Space Probes

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.

An independent confirmation of a methane peak on Mars

An article published in the journal “Nature Geoscience” reports an independent confirmation of the detection of a methane peak on the planet Mars, east of Gale Crater, where NASA’s Mars Rover Curiosity is operating and detected the presence of methane. However, a team of researchers led by Marco Giuranna of the Italian National Astrophysics Institute in Rome used measurements of ESA’s Mars Express space probe’s PFS instrument to find methane. Independent detections carried out in orbit and on the ground with very different instruments are crucial in this research because methane can be produced by biological processes but also by geological processes.

A preserved river channel on Mars (Image NASA/JPL/Univ. Arizona/UChicago)

An article published in the journal “Science Advances” reports the results of a research on the ancient rivers that existed on the planet Mars that lead to think that they existed until less than a billion years ago. A team of researchers coordinated by the University of Chicago cataloged over 200 ancient rivers by analyzing model and photos showing the traces of their beds to obtain a conclusion that goes against what the scientists who studied the red planet generally think of, that is, rivers and rainfall disappeared over 3 billion years ago.