NASA unveiled the first of the long-awaited photographs taken by the New Horizons spacecraft during its Pluto flyby that took place on July 14. They reveal among other things the presence of mountains even 3,500 meters (11,000 feet) high. A photo of Charon taken on July 13 was also released and it shows several fractures on its crust. These close-up images show geological activity on both Pluto and Charon, an unexpected fact.
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.
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.
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.
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.