Moons

Blogs about any natural satellite.

Enceladus with some tiger stripes in blue (Image NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

An article published in the journal “Nature Astronomy” describes the discovery that the south pole of Enceladus, one of the planet Saturn’s moons, is warmer than expected under the icy surface. A team of researchers led by Alice Le Gall of LATMOS and UVSQ studied detections carried out by the Cassini space probe during a flyby in 2011 concluding that the underground ocean on Enceladus is closer to the surface than previously thought.

The Dragon V2 spacecraft presented by Elon Musk (Photo courtesy SpaceX. All rights reserved)

Elon Musk, SpaceX founder and CEO, has announced that his company was hired to send two people on a private journey around the Moon in 2018. Musk didn’t reveal the two persons’ identity nor indicated the journey’s cost but merely stated that they have already paid a substantial deposit. The journey will be made on the Dragon V2 spacecraft, the version developed precisely for manned missions, which will be launched on a Falcon Heavy rocket.

Simulation of a planet collision and the birth of a moon (Image courtesy Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

An article published in the journal “Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society” describes a research about the possible formation of large moons following the collision of two planets. Megan Bruk Syal and Amy Barr of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory conducted a series of simulations to understand what factors influence the birth of big moons. This study offers new hope in the search for exomoons orbiting exoplanets studied with NASA’s Kepler space telescope.

SpaceIL lander (Image courtesy SpaceIL)

The Google Lunar XPRIZE announced the $1 million Diversity Prize, which will be split among the 16 teams participating in the competition. The most important announcement concerns the 5 teams that are advancing to the final phase of the competition having proved they have valid contracts for the launch of their vehicle to the Moon by December 31, 2016. The final goal is to bring a robotic spacecraft to the Moon that after the landing has to travel at least 500 meters on the surface and send images and data back to Earth.

The big Mimas' mountain seen by the Cassini space probe

NASA has published a new photo taken by the Cassini space probe of Mimas, one of Saturn’s moons, which provides an excellent perspective view of the mountain in the center of Herschel crater, which is not huge in absolute terms but has a diameter which is almost a third of that of Mimas. The mountain is high even by Earth standards with at least 6 kilometers (4 miles) above the crater’s floor and stands out even more on the small moon.