NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is approaching the dwarf planet Ceres. On February 12, 2015, when it was at a distance of about 83,000 kilometers (about 52,000 miles), it took some pictures that show us Ceres with a quality never seen before, allowing us to see its craters. The photos taken previously had puzzled scientists for the presence of some white spots but the new images don’t solve the mystery.
Since July 2014, NASA’s space probe Cassini has been accomplishing its mission exploring Saturn and its moons, including Titan. Its SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) instrument allowed to map almost half of the surface of this satellite, allowing to know its geological features like never before. Now these surveys can offer even more details thanks to a new technique that improves their quality.
The images created thanks to the Cassini space probe’s SAR are “grainy”, like photographs of limited quality. Scientists must strive to interpret the smaller geological features or to identify changes in images of the same area taken at different times. The new technique called despeckling by its developers is improving the situation.
The DSCOVR (Deep Space Climate Observatory) satellite was launched a few hours ago on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral. The spacecraft successfully separated from the rocket’s last stage after about half an hour and inserted in the trajectory that will bring it to its destination. It also deployed its solar panels and sent the first signals, confirming that it’s working properly.
DSCOVR will be placed in an area called L1, about a half million kilometers (about 930,000 miles) from Earth, where the planet and the Sun’s gravity are balanced. There it will begin its mission of observation of the solar wind after the test period, that will last about 40 days.
A few hours ago the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft ended its CRS-5 (Cargo Resupply Service 5) mission for NASA splashing down without problems in the Pacific Ocean about 400 km (about 260 miles) off the coast of California. The Dragon left the International Space Station yesterday evening, American time.
Shortly after splashing down, the Dragon was recovered by the SpaceX boats that will transport it to the coast. The cargo brought back to Earth should be delivered to NASA today. The Dragon spacecraft reached the International Space Station on January 12, 2015.
Yesterday, NASA released the first photographs of the dwarf planet Pluto and its main satellite Charon taken by the space probe New Horizons after its awakening. The spacecraft was still over 200 million kilometers (about 126 million miles) away from Pluto but February 4, 2015 was the 109th anniversary of the birth of Clyde Tombaugh, who in 1930 discovered the dwarf planet. A small portion of Tombaugh’s ashes were placed aboard New Horizons.