Moons

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.

Pluto and Charon (Image NASA-JHUAPL-SwRI))

An article published in the journal “Icarus” describes a research on Charon, the biggest moon of the dwarf planet Pluto, and on one aspect of the relationship between the two of them. A team of researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology made a series of computer simulations that indicate that the passage of Charon between Pluto and the Sun slows the dwarf planet’s atmosphere loss. The predictions are consistent with the data collected by NASA’s New Horizons space probe.

Mare Orientale seen by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (Photo NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)

Two articles published in the journal “Science” provide new information about the birth of Mare Orientale, a big impact basin on the Moon. Researchers used data collected by NASA’s GRAIL mission to reconstruct the formation of Mare Orientale, helping to better understand how impact craters with concentric circular structures form.

Dione (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

An article published in the journal “Geophysical Research Letters” describes a research on Dione and Enceladus, two of the planet Saturn’s moons. Using data collected by the Cassini space probe, Mikael Beuthe, Attilio Rivoldini and Antony Trinh of the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Brussels calculated in a new way the two moons’ icy crust thickness concluding that Dione has an underground ocean as well.