Space Probes

New estimates of Saturn's characteristics include the age of its rings

An article published in the journal “Science” describes a research on the planet Saturn that includes an analysis of its internal structure but also on its evolution, which includes its rings’. A team of researchers led by Luciano Iess of the Sapienza University of Rome, Italy, used data collected by the Cassini space probe to determine that the winds on Saturn reach a depth of about 9,000 kilometers and that the rings were formed not more than 100 million years ago.

Artist’s impression of crystallisation in white dwarf (Image courtesy University of Warwick/Mark Garlick. All rights reserved)

An article published in “Nature” shows the evidence that in white dwarfs oxygen and carbon slowly crystallize from their cores. A team of researchers used data collected by ESA’s Gaia space probe that include distance, brightness and color of hundreds of thousands of white dwarfs analyzing over 15,000 candidates within 300 light years away from Earth to collect evidence of the crystallization process. This is the first verification of a prediction dating back to the beginning of the 1960s.

Ultima Thule offers the first answers but leaves many questions open

In a press briefing that included a number of scientists working on NASA’s New Horizons mission, the first discoveries on the Kuiper Belt object cataloged as 2014 MU69 and nicknamed Ultima Thule were presented, obtained thanks to data received during the January 1, 2019 flyby. They’re based on information that’s still incomplete, which could be contradicted by high resolution photos and other data but for the moment this object doesn’t appear to have neither moons nor rings, or at least not of relevant sizes, no impact craters were found on its surface nor were traces of atmosphere.

Ultima Thule is made up of two smaller asteroids

NASA published the first detailed images of the Kuiper Belt object cataloged as 2014 MU69 and nicknamed Ultima Thule. Captured by the New Horizons space probe’s LORRI and MVIC instruments approximately 90 to 30 minutes before its closest approach, they finally clearly show this object’s double-lobe structure. In jargon, it’s called a contact binary and is the result of two close objects that collide at low speed and end up merging. The larger lobe has been nicknamed Ultima and the smaller Thule.