July 2017

Rendering of the Falcon Heavy on Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center (Image SpaceX)

This week, Elon Musk spoke at the International Space Station (ISS) Research & Development Conference held in Washington and provided some updates about the developments in SpaceX programs for the near future. After a number of years of important statements, including the ones about expeditions to Mars, on the contrary this time he had to slow down explaining that there are changes and a number of delays, but suggesting that more news will come in the future.

The possible impact area on Mars (Image MOLA Science Team)

An article published in “Geophysical Research Letters” describes a study that attributes to a gigantic meteoric impact on Mars’ northern hemisphere almost 4.5 billion years ago some of the red planet’s features. According to Stephen Mojzsis of University of Colorado Boulder and Ramon Brasser of Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan that’s the cause of the presence of rare metals, of the differences between the northern and southern hemisphere and perhaps even the existence of its two moons.

The 5 H.E.S.S. telescopes (Photo H.E.S.S., MPIK/Christian Foehr)

An article published in the journal “Physical Review Letters” describes a new interpretation of observations made with NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and the High Energy Stereoscopic System (H.E.S.S.) observatory in Namibia. According to a team of Italian researchers led by Daniele Gaggero of the University of Amsterdam, at the center of the Milky Way there’s a kind of trap that focuses there some of the highest energy cosmic rays, the fastest particle of the galaxy.

Libya Montes (Image ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, , CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

ESA has published images of the area of the planet Mars known as Libya Montes taken by its Mars Express space probe. It’s a mountain range near the Martian equator and is one of the oldest in Mars, altered by volcanic processes and impacts but also by processes associated with the existence of rivers. In the pictures it’s possible to identify various channels and valleys, traces of the ancient water streams.

Maps of Pluto and Charon (Image NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/LPI)

On the occasion of the second anniversary of the New Horizons space probe’s Pluto flyby, NASA has published a map of the dwarf planet and its largest moon, Charon. The American Space Agency has also created two videos that partially reproduce that flight concentrating one on Pluto and one on Charon. They provide a truly unique perspective, giving the impression of being on board a spaceship flying by those celestial bodies.