Space Probes

Asteroid Bennu revealed various surprises

Seven articles published in the magazines “Nature”, “Nature Astronomy”, “Nature Geoscience” and “Nature Communications” report a series of research results about asteroid Bennu. Hundreds of scientists used data gathered by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx space probe to study in particular various aspects of Bennu’s geology. The results will be useful in various other studies, from those about the origin of life’s building blocks that sowed the Earth to those about the solar system’s formation, including some practical ones such as the search for an area on which OSIRIS-REx can descend to take samples to assessments of the danger posed by asteroids such as Bennu.

The InSight lander seen by the TGO (Image ESA/Roscosmos/CaSSIS, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

ESA has published a series of photos taken by its TGO space probe’s CaSSIS camera, part of the ExoMars mission run together with the Russian space agency Roscosmos. CaSSIS found NASA’s InSight lander on the surface of Mars along with its heat shield, the back shell that protected it during the descent and its parachute. In the course of its mission, CaSSIS also captured extraordinary images of various areas of the red planet showing the great potential to help researchers in their studies.

Mars basin that could host a lake (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

An article published in the “Journal of Geophysical Research – Planets” report geological evidence that on planet Mars in ancient times there was a system of interconnected underground lakes and five of them could contain minerals essential for life. A team of researchers used data collected by ESA’s Mars Express space probe to investigate what are now basins, deep craters in the red planet’s northern hemisphere, finding evidence that they once housed lakes.

Traces of an ancient river system on Mars

ESA has published some images of an ancient system of trenches and river valleys near a large crater with a diameter of over 450 kilometers north of the great Hellas Planitia basin on the planet Mars obtained thanks to the Mars Express space probe’s High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC). The signs of water flow are mixed with the craters caused by impacts occurred between 3.5 and 4 billion years ago in that area of ​​the Martian southern hemisphere showing the different processes that were taking place when the red planet was young and much more similar to the Earth.

Circular features and pits on Ultima Thule

NASA and The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory have published some photos of the Kuiper belt object cataloged as 2014 MU69 and nicknamed Ultima Thule taken by the New Horizons space probe’s LORRI camera only six minutes before its maximum approach. At only 6,628 kilometers (4,109 miles) from it and at its very high speed there was the risk of not being able to perfectly aim at a such a small object but the operation was successful.