Planets

Artistic concept of the planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA held a press conference to communicate new discoveries in the research on the TRAPPIST-1 star system. These results have also been described in an article published in the journal “Nature”. Using data collected by NASA’s Spitzer Telescope, a team of researchers led by Michaël Gillon of the STAR Institute confirmed the existence of 7 planets in this system, all rocky. Potentially, at least in some region of all those planets there could be liquid water.

Area around Ernutet Crater. In pink the organic materials (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/ASI/INAF)

An article published in the journal “Science” describes the detection of organic materials on the dwarf planet Ceres. A team of researchers coordinated by Maria Cristina De Sanctis of the National Institute for Astrophysics, Italy, used data collected by the VIR spectrometer of NASA’s Dawn space probe to identify aliphatic compounds, one of the two classes of organic materials.

Mercury's north pole. In red the area in shadow. In yellow the ice. (Image NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington/National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, Arecibo Observatory. Updated from N. L. Chabot et al., Journal of Geophysical Research, 117)

An article published in the journal “Icarus” describes a study on the water ice existing in the shadow of several craters of the planet Mercury that aimed to estimate tis amount, which could be much higher than that predicted with glaciers tens of meters thick. The estimates are still approximate and there are still a number of hypotheses about the origin of that water.

Mars north pole (Image ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

ESA has published an image of Mars’ northern polar cap. It’s the composition of 32 images captured by the the Mars Express space probe’s High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) instrument during as many passages above Mars’ north pole between 2004 and 2010. That mosaic shows the polar cap’s spiral-shaped troughs.

Section of Ceres with the materials at and just below its surface (Image Pierre Vernazza, LAM–CNRS/AMU)

An article published in “The Astronomical Journal” describes a research on the surface of the dwarf planet Ceres. Using infrared observations carried out with the SOFIA observatory a team of scientists of the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille, SETI and NASA’s JPL identified the presence of pyroxene, clay and carbonates that so far deceived the researchers, who thought the surface was rich in carbon compounds.