Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – Craters and mysterious bright spots are beginning to pop out in the latest images of Ceres from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. These images, taken February 12th at a distance of 52,000 miles (83,000 kilometers) from the dwarf planet, pose intriguing questions for the science team to explore as the spacecraft nears its destination.
“As we slowly approach the stage, our eyes transfixed on Ceres and her planetary dance, we find she has beguiled us but left us none the wiser,” said Chris Russell, principal investigator of the Dawn mission, based at UCLA. “We expected to be surprised; we did not expect to be this puzzled.”
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has returned the sharpest images ever seen of the dwarf planet Ceres. The images were taken 147,000 miles (237,000 kilometers) from Ceres on January 25th, and represent a new milestone for a spacecraft that soon will become the first human-made probe to visit a dwarf planet.
“We know so little about our vast solar system, but thanks to economical missions like Dawn, those mysteries are being solved,” said Jim Green, Planetary Science Division Director at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – A fresh look at data collected by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft during its 2001 flyby of Jupiter shows that Europa’s tenuous atmosphere is even thinner than previously thought and also suggests that the thin, hot gas around the moon does not show evidence of plume activity occurring at the time of the flyby.
The new research provides a snapshot of Europa’s state of activity at that time, and suggests that if there is plume activity, it is likely intermittent.
NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter helps researchers discover Volcanoes on the Moon younger than expected
Written by Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – Back in 1971, Apollo 15 astronauts orbiting the Moon photographed something very odd. Researchers called it “Ina,” and it looked like the aftermath of a volcanic eruption.
There’s nothing odd about volcanoes on the Moon, per se. Much of the Moon’s ancient surface is covered with hardened lava. The main features of the “Man in the Moon,” in fact, are old basaltic flows deposited billions of years ago when the Moon was wracked by violent eruptions. The strange thing about Ina was its age.
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – Scientists have found that the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko — the target of study for the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission — can be divided into several regions, each characterized by different classes of features. High-resolution images of the comet reveal a unique, multifaceted world.
ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft arrived at its destination about a month ago and is currently accompanying the comet as it progresses on its route toward the inner solar system.
Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – One of the fastest spacecraft ever built — NASA’s New Horizons — is hurtling through the void at nearly one million miles per day. Launched in 2006, it has been in flight longer than some missions last, and it is nearing its destination: Pluto.
“The encounter begins next January,” says Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute and the mission’s principal investigator. “We’re less than a year away.”
Pasadena, CA – An atlas of the giant asteroid Vesta, created from images taken as NASA’s Dawn mission flew around the object (also known as a protoplanet), is now accessible for the public to explore online. The set of maps was created from mosaics of 10,000 images taken by Dawn’s framing camera instrument at a low altitude of about 130 miles (210 kilometers).
The maps are mostly at a scale about that of regional road-touring maps, where every inch of map is equivalent to a little more than 3 miles of asteroid (1 centimeter equals 2 kilometers).
Pasadena, CA – The origin of massive invisible regions that make the moon’s gravity uneven, a phenomenon that affects the operations of lunar-orbiting spacecraft has been uncovered by NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission.
Because of GRAIL’s findings, future spacecraft on missions to other celestial bodies can navigate with greater precision.
NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) discovers additional Asteroids between Jupiter and Mars
Pasadena, CA – A new and improved family tree for asteroids in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter has been created using data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE)
Astronomers used millions of infrared snapshots from the asteroid-hunting portion of the WISE all-sky survey, called NEOWISE, to identify 28 new asteroid families. The snapshots also helped place thousands of previously hidden and uncategorized asteroids into families for the first time. The findings are a critical step in understanding the origins of asteroid families, and the collisions thought to have created these rocky clans.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – Scientists using images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have estimated that the planet is bombarded by more than 200 small asteroids or bits of comets per year forming craters at least 12.8 feet (3.9 meters) across.
Researchers have identified 248 new impact sites on parts of the Martian surface in the past decade, using images from the spacecraft to determine when the craters appeared. The 200-per-year planetwide estimate is a calculation based on the number found in a systematic survey of a portion of the planet.
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