Planets

Artistic representazion of a solar storm stripping gas from Mars atmosphere (Image NASA/GSFC)

Two magazines host a number of articles describing the results of a year of the mission of NASA’s MAVEN space probe, “Science” and “Geophysical Research Letters”. The conclusions about why Mars lost most of its atmosphere were also explained in a NASA press conference held yesterday. Simply put, it was solar wind, which could take away the atmosphere thanks to the absence of a protective magnetic field transforming a planet that was originally similar to Earth in the desolate red planet we know today.

Artist's impression of innumerable Earth-like planets that have yet to be born (Image NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI))

An article just published in the journal “Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society” describes a research on the history and future of the formation of Earth-like planets. A team led by Peter Behroozi of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) used data collected by the Hubble and Kepler space telescopes to evaluate the rate of formation of the Earth-like planets. The conclusion is that only 8% of potentially habitable planets existed at the birth of our solar system.

Picture of Mangala Valles on Mars taken by ESA's Mars Express space probe (Photo ESA/DLR/FU Berlin)

The analysis of photographs of the region of Mars known as Mangala Valles led to the conclusion that it was volcanic activity that generated the heat that caused catastrophic floods through the melting of glaciers. The photographs were taken by ESA’s Mars Express space probe on July 12, 2015 just south of the valley known as Minio Vallis, a part of the canal system of Mangala Valles, near the equator in the western hemisphere of the red planet.

High-resolution picture of Pluto. In the upper right a part of the heart-shaped area (Photo NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

The journal “Science” just published the first article on the findings on the dwarf planet Pluto and its moons made thanks to NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft July 14, 2015 flyby. Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), the principal investigator of the New Horizons mission, is also the first of a long series of authors of this study that first of all stresses the extraordinary geological and morphological variety of Pluto’s system.

Two pictures of Jupiter's surface taken by the Hubble Space Telescope (Image NASA, ESA, A. Simon (GSFC), M. Wong (UC Berkeley), and G. Orton (JPL-Caltech))

The Hubble Space Telescope was used to create new maps of the planet Jupiter. Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 captured a series of images of the planet within the Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy program. The aim is to produce new maps every year and in the case of Jupiter 10 hours of daily shooting made it possible to discover new phenomena including changes in the Great Red Spot.