Space Probes

Picture of the lonly mountain on Ceres taken by the Dawn space probe (Photo NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is carrying out a mapping of the dwarf planet Ceres and with its camera is capturing extraordinary images better than those available so far, with a resolution of 140 meters (450 feet) per pixel. Among the geological features photographed there’s a mountain about 6 kilometers (4 miles) high that had already intrigued scientists and public because it looks like a pyramid and its sides are covered with brilliant material.

Examples of the fractures detected on the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (Image ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

While the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko started moving away from the Sun, new studies have been published based on data collected over the past months. An article published in the journal “Geophysical Research Letters” describes the exam of the many fractures photographed after the arrival of ESA’s space probe Rosetta. Another article published in the journal “Annales Geophysicae” provides an explanation for the “song” of the comet discovered last year.

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.