March 2019

Asteroid Ryugu (Image courtesy Seiji Sugita et al., Science)

Three articles published in the journal “Science” describe as many researches on asteroid Ryugu. Three teams of researchers used the data collected by the Japanese space agency JAXA’s Hayabusa2 space probe to obtain the first precise descriptions of the characteristics of Ryugu and in particular its geology. The portrait that comes out is that of a porous asteroid containing hydrated minerals and at the same time very little water. It probably formed by a part of the debris of a larger asteroid that got destroyed.

The galaxy MACS0416_Y1 seen by ALMA and Hubble (Image ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, Tamura, et al.)

An article published in “The Astrophysical Journal” describes a study on the galaxy MACS0416_Y1. A team of researchers led by Professor Yoichi Tamura of the Japanese University of Nagoya used the ALMA radio telescope to observe a galaxy we see as it was about 13.2 billion years ago. The surprising discovery is the considerable amount of interstellar dust present within it, explained by two intense periods of star formation that took place around 300 million and 600 million years after the Big Bang with a quiet phase between them.

Asteroid Bennu revealed various surprises

Seven articles published in the magazines “Nature”, “Nature Astronomy”, “Nature Geoscience” and “Nature Communications” report a series of research results about asteroid Bennu. Hundreds of scientists used data gathered by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx space probe to study in particular various aspects of Bennu’s geology. The results will be useful in various other studies, from those about the origin of life’s building blocks that sowed the Earth to those about the solar system’s formation, including some practical ones such as the search for an area on which OSIRIS-REx can descend to take samples to assessments of the danger posed by asteroids such as Bennu.

A binary system formed by high mass newborn stars

An article published in the journal “Nature Astronomy” describes the first observation of a binary system formed by high mass newborn stars. A team of researchers used the ALMA radio telescope to study a star-forming region cataloged as IRAS07299-1651 where a cloud of gas and dust is collapsing adding materials to two protostars that have similar masses for a total of at least 18 solar masses and must still reach a state of stability. The observations indicate that this pair was born from the division of a single disk of gas and dust and now each of the two protostars is surrounded by its own disk.

The InSight lander seen by the TGO (Image ESA/Roscosmos/CaSSIS, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

ESA has published a series of photos taken by its TGO space probe’s CaSSIS camera, part of the ExoMars mission run together with the Russian space agency Roscosmos. CaSSIS found NASA’s InSight lander on the surface of Mars along with its heat shield, the back shell that protected it during the descent and its parachute. In the course of its mission, CaSSIS also captured extraordinary images of various areas of the red planet showing the great potential to help researchers in their studies.