Our view of the solar system has drastically changed over the past 15 years thanks to impressive new findings made possible by space missions and new powerful telescopes.
Breathtaking images of plumes of water ejected from the moons of Saturn and Jupiter, lakes of methane on Titan and a close encounter of Pluto have expanded our understanding of the diversity of worlds that can be encountered in the solar system. Robotic missions and landers have provided conclusive evidence for the presence of surface water in the distant past of Mars.
The detection of several new dwarf planets inhabiting the outskirts of the solar system has revealed the existence of large objects whose presence was completely ignored until a few years ago. Thanks to the new knowledge gathered by pioneering space missions, new radical ideas have emerged about the formation and evolution of the solar system.
There are many novel sites and environments where scientists hope to find life in the coming future, from the atmosphere of Venus to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn and even the depths of Pluto and other dwarf planets. The discovery of Earth-like exoplanets orbiting other stars has also expanded the possibilities to find life elsewhere in our galaxy.
Some of these objects show a promising similarity with our planet, whereas others are far more extreme than the giants of our solar system. Images by the latest space missions illustrate this journey through the solar system from the scorching surface of Mercury to the mysterious Kuiper belt, the most distant frontier visited by human-made spacecrafts.