Space Probes

Ultima Thule image on the cover of Science (Image NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Roman Tkachenko)

An article published in the journal “Science” reports the initial results of the exploration of the Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69 nicknamed Ultima Thule by NASA’s New Horizons space probe. There are no particular surprises after the ones arrived thanks to the first images sent to the Earth but the following high-resolution ones along with spectrometric data and other data sent allowed to put together some more details about its characteristics from the mission team.

There may still be tectonic activity on the Moon

An article published in the journal “Nature Geoscience” offers clues to the fact that the Moon may still be tectonically active. A team of researchers analyzed images captured by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) space probe in 2010 discovering thousands of tectonic faults generated by the Moon’s progressive shrinking as it cooled down. Some researchers have been working on these geological analyzes since those photos were taken but initially they brought clues about a recent activity while the new clues indicate that an activity still exists.

A measurement of the temperatures on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

An article published in the journal “Nature Astronomy” reports a series of measurements of the temperature of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko’s nucleus obtained thanks to ESA’s Rosetta space probe’s VIRTIS instrument. A team of researchers led by Federico Tosi of the National Institute of Astrophysics’ Space Astrophysics and Planetology Institute in Rome, Italy, used the infrared images captured by VIRTIS to generate thermal maps from which they obtained the temperatures reconstructing the daily and seasonal variations but also the ones related to its morphological characteristics and the chemical-physical characteristics of the top surface layer.

The Trace Gas Orbiter space probe detected water but not methane on Mars

Two articles published in the journal “Nature” report the main results of the first year of work of ESA and Roscosmos’ Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), part of the ExoMars program. One article concerns the impact of the global storm that covered the planet Mars with a dust on the water in the atmosphere, while the other article reports the lack of methane detections, at least for now frustrating the hopes of discovering its origin. A third article submitted to the journal “Proceedings of the Russian Academy of Science” offers the most detailed map created so far of water ice and hydrated minerals present immediately below the red planet’s surface.

The Hayabusa 2 space probe generated a crater on asteroid Ryugu

A few hours ago the Japanese space probe Hayabusa 2 generated a crater on asteroid Ryugu, an operation that aims to remove materials from its surface to be able to take samples of subsoil materials that weren’t altered by exposure to space weather. The system called Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI) launched a 2.5 kg copper bullet that was fired into the surface by an explosive system. In a couple of weeks, Hayabusa 2 is scheduled to return to the site to take debris samples.