Moons

Io and Jupiter

An article accepted for publication in “The Planetary Science Journal” reports a study on Io, one of Jupiter’s satellites, which specifically concerns its volcanoes. A team of researchers led by astronomer Imke de Pater of the University of Berkeley, USA, used the ALMA radio telescope to examine Io’s atmosphere as it enters and leaves Jupiter’s shadow, a phenomenon called an eclipse. That’s because during an eclipse it receives no sunlight, temperatures drop to the point that only the sulfur dioxide emitted by volcanoes is warm enough not to solidify. The conclusion is that between 30% and 40% of Io’s atmosphere is generated by volcanic activity. The researchers also found that some volcanoes emit not sulfur compounds but potassium chloride.

Titan's Lakes

An article published in the journal “The American Astronomical Society” reports a study on the hydrocarbon lakes existing on Titan, the great moon of Saturn, showing its similarities with the Earth’s lakes. A team of researchers led by Jordan Steckloff analyzed data collected by the Cassini space probe and discovered that the lakes of Titan composed of methane, ethane, and nitrogen form layers similar to the ones on Earth. The stratification mechanisms are different because on Earth layers are the consequence of temperature while on Titan they exist because of the particular chemical interactions between the surface liquids and the atmosphere.

Views of Enceladus

An article published in the journal “Icarus” reports a study on the frozen crust on the surface of Enceladus, the moon of Saturn which has an ocean of liquid water under its crust. A team of researchers analyzed data collected by the Cassini space probe’s Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) instrument to obtain the most detailed infrared map of Enceladus’s surface. The map shows a clear correlation between reflected infrared emissions and geological activity, and in some areas, the surface ice turns out to be recent.

Uranus' moons seen by Herschel

An article published in the journal “Astronomy & Astrophysics” reports the results of a research on the five major moons of the planet Uranus. A team of researchers led by Örs H. Detre of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) in Heidelberg, Germany, analyzed data collected by ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory using a new technique that made it possible to obtain new information from the weak signals obtained in the past to determine the physical characteristics of the moons Titania, Oberon, Umbriel, Ariel, and Miranda. The results indicate that they’re similar to the trans-Neptunian dwarf planets while they’re different from other moons of Uranus leaving open the possibility that they were captured by the planet after their formation.

The sample Troctolite 76535

An article published in the journal “Nature Astronomy” reports evidence of significant impacts on the primordial Moon, at least 4.33 billion years ago. A team of researchers carried out a study in particular on the sample cataloged as Troctolite 76535, taken during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972 and brought back to Earth. This specimen contains traces of cubic zirconia, a crystalline form of zirconium oxide that forms above 2370° Celsius, a temperature that could only be reached following violent impacts that could have contributed to the formation of the Moon’s surface.