Space Probes

New organic compounds discovered on Saturn's moon Enceladus

An article published in the journal “Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society” reports the identification of organic compounds on Enceladus, the moon of Saturn which became famous in the last decade after the discovery of an underground ocean. A team of researchers led by Nozair Khawaja used data collected by the Cassini space probe’s Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA) to identify compounds that could be (di)methylamine, ethylamine and carbonyls in ice grains from the surface of Enceladus. They aren’t the first organic compounds that are formed on Enceladus and represent another interesting discovery in the search for life forms on that moon.

Collapsing cliffs and bouncing boulders on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

At the EPSC-DPS conference taking place in Geneva, Switzerland, new evidence was presented that on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko there are collapsing cliffs and bouncing boulders. Some scientists examined the approximately 76,000 high-resolution photographs taken by the ESA’s Rosetta space probe’s OSIRIS camera to study the activity on the comet’s surface in the period in which it was active.

The vibrations of Saturn's rings used to reconstruct the impacts on the planet

An article published in “The Astrophysical Journal” reports a research on variations in the gravitational field of the planet Saturn due to internal vibrations. Yanqin Wu of the University of Toronto and Yoram Lithwick of Northwestern University used data collected by the Cassini space probe during its ring flybys to study the phenomenon, concluding that Saturn’s vibrations were caused by past impacts that made the planet sort of ring like a bell.

Photo of asteroid Ryugu's soil taken by the ONC-W1 camera (Photo courtesy JAXA. All rights reserved)

A few hours ago the Japanese space probe Hayabusa 2 touched down on the soil of asteroid Ryugu to collect some subsurface samples that will be transported to Earth. This is the second attempt of the three possible at the start of the mission. After the first sample taken on February 22, 2019, the Japanese space agency JAXA decided to proceed with a second attempt in another area to then finish Ryugu’s study and return to Earth with the samples taken.

Dust storms observed near Mars' northern polar cap

ESA has published images of dust storms sighted at the edge of the northern polar cap of the planet Mars between May 22 and June 10, 2019. The Mars Express space probe’s High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) and Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC) instruments allowed to observe at least eight different storms that formed and dissipated very quickly for a duration between one and three days each during which they moved to the equator and the ancient volcanoes Olympus Mons and Elysium Mons. Those are short-lived local phenomena, small compared to the global storm that covered the entire planet last year, but help to understand the processes taking place in the Martian atmosphere.