Space Probes

Blogs about space probes: launch and operations.

The infrared variations seen by a ground-based telescope in Jupiter's North Equatorial Belt between May 2001 and December 2011.

An article published in the journal “Nature Astronomy” reports a solution to the mystery of the change in color of some belts of the planet Jupiter’s atmosphere. A team of researchers used data collected by NASA’s Juno space probe to link those changes to the planet’s magnetic field. Scientists already knew the connection with variations in the infrared band, which means the propagation of electromagnetic field energy, about 50 kilometers below Jupiter’s surface. This new study brings evidence that the variations may in turn be caused by waves produced by the planetary magnetic field at depth.

The JUICE space probe blasting off atop an Ariane 5 ECA rocket (Image courtesy Arianespace)

A little while ago, ESA’s JUICE (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer) space probe was launched atop an Ariane 5 ECA rocket from the Kourou base in French Guiana. After about 27 minutes, it successfully separated from the rocket’s last stage and began the long journey that will take it to Jupiter orbit, where it will conduct its scientific mission, focused on the largest planet in the solar system’s so-called icy moons: Ganymede, Europa, and Callisto.

Ryugu, the Hayabusa 2 space probe and the molecules of uracil and vitamin B3

An article published in the journal “Nature Communications” reports the discovery of uracil, one of the bases of RNA, and niacin, i.e. vitamin B3, in the samples of asteroid Ryugu brought back to Earth by the Japanese Hayabusa 2 space probe. A team of researchers led by Yasuhiro Oba of Japan’s Hokkaido University developed an analytical technique to identify compounds in concentrations between parts per billion and parts per trillion to analyze just over 5 grams of samples.

A set of what are called super images that show Io's volcanic hot spots at different times when this moon was subject to observations

An article published in the journal “Geophysical Research Letters” reports the most accurate map created so far of the volcanoes of Io, one of the planet Jupiter’s Galilean moons. A team of researchers led by Francesca Zambon of the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics used data collected by the Juno space probe’s JIRAM instrument in a NASA mission that also sees the collaboration of the Italian Space Agency regarding JIRAM. The surveys made it possible to identify 242 volcanic hot spots, 23 of which had not been previously detected. The new hot spots were identified mainly in the polar regions, an achievement possible thanks to Juno’s orbit.

Sand dunes covered by frost on Mars (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

To celebrate the winter solstice on Earth and the start of winter in the northern hemisphere, NASA has released some photos captured on Mars by its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter space probe’s HiRISE camera showing what some Martian areas look like when it’s winter on the red planet. Seeing snowfall is still beyond the possibilities of the available instruments but frozen or at least frost-covered landscapes show some of the marvels of Mars.