Planets

The Pluto system (Image NASA/STScI/Showalter)

An article just published in the journal “Nature” describes a research on Pluto and its moons showing how two of them, Nix and Hydra, spin in an uncontrolled and unpredictable way. This study is based on an analysis of the observations made using the Hubble Space Telescope but because of the considerable distance they’re far from complete. For this reason, it’s possible that the two other small moons of Pluto, Styx and Kerberos, are in the same situation.

Image of the dwarf planet Ceres and one of a region of its surface in details (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

In recent days, NASA’s space probe Dawn approached the dwarf planet Ceres and took a number close-up pictures of its surface. The latest images published by NASA were taken navigation purposes but start showing details of the geological elements, in particular the many craters of varying sizes. They make Ceres look like the Moon and show a story full of impacts.

Artistic concept of the exoplanet 55 Cancri e that shows its partially molten surface before and after vocanic activity (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt)

An article published in the journal “Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society” describes a study of the exoplanet 55 Cancri e. It claims that on its surface there’s and extremely violent volcanic activity. The consequence is that the temperature is not only very high but has swings ranging from 1,000° to 2,700° Celsius (from 1800° to 4900° Fahrenheit). Among the authors of the article there’s Dr. Nikku Madhusudhan of British Institute of Astronomy of the British University of Cambridge, who has been studying 55 Cancri e for some time and has already published a study in which he argues that this exoplanet may contain a diamond large three times the Earth.

Image of the HL Tauri system taken by the ALMA telescope (Image ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO))

Last October a picture of the system HL Tauri captured by ESO’s ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeter Array) telescope was published. It showed a disk of dust that is slowly coalescing and was one of the sharpest images ever made at sumbillimetric wavelengths. According to many scientists there are planets that are forming in the system but others were skeptical and that created a debate. Now a team of astrophysicists from the University of Toronto led by Daniel Tamayo brought new evidence that there really are planets forming, published in the journal “Astrophysical Journal”.

The region on the planet Mercury where the Messenger space probe crashed (Image NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington)

NASA has confirmed that a few hours ago the Messenger (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging) space probe ended its mission by crashing on the surface of the planet Mercury. Messenger ran out of fuel and some maneuvers were recently programmed to prolong its life of a few more days. Eventually, even the helium normally used to pressurize the propellant was released in a jet that gave the probe one last push. It was a very successful mission that allowed us to discover many things about Mercury.