions/voyager.html&edu=high&dev=1">Voyager 1 and 2</a> were launched in 1977 on a <a href="/space_missions/voyager.html&edu=high&dev=1">mission</a> that flew them both by <a href="/jupiter/jupiter.html&edu=high&dev=1">Jupiter</a> and <a href="/saturn/saturn.html&edu=high&dev=1">Saturn</a>, with Voyager 2 continuing to <a href="/uranus/uranus.html&edu=high&dev=1">Uranus</a> and <a href="/neptune/neptune.html&edu=high&dev=1">Neptune</a>. Voyager 2 is the longest continuously operated spacecraft. It is about 15 billion km away from the <a href="/sun/sun.html&edu=high&dev=1">Sun</a>.<p><small><em>Image courtesy of NASA</em></small></p>The spinning vortex of <a href="">Saturn</a>'s north polar storm resembles a giant deep red rose surrounded by green foliage in this false-color <a href="">image</a> from NASA's <a href="">Cassini spacecraft</a>. The eye is 2,000 kilometers across with cloud speeds as fast as 150 meters per second.
It is not known how long this newly discovered north-polar <a href="">hurricane</a> has been active.
The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 419,000 kilometers from Saturn.<p><small><em>NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI</em></small></p>New observations by the MESSENGER spacecraft provide  support for the hypothesis that Mercury harbors abundant water ice and other frozen volatile materials in its permanently shadowed (shown in red) polar craters. Areas where polar deposits of ice imaged by Earth-based radar are shown in yellow.<p><small><em>Image courtesy of NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington/National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, Arecibo Observatory</em></small></p>

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA