February 2016

The area around Pluto's North Pole (Image NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

NASA’s New Horizons space probe sent photographs of the area around the dwarf planet Pluto’s north pole taken during the extraordinary July 14, 2015 flyby. The images reveal a series of canyons long and wide in the polar area that at its bottom is about 1,200 km (750 miles) wide. It’s part of the region informally called Lowell Regio after the astronomer Percival Lowell, the founder of the observatory where Pluto was discovered.

Field of view of the Parkes radio telescope. On the right two zoom-ins and at the bottom an image from the Subaru telescope (Image courtesy D. Kaplan (UWM), E. F. Keane (SKAO))

An article published in the journal “Nature” describes research that has uncovered the place of origin of a Fast Radio Burst (FRB). These radio signals that last only a few milliseconds are picked up with no phenomenon that might warn about its arrival. An international team of astronomers used observations made by optical and radio telescopes to trace the origin of this phenomenon.

Artist’s impression of the exoplanet 55 Cancri e in front of its parent star (Image ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser)

An article published in the journal “The Astrophysical Journal” describes a research on the planet 55 Cancri e focused in particular on its atmosphere. This is the first study of its kind involving a super-Earth and was carried out in an innovative way using the Hubble Space Telescope. 55 Cancri e has already been the subject of several studies and about four years ago was the first super-Earth directly observed.

Charon's surface and in particular the area called Serenity Chasma (Image NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

The analysis of the photographs of Charon, the largest of Pluto’s moons, suggests that once it had an underground ocean that at some point froze causing the expansion of its surface layer. That event could explain the presence of a very long fracture on its surface, a kind of huge scar that devastates its equator.