Some new images are coming in of comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko from the Rosetta spacecraft. Unexpectedly, it seems to be a contact binary, two objects in close contact instead of just one larger cometary nucleus (there’s no tail right now). It’s a weird shape, called a “boot” or “rubber duckie” by some. Rosetta is getting closer to the comet now, and scheduled to arrive on August 6, 2014. A probe will then attempt to land on the comet in November. Should be interesting!
Author Archives: Paul Scott Anderson
I’ve added a new feature to the blog, so that if you are using the Safari browser (Mavericks version), you can get new blog posts automatically pushed to your Mac desktop as notifications. Another alternative to email or rss. If you use that browser, go to the blog (refresh if necessary) and you should get a pop-up asking if you would like to get notifications. You will then get notifications of new posts automatically pushed from Safari to your Mac desktop.
Some of the most interesting features on the surface of Mars are its gullies, often found on crater walls or other slopes, first seen from orbit back in 2000. They resemble gullies on Earth created by water, but the origin of located on Mars have become the subject of much debate. These gullies appear to be actively forming today, and are not just some relic of past activity that took place millions of years ago. But on Mars, water can’t exist for long on the surface even if it is briny, so how are these gullies being created? New observations from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spacecraft suggest that dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide) may actually be responsible. The new findings have been published in the journal Icarus.
A “new” (previously unreleased) colour view of Europa’s surface from the old Galileo spacecraft; the image is a product of clear-filter grayscale data from one orbit, combined with lower-resolution colour data taken on a different orbit. The surface here is primarily almost pure water ice, with reddish bands of water ice containing hydrated salts. The image area measures approximately 163 km by 167 km (101 by 103 miles). What might be found in the subsurface ocean below? More information here.
Saturn’s moon Titan is known for its methane seas, lakes, and rivers; surprisingly Earth-like in appearance yet distinctly alien at the same time. But there is also evidence for another ocean, this one of water, below the surface. Little is known about this hidden watery world, but now new results suggest it is likely very salty – as much as the Dead Sea on Earth.
The search for evidence of water on Mars, past or present, has been one of the driving forces behind the exploration of the Red Planet for several decades now. While orbiters, landers, and rovers have all found abundant evidence for a lot of water in Mars’ ancient history, the question of whether there could still be any of the wet stuff existing today is still open and unanswered. There are hints, but proof is still elusive. Now, a new study provides new information on how liquid water could be found on Mars’ surface today, albeit in small amounts or for brief periods of time.
The Cassini mission to Saturn has been one of the most successful and exciting in all of space exploration history. That amazing spacecraft is now celebrating its 10th anniversary today orbiting the ringed planet, after having revolutionized our understanding of the Saturnian system, which is like another entire smaller-scale solar system. But there is still much more to come!
Titan is a complex world, reminiscent of our own planet in many ways, with mountains, seas, lakes, rivers and rain. Albeit the liquid on this super-cold moon is methane/ethane instead of water, but the visual similarities are striking. Just how geologically active Titan might be in other ways however isn’t really known yet, but a new discovery might provide some clues. What looks like a new small “island“ has appeared in one of the hydrocarbon seas, where it wasn’t before. Is it really an island, or something else?