Space Probes

Blogs about space probes: launch and operations.

Scheme of the molecular oxygen production process (Image courtesy Caltech)

An article published in the journal “Nature Communications” provides an explanation for the presence of oxygen molecules on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Konstantinos Giapis, a chemical engineer at Caltech, conducted this research after noting that the chemical reactions that took place on the comet’s surface were similar to those he had been generating for years. The most likely hypothesis initially offered was that it had “survived” since the solar system’s formation but perhaps the correct explanation has now been found.

Some data from the RPWS instrument (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Iowa)

The first results of the analysis of the data collected by the Cassini space probe during its dive into the space between the planet Saturn and its rings on April 26, 2017 provided a remarkable surprise. The researchers discovered that Cassini’s instruments recorded very few particles during the crossing of that space and all of them were tiny, around a micron across. This is a mystery to which the researchers hope to find an explanation.

The heliosphere according to the latest measurements (Image Dialynas, et al.)

An article published in the journal Nature Astronomy describes a research on the shape of the heliosphere, the “bubble” in which the solar wind density is greater than that of interstellar matter. A team led by Kostas Dialynas of the Academy of Athens used data collected by four space probes – Cassini, the two Voyagers and IBEX (Interstellar Boundary Explorer) – to prove that the heliosphere has an approximately spherical shape and not extended with a tail as seemed much more likely.

The storm at Saturn's north pole (Photo NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

NASA started publishing the first photos taken by the Cassini space probe after its descent into the gap between the planet Saturn and its rings. These are the closest photos taken during a risky maneuver for Cassini, performed only because within a few months it will end its mission so it was decided that it’s worth taking risks to collect close-range data.

Plumes on Europa (Image NASA, ESA, W. Sparks (STScI), and the USGS Astrogeology Science Center)

Yesterday, NASA held a press conference to explain the latest news about the studies of alien oceans. The attention was focused on the two most popular underground oceans, the one in Jupiter’s satellite Europa and the one in Saturn’s satellite Enceladus. There are confirmations of plumes from Europa, also described in an article published in “The Astrophysical Journal Letters”. The presence of molecular hydrogen in the Enceladus ocean was announced, also described in an article published in the journal “Science”.