Space Probes

Blogs about space probes: launch and operations.

Illustration of Jupiter, Europa, magnetic field lines and the Galileo space probe (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Michigan)

An article published in the journal “Nature Astronomy” describes a new examination of data about Europa, one of the great moons of Jupiter, collected in 1997 by NASA’s Galileo space probe. A team of researchers used new computer models to interpret an anomaly in the magnetic field around Europa that had remained unexplained. The result of the new examination is that the anomaly was generated by plumes of water vapor containing various compounds, a new proof of their existence.

Electron magnetic reconnection's scheme

An article published in the journal “Nature” describes the discovery of a new type of magnetic reconnection. A team of researchers used data collected by NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) space probes to discover this phenomenon occurring in a boundary layer between the supersonic solar wind and the Earth’s magnetic field called magnetosheath. What was called electron magnetic reconnection is very different from the standard phenomenon and converts magnetic energy into high speed electron jets.

Ganymede (Image NASA)

An article published in the journal “Geophysical Research Letters” describes a new analysis of data collected by NASA’s Galileo space probe during its flybys of Ganymede, one of Jupiter’s great moons. Glyn Collinson of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and some colleagues reused the old flight software to process the data discovering new information on its magnetic field, in particular on its auroras and on the magnetic reconnection phenomena.

Gaia's sky DR2 map (Image ESA/Gaia/DPAC)

ESA has published the second 3D map of the Milky Way and neighbouring galaxies obtained from the Gaia space probe, the most detailed of this type ever produced. This catalog, built thanks to what was called Data Release 2 (DR2), greatly expands the first map released by ESA in September 2016.

The Gaia space probe was launched on December 19, 2013 with the aim of creating a highly accurate 3D map of the Milky Way’s stars but also to catalog billions of other celestial objects, not only stars but also galaxies. Gaia began its scientific activity in July 2014, the first map included data collected until September 2015, the DR2 includes the following 8 months of observations.

Ismenia Patera (Image ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

ESA has published new images of a crater called Ismenia Patera on the planet Mars captured by the Mars Express space probe. The red planet is full of craters but this is unique because generally those formations are the result of a meteorite impact while Ismenia Patera could be what remains of a supervolcano that was active when Mars was very young. A very violent volcanic activity may have caused the destruction of other traces of a supervolcano at the same time creating the strange, somewhat irregular formation we see today.