Space Probes

Blogs about space probes: launch and operations.

Area around Ernutet Crater. In pink the organic materials (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/ASI/INAF)

An article published in the journal “Science” describes the detection of organic materials on the dwarf planet Ceres. A team of researchers coordinated by Maria Cristina De Sanctis of the National Institute for Astrophysics, Italy, used data collected by the VIR spectrometer of NASA’s Dawn space probe to identify aliphatic compounds, one of the two classes of organic materials.

Mercury's north pole. In red the area in shadow. In yellow the ice. (Image NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington/National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, Arecibo Observatory. Updated from N. L. Chabot et al., Journal of Geophysical Research, 117)

An article published in the journal “Icarus” describes a study on the water ice existing in the shadow of several craters of the planet Mercury that aimed to estimate tis amount, which could be much higher than that predicted with glaciers tens of meters thick. The estimates are still approximate and there are still a number of hypotheses about the origin of that water.

The Magellanic Clouds (Image V Belokurov, D Erkal, A Mellinger)

An article published in the journal “Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society” describes the evidence gathered of the existence of a bridge of stars between the two Magellanic Clouds, the two dwarf galaxies satellite of the Milky Way. An international team led by astronomers from the University of Cambridge used data collected by ESA’s Gaia space probe to determine that the bridge is composed not only of gas but also of stars that are old and were stripped from their galaxies.

Mars north pole (Image ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

ESA has published an image of Mars’ northern polar cap. It’s the composition of 32 images captured by the the Mars Express space probe’s High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) instrument during as many passages above Mars’ north pole between 2004 and 2010. That mosaic shows the polar cap’s spiral-shaped troughs.

The big Mimas' mountain seen by the Cassini space probe

NASA has published a new photo taken by the Cassini space probe of Mimas, one of Saturn’s moons, which provides an excellent perspective view of the mountain in the center of Herschel crater, which is not huge in absolute terms but has a diameter which is almost a third of that of Mimas. The mountain is high even by Earth standards with at least 6 kilometers (4 miles) above the crater’s floor and stands out even more on the small moon.