Planets

The silica-rich rock fragment called Lamoose analyzed by the Mars Rover Curiosity (Photo NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

In recent days, the Mars Rover Curiosity deviated from its programmed route to examine a rock particularly rich in silica. It’s a material composed of silicon and oxygen common in terrestrial rocks in the form of quartz. On Mount Sharp, where Curiosity is working, on its way it took a sample near the area called “Marias Pass”. The results of the analysis were so interesting that the mission team decided to turn it back.

Area on Pluto where there are flowing glaciers (Photo NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

The scientists working at NASA’s New Horizons mission keep on analyzing the photographs that the spacecraft is sending after its July 14, 2015 flyby with the dwarf planet Pluto. The ones received in recent days show that in the heart-shaped area there are flowing glaciers and that in the atmosphere there are thick layers of haze that reach an altitude of 130 kilometers (about 80 miles).

A comparison of the Kepler-452 system with the solar system and the Kepler-186 system (Image NASA/JPL-CalTech/R. Hurt)

NASA announced the discovery of the planet Kepler-452b made using the Kepler space telescope. It has an orbit similar to that of the Earth around a star similar to the Sun. This puts it well within the habitable zone of its star system because the star Kepler-452 is just a little bigger and brighter than the Sun so if on the planet Kepler-452b there was an atmosphere similar to the Earth’s, water could exist in liquid form.

Artistic representation of the Dawn space probe over the dwarf planet Ceres (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

NASA’s Dawn space probe resumed its activities moving down to an altitude of about 3.900 kilometers (about 2,400 miles) over the dwarf planet Ceres in order to proceed with the mapping operations that will provide images at unprecedented resolution. This task was supposed to start at the end of June but due to an anomaly the spacecraft entered the “safe mode” in which it stops its activities awaiting instructions.

The mountains on Pluto's equatorial region photographed by the New Horizons space probe (Photo NASA/JHU APL/SwRI)

NASA unveiled the first of the long-awaited photographs taken by the New Horizons spacecraft during its Pluto flyby that took place on July 14. They reveal among other things the presence of mountains even 3,500 meters (11,000 feet) high. A photo of Charon taken on July 13 was also released and it shows several fractures on its crust. These close-up images show geological activity on both Pluto and Charon, an unexpected fact.