Planets

The InSight lander and the MarCO nanosatellites blasting off atop an Atlas V 401 rocket (Image NASA TV)

A few hours ago NASA’s InSight lander was launched together with the two Mars Cube One nanosatellites from the Vandenberg base on an Atlas V 401 rocket. After about 1.5 hours they separated from the rocket’s last stage, called Centaur, and went en route to Mars.

The InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) mission aims to investigate the geology of the planet Mars. A lander equipped with a seismometer, a thermal sensor and other instruments that will analyze the red planet’s internal structure. This will allow to obtain new data on its formation, also contributing to the existing models on the formation of rocky planets such as the Earth.

The Grand Canyon and Mars

An article published in the journal “Nature Geoscience” describes a research on the possible rainfall that occurred on the planet Mars when it was young. Ramses Ramirez and Robert Craddock, two scientists who have been studying the red planet’s geological and climatic history for years, claim that about 4 billion years ago the climate could be warm and semi-arid with rainfall.

Ismenia Patera (Image ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

ESA has published new images of a crater called Ismenia Patera on the planet Mars captured by the Mars Express space probe. The red planet is full of craters but this is unique because generally those formations are the result of a meteorite impact while Ismenia Patera could be what remains of a supervolcano that was active when Mars was very young. A very violent volcanic activity may have caused the destruction of other traces of a supervolcano at the same time creating the strange, somewhat irregular formation we see today.

Almahata Sitta meteorite fragment

An article published in the journal “Nature Communications” describes a study of microscopic diamonds discovered inside the Almahata Sitta meteorite, a fragment of a larger meteorite exploded in the Earth’s atmosphere on October 7, 2008. A team of researchers analyzed those diamonds concluding that they contain compounds that can only form within a planet, so they must be the remnants of a lost planet with a size between that of Mercury and Mars.

An infrared 3-D image of Jupiter's North Pole (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM)

During the general assembly of the European Geosciences Union General Assembly in Vienna, scientists of NASA’s Juno mission showed a 3D map that reproduces cyclones and anticyclones in the planet Jupiter’s polar regions. In particular, they created an animation of a flight over the North Pole. Using data collected by the Juno space probe they were also able to create the first detailed view of the dynamo that powers the planet’s magnetic field.