Space Probes

Picture of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko near the perihelion (Photo ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

During the day yesterday the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko passed the perihelion, the point of closest approach to the Sun. ESA’s Rosetta space probe was at a distance of about 327 kilometers (about 203 miles) and with its NAVCAM instrument took a series of pictures to document the comet’s activities. Thanks to the heat it’s been receiving from the Sun the spectacular jets of gas generated by ice sublimation will continue for a few weeks.

Photo of the surface of the area of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko known as Agilkia taken by the Philae lander from a 9 m height (Photo ESA/Rosetta/Philae/ROLIS/DLR)

A special issue of the journal “Science” describes an early analysis of data collected by the lander Philae in its descent to the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Its mission was short and ESA engineers can’t get a stable contact after those of recent weeks but the data collected were very helpful. Another very interesting study just appeared about the interaction of the comet with the solar wind.

Topographic map of the dwarf planet Ceres (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

NASA published the first topographic maps of the dwarf planet Ceres made using data collected by its Dawn space probe. They show a very diverse surface, full of craters and mountains with differences between the bottom of the craters and the mountain peaks that can reach 15 kilometers (about 9 miles). Meanwhile, the IAU (International Astronomical Union) approved a series of names for various geological features of Ceres.

Area on Pluto where there are flowing glaciers (Photo NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

The scientists working at NASA’s New Horizons mission keep on analyzing the photographs that the spacecraft is sending after its July 14, 2015 flyby with the dwarf planet Pluto. The ones received in recent days show that in the heart-shaped area there are flowing glaciers and that in the atmosphere there are thick layers of haze that reach an altitude of 130 kilometers (about 80 miles).

Artistic representation of the Dawn space probe over the dwarf planet Ceres (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

NASA’s Dawn space probe resumed its activities moving down to an altitude of about 3.900 kilometers (about 2,400 miles) over the dwarf planet Ceres in order to proceed with the mapping operations that will provide images at unprecedented resolution. This task was supposed to start at the end of June but due to an anomaly the spacecraft entered the “safe mode” in which it stops its activities awaiting instructions.