Planets

Pluto and Charon photographed by the New Horizon space probe on July 11, 2015 (Photo NASA-JHUAPL-SWRI)

Today, NASA’s New Horizons space probe will carry out the much anticipated Pluto flyby. When at NASA’s mission control center it’s early morning, it will pass at a distance that will reach a minimum of 12,500 kilometers (about 7,800 miles) from the dwarf planet. All New Horizons’ instruments will be used to analyze Pluto as ever before but some time will be devoted also to its moons, particularly Charon.

Composite of images of the Venus transit taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory on June 5, 2012 (Image NASA/Goddard/SDO)

In the journal “Nature Communications” an article was published on the study of images of the planet Venus taken during its transit, its passage between the Sun and the Earth, which occurred in June 2012, taken by two satellites: NASA’s SDO and NASA and JAXA’s Hinode. This research allowed to look at Venusian atmosphere in a different way measuring the way it absorbs the different types of light. This type of study allows to get important clues about the presence of various chemical elements in the atmosphere’s layers. It will also be useful to improve the techniques to examine exoplanets’ atmosphere.

Artistic illustration of the planet GJ 436b surrounded by its huge tail and its parent star GJ 436 (Image NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI))

An article in the journal “Nature” describes a research about the planet GJ 436b, whose mass is similar to that of Neptune. Using the Hubble Space Telescope, a team of astronomers led by David Ehrenreich of the Observatory of the University of Geneva in Switzerland discovered that it leaves behind a huge tail of the estimated size of about 50 times that of the star it orbits. Those are hydrogen emissions ripped from the planet which make it looke like a huge comet.

Artistic concept of the Phoebe ring with Saturn and the other rings in the middle (Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

An article published in the journal “Nature” describes a research that has revealed the size of the outer ring of the planet Saturn. It’s called Phoebe ring because it’s believed to have been created by dust particles coming from Phoebe, one of Saturn’s moons, as a result of impacts that projected them into space. This ring was discovered in 2009 and immediately its enormous size was noted. This new research using infrared images obtained from NASA’s WISE space telescope shows that it’s even larger than previously thought.

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.