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Bright spots on Ceres revealed in high detail

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/Jason Major

The bright spots are salt deposits.

New photographs have emerged showing the distinctive bright spots on Ceres in unprecedented detail.

During its approach of the dwarf planet back in 2015, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft captured images showing what appeared to be unusually bright features on Ceres’ surface.

The phenomenon was the subject of much debate and speculation until it was finally revealed that the bright patches were actually areas of exposed salt situated within asteroid impact craters.

Fast-forward three years and now the Dawn spacecraft, which is on its lowest orbit around Ceres, has returned a new set of images showing these salt-laden craters in more detail than ever before.

The above image shows Cerealia Facula – the largest deposit in the center of Occator Crater.

“Acquiring these spectacular pictures has been one of the greatest challenges in Dawn’s extraordinary extraterrestrial expedition, and the results are better than we had ever hoped,” said the mission’s chief engineer and project manager Marc Rayman.

“Dawn is like a master artist, adding rich details to the otherworldly beauty in its intimate portrait of Ceres.”

Source: EarthSky.org

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China’s Next Lunar Mission Will Be a Visit of Moon’s Far Side

Will there be any unexpected surprises? Might they find evidence of alien visitors on the far side…

via unexplained-mysteries:

China’s latest space mission will, for the first time, see a spacecraft attempt to land on the Moon’s far side.

Known as Chang’e-4, the mission will attempt to unravel some of the mysteries of this relatively unexplored region of the lunar surface which remains facing permanently away from the Earth.

It will launch on December 8th and land at a predetermined site sometime early next year. To maintain communications with Earth, a satellite will be used to relay data and messages back and forth.

According to reports, the lander will be carrying a payload of seeds and silkworm eggs inside a ‘lunar mini biosphere.’ If the eggs actually manage to hatch, then they will produce the first living creatures from Earth to have ever been born on another world.

The mission will also attempt to carry out a low-frequency radio-astronomical study – an intriguing prospect as the far side of the Moon is sheltered from interference from Earth’s ionosphere.

Meanwhile, an accompanying rover will conduct a mineralogical and topographical study of the area around the landing site while taking photographs as it goes.

The mission’s target will be the Von Karman Crater within the Moon’s South Pole-Aitken basin.

It will certainly be interesting to see what it finds there.

Unexplained-Mysteries

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NASA’s InSight lander records the Martian wind

Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech
The audio is decidedly eerie.

NASA has released the first ever recording of the wind buffeting a spacecraft on the surface of Mars.

While photographs taken on the Red Planet have helped us to build up a picture of what it might be like to stand on the surface of another world, there has always been one thing missing – sound.

Now NASA has posted up an audio clip recorded on December 1st of the InSight probe’s seismometer and air pressure sensor vibrating as the Martian wind blew across them at the landing site.

The recording begins at 00:35 in the video, but will require headphones and a subwoofer to hear properly. A processed and more audible version of the sound can also be heard at 00:58.

“The seismometer readings are in the range of human hearing, but are nearly all bass and difficult to hear on laptop speakers and mobile devices,” the caption reads. “We provide the original audio and a version pitched up by two octaves to make them audible on mobile devices.”

Source: Newsweek.com

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NASA prepares for ‘7 minutes of terror’ on Mars

Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Can InSight make it down on to the surface of Mars ?

The space agency’s InSight lander will be descending 80 miles through the Martian atmosphere on Monday.

Having traveled more than 89 million miles since its launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base back in May, the ambitious spacecraft is currently on track to reach Mars on November 26th.

Actually getting the probe safely on to the Martian surface however is no easy task – it has to slow from 12,300mph to just 5mph during a make-or-break descent referred to as ‘7 minutes of terror’.

“Landing on Mars is hard. It takes skill, focus and years of preparation,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

“Keeping in mind our ambitious goal to eventually send humans to the surface of the Moon and then Mars, I know that our incredible science and engineering team – the only in the world to have successfully landed spacecraft on the Martian surface – will do everything they can to successfully land InSight on the Red Planet.”

If InSight does survive the descent, the $1 billion lander will attempt to learn more about what lies beneath the surface of the Red Planet using an array of instruments including a burrowing temperature sensor and a seismometer designed to detect Marsquakes.

“This mission will probe the interior of another terrestrial planet, giving us an idea of the size of the core, the mantle, the crust and our ability then to compare that with the Earth,” said NASA chief scientist Jim Green.

“This is of fundamental importance to understand the origin of our solar system and how it became the way it is today.”

Source: NASA.gov

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