New Pluto pictures show jelly-bean moon and mountains


nh-pluto-mountain-range.0.0
Newly-discovered frozen peaks on Pluto are taller than Ben Nevis while images of Nix reveal an unusual red spot

Newly-discovered frozen peaks on Pluto are taller than Ben Nevis while images of Nix reveal an unusual red spot

The latest pictures to be beamed back from the far reaches of the Solar System show a new mountain range on Pluto and the first close up images of two of the dwarf-planet’s smaller moons.

Animated Flyover of Pluto’s Icy Mountain

NASA’s New Horizons probe has discovered a new, mountain range on bright, heart-shaped region named Tombaugh Region.

These newly-discovered frozen peaks are estimated to be around 5,000ft high – about 600ft taller than Ben Nevis.

The Norgay Mountains discovered by New Horizons on July 15 are much taller, around 11,000ft, roughly the height of The Pyrenees.

The new range is just west of the region within Pluto’s heart called Sputnik Plain and some 68 miles northwest of Norgay Mountains..

Pluto2_3383483b

New Horizons has also picked up the first images large images of two of Pluto’s smaller moons.
Nix and Hydra – the second and third moons to be discovered – are approximately the same size, but their similarity ends there.

New Horizons’ first colour image of Nix shows a jelly bean shaped satellite which is 26 miles long and 22 miles wide.

Although the overall surface colour of Nix is neutral grey in the image, the newfound region has a distinct red tint. Hints of a bull’s-eye pattern lead scientists to speculate that the reddish region is a crater.

nh-nix-hydra-7-21_3383484b

Meanwhile, the sharpest image yet received from New Horizons of Pluto’s satellite Hydra shows that its irregular shape resembles the state of Michigan.

There appear to be at least two large craters, one of which is mostly in shadow. The upper portion looks darker than the rest of Hydra, suggesting a possible difference in surface composition.

Source: Telegraph

CHARON’S IMPACT CRATER EMERGES IN LATEST NEW HORIZONS SHOT


nh-7-13-15_charon_image_nasa-jhuapl-swri

NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

IN THE IMAGE NASA released of Charon yesterday, astronomers pointed out a collection of vaguely-defined features on the surface of Pluto’s biggest moon. Now, with this latest capture, the New Horizons team has confirmed that the big dent in the icy rock’s surface is in fact an impact crater, surrounded by a couple of deep canyons—one larger than Earth’s Grand Canyon.

Get ready for even more detailed images of Charon and its orbital buddy, Pluto, tomorrow morning when New Horizons makes its closest approach to the system. Geologists will be especially interested to take a closer look at the dark spot on the moon’s northern pole, and the rays of material you can see spraying out from the edges of the crater.

Source :Wired

The icy eyes of Mars


1425859642

One thing all solid bodies in the Solar System share in common is craters. Some worlds, like Mercury or the Moon, are covered in them, having no atmosphere to erode them away. Earth has relatively few; our dynamic atmosphere and water circulation wipes them out after a few millennia. And some icy bodies like Saturn’s moon Enceladus or Jupiter’s Europa only have a few because their surfaces are also constantly changing… on a geologic timescale.

Source : Sen Blog

Giant Asteroid Is Headed Our Way, But NASA Says No Worries


ws_Arizona_Crater_1920x1080

Asteroid Crater Located in Arizona, USA (Click Image to Download)

A ginormous asteroid is headed our way, but no need to worry. NASA says asteroid 2004 BL86–estimated to be about one-third of a mile in diameter–will zoom harmlessly by Earth later this month.

That’s good news, of course. And get this: The asteroid’s size and proximity–about 745,000 miles from Earth at the nearest point in its flyby, or about three times the distance from the Earth to the Moon–mean it should be visible with nothing more than a good pair of binoculars.

nearearthasteroid

“Monday, January 26 will be the closest asteroid 2004 BL86 will get to Earth for at least the next 200 years,” Don Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Lab, said in a written statement. “And while it poses no threat to Earth for the foreseeable future, it’s a relatively close approach by a relatively large asteroid, so it provides us a unique opportunity to observe and learn more.”

Skywatchers in the Americas, Europe, and Africa should have the best view of the asteroid on the night of Jan. 26, according to EarthSky. Weather permitting, the asteroid should be visible moving slowly across the sky in the vicinity of the constellation Cancer.

Of course, it will only look slow. The asteroid is actually streaking at about 35,000 miles an hour.

Yeomans said he might grab his own binoculars and have a look himself. If you’d rather stay indoors, you can catch the action online at The Virtual Telescope Project 2.0. The show starts at 2:30 p.m. EST.

Source : huffingtonpost

Ancient Mars May Have Been More Habitable Than We Thought


1024px-AncientMars

An artist’s impression of what ancient Mars may have looked like, based on geological data (Click Image to Download)

Data collected by the Curiosity Rover suggests Mars once featured a moderate climate capable of fostering lakes of liquid water and even a vast sea, and that this climate could have extended to many parts of the Red Planet.

NASA’s Curiosity Rover is currently investigating the lowest sedimentary layers of Mount Sharp, a section of rock 500 feet (150 meters) high known as the Murray formation. Observations taken by the robotic probe suggests the mountain was produced by sediments deposited in a large lake bed over tens of millions of years. The observation strongly suggests that ancient Mars maintained a long-lasting water-friendly climate.

According to NASA scientists, it’s an hypothesis that’s challenging the notion that warm and wet conditions were transient, local, or only underground. It now appears that Mars’ ancient, thicker atmosphere raised temperatures above freezing globally, but NASA scientists aren’t entirely sure how the atmosphere produced the required effects.

A Mountain in a Crater

Scientists have struggled to explain why the mountain sits inside a crater. Last year, a study suggested that the 3.5-mile-tall Mount Sharp formed as strong winds carried dust and sand into the crater in which it rests. It was actually bad news at the time because it suggested that the Gale Crater probably never contained a lake, which was one of the primary reasons why NASA sent Curiosity there in the first place.

But this new analysis has revived an older theory which suggests that Mount Sharp is the eroded remnant of sedimentary layers that once filled the crater — layers of silt that were originally deposited on a massive lakebed.

ROCKS

Cross-bedding seen in the layers of this Martian rock is evidence of movement of water recorded by waves or ripples of loose sediment the water passed over. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

Thanks to on-the-ground observations made by Curiosity, NASA scientists have now caught a glimpse of Mount Sharp’s lower flanks, which feature hundreds of rock layers. These layers, which alternate between lake, river, and wind deposits, bear witness to the repeated filling and evaporation of a Martian lake. Rivers carried sand and silt to the lake, depositing the sediments at the mouth of the river to form deltas. It was a cycle that repeated over and over again.

mgopor353csbffrefj8q

Cross-bedding seen in the layers of this Martian rock is evidence of movement of water recorded by waves or ripples of loose sediment the water passed over. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

“The great thing about a lake that occurs repeatedly, over and over, is that each time it comes back it is another experiment to tell you how the environment works,” noted Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger in a NASA report. “As Curiosity climbs higher on Mount Sharp, we will have a series of experiments to show patterns in how the atmosphere and the water and the sediments interact. We may see how the chemistry changed in the lakes over time. This is a hypothesis supported by what we have observed so far, providing a framework for testing in the coming year.”fcc2setcjpg8el3rhq77

After the sediments hardened to rock, the resulting layers of sediment were sculpted over time into a mountainous shape by wind erosion that carved away the material between the crater perimeter and what’s now the edge of the mountain.

Greater Potential for Life?

The new discovery has major implications for our understanding of the Red Planet. It suggests Mars was far warmer and wetter in its first two billion years than previous assumed. It also suggests that Mars experienced a vigorous and dynamic global hydrological cycle that involved rains or snows to maintain such moderate conditions.

hegtl58ferc0e0fagbwu

A pic depicting a lake of water partially filling Mars’ Gale Crater, receiving runoff from snow melting on the crater’s northern rim. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Source : io9.com