Planets

Pluto

NASA has published new images of the dwarf planet Pluto and its largest moon Charon which reproduce with the greatest possible accuracy their natural colors. This processing celebrates the 3rd anniversary of the New Horizons space probe’s July 14, 2015 flyby, but also the 40th anniversary of the discovery of Charon, identified by the astronomer James Christy on June 22, 1978 and confirmed in the following days thanks to other observations.

Mars

NASA has activated all the possibilities of close study of the global dust storm that is affecting the planet Mars. This type of event usually occurs once every three or four Martian years (between six and eight Earth’s years) but it is still unclear how a dust storm that starts on a small scale can grow to the point of enveloping the entire planet. Space probes in orbit are studying the phenomenon in various ways and the Mars Rover Curiosity is collecting data on the ground while the situation of the Mars Rover Opportunity is difficult because it can’t use its solar panels so it went into hibernation.

Cerealia Facula in Occator Crater (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

At the Committee on SPAce Research (COSPAR) meeting held this week in Pasadena, NASA’s JPL scientists are presenting the latest information gathered by NASA’s Dawn space probe about the dwarf planet Ceres. In particular, there’s an attention on Occator Crater, the most famous crater thanks to its brightness due to the various bright spots made of salts inside it, now called faculae. In the next few months Dawn will finish its mission but will continue to collect data from the lowest orbit at only 34-35 kilometers (about 21 miles) of altitude.

Artitst's concept of Enceladus and Saturn (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Two articles published in the journal “Geophysical Research Letters” describe studies concerning the planet Saturn’s system based on information obtained from the Cassini space probe during what was called the Grand Finale, the orbits close to Saturn performed in the weeks preceding the end of that extraordinary mission. In particular, the audio was generated that contains sound obtained by converting the electromagnetic emissions discovered between Saturn and its rings and Enceladus generated by movements of plasma between them.

Jupiter and its aurora

An article published in the journal “Science” describes a research on the influence shown on the aurorae at Jupiter’s poles by its moons Io and Ganymede. A team led by Alessandro Mura of the National Institute for Astrophysics in Rome, Italy, analyzed data collected in particular from the NASA’s Juno space probe’s JIRAM instrument, discovering that Io leaves a series of long traces in Jupiter’s aurorae while Ganymede leaves a double “shadow” in them.