Moons

Pluto and Charon photographed by the New Horizon space probe on July 11, 2015 (Photo NASA-JHUAPL-SWRI)

Today, NASA’s New Horizons space probe will carry out the much anticipated Pluto flyby. When at NASA’s mission control center it’s early morning, it will pass at a distance that will reach a minimum of 12,500 kilometers (about 7,800 miles) from the dwarf planet. All New Horizons’ instruments will be used to analyze Pluto as ever before but some time will be devoted also to its moons, particularly Charon.

Artistic concept of the Phoebe ring with Saturn and the other rings in the middle (Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

An article published in the journal “Nature” describes a research that has revealed the size of the outer ring of the planet Saturn. It’s called Phoebe ring because it’s believed to have been created by dust particles coming from Phoebe, one of Saturn’s moons, as a result of impacts that projected them into space. This ring was discovered in 2009 and immediately its enormous size was noted. This new research using infrared images obtained from NASA’s WISE space telescope shows that it’s even larger than previously thought.

The Pluto system (Image NASA/STScI/Showalter)

An article just published in the journal “Nature” describes a research on Pluto and its moons showing how two of them, Nix and Hydra, spin in an uncontrolled and unpredictable way. This study is based on an analysis of the observations made using the Hubble Space Telescope but because of the considerable distance they’re far from complete. For this reason, it’s possible that the two other small moons of Pluto, Styx and Kerberos, are in the same situation.

Artistic concept of the space probe that will study Europa and its trajectory in the Jupiter's system (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA announced the nine instruments selected for the space probe that will explore Europa, a large Jupiter’s moon. The interest in a mission of this type has grown over the years, since the Galileo space probe found evidence of the existence of Europa’s subsurface ocean. The new mission will try to determine whether that ocean contains life forms.

Hubble Space Telescope images of Ganymede's aurorae colored blue overlaid on a Galileo space probe image of the moon (Image NASA/ESA)

The Hubble Space Telescope has been used to study Ganymede, the largest Jupiter’s moon, and in particular its aurorae. Analyzing their characteristics, it was possible to get the best clues found so far of the existence of a Ganymede underground ocean of liquid salt water. This ocean may contain more water than it exists on the surface of the Earth.