Nearly three weeks ago NASA’s Dawn space probe reached its final orbit, at an altitude of about 380 kilometers (240 miles) over the dwarf planet Ceres. It will remain there indefinitely, meaning that it will keep that orbit until the end of its mission but at that point it won’t be moved. It’s its lowest orbit and from there Dawn immediately started taking the most detailed pictures and make new detections with its instruments.
The Mars Rover Curiosity has been finding many rocks rich in silica, a compound formed from silicon and oxygen, in an area of Mount Sharp on Mars that it’s been exploring for some months. A few months ago the discovery of that kind of rocks was a surprise, so much so that mission managers changed the Curiosity’s research schedule to perform further analyzes. That decision led to the discovery of other silica-rick rocks and to further studies to try to explain their presence.
An article published in the journal “Nature” describes a research that provides an explanation to the apparent scarcity of water detected on some exoplanets of the type known as hot Jupiter. These are gas giants like Jupiter but orbit very close to their stars and consequently have very high surface temperatures. An international team of astronomers used the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes to study ten exoplanets of this kind.
Two studies published in the journal “Nature” offered new interesting information about the dwarf planet Ceres. Thanks to analyzes of data collected by NASA’s Dawn space probe the authors of these studies claim that the mysterious white spots are composed of salts and that on Ceres there are ammonia-rich clays. The explanations about the materials that make up the white spots may solve a mystery while the presence of ammonia creates another, linked to the origin of this dwarf planet.
JAXA, the Japanese space agency, confirmed that its space probe Akatsuki has successfully accomplished the maneuvers to allow it to enter the orbit of the planet Venus. These maneuvers took place exactly five years after the failure of the first attempt. The orbit is significantly different from the one programmed for the mission and JAXA engineers are assessing it to schedule some additional maneuvers. However, there’s optimism about the possibility of carrying out the scientific mission Akatsuki was built for.