Scientists working with images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft have discovered strange half-mile-sized (kilometer-sized) objects punching through parts of Saturn’s F ring, leaving glittering trails behind them. These trails in the rings, which scientists are calling “mini-jets,” fill in a missing link in our story of the curious behavior of the F ring. As said Carl Murray, a Cassini imaging team member based at Queen Mary University of London, England he think the F ring is Saturn’s weirdest ring, and these latest Cassini results go to show how the F ring is even more dynamic than they ever thought.
The subtle yet surprisingly varied colors of Mercury are revealed in the latest images from NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft (the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging (MESSENGER) space probe).The 485 kg (1,070 lb) MESSENGER spacecraft was launched aboard a Delta II rocket in August 2004 to study Mercury’s chemical composition, its geology, and its magnetic field. It became the second mission after 1975’s Mariner 10 to reach Mercury successfully when it made a flyby in January 2008, followed by a second flyby in October 2008, and a third flyby in September 2009.
The giant Envisat satellite, which is the world’s largest imaging satellite for civilian use, was photographed in stunning detail by a French spacecraft that is also designed to snap high-resolution images of Earth. The photo of Envisat in space reveals that the $2.9 billion spacecraft is intact and that its huge solar array is deployed. Envisat is a huge satellite that weighs about 17,600 pounds (8,000 kilograms).
NASA’s Dawn mission has received official confirmation that 40 extra days have been added to its exploration of the giant asteroid Vesta, the second most massive object in the main asteroid belt. The mission extension allows Dawn to continue its scientific observations at asteroid Vesta until August 26, while still arriving at the dwarf planet Ceres at the same originally scheduled target date in February 2015.
The space shuttle Discovery arrived in Washington on April 17, where it will go on permanent display at the Smithsonian later this week.The retired space plane was delivered to the nation’s capital mounted to the space agency’s Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, a modified Boeing 747 jumbo jet, on a final ferry flight that included a historic flyover of the National Mall and some of its nearby monuments and federal buildings.
The sun erupted in an amazing solar flare on April 16, unleashing an intense eruption of super-heated plasma that arced high above the star’s surface before blasting out into space. The powerful solar flare occurred at 1:45 p.m. EDT (1745 GMT) and registered as a moderate M1.7-class on the scale of sun storms, placing it firmly in the middle of the scale used by scientists to measure flare strength. The storm is not the strongest this year from the sun, but photos and video of the solar flare captured by NASA spacecraft revealed it to be an eye-popping display of magnetic plasma.
Less than three weeks after its last visit to the Saturnian moon Enceladus, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft returns for an encore. At closest approach on April 14, the spacecraft will be just as low over the moon’s south polar region as it was on March 27 46 miles, or 74 kilometers. Enceladus is the sixth-largest of the moons of Saturn. It was discovered in 1789 by William Herschel.
The Uranus aurora photos were captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, marking the first time the icy blue planet’s light show has been seen by an observatory near Earth. Until now, the only views of auroras on Uranus were from the NASA Voyager probe that zipped by the planet in 1986. Hubble recorded auroras on the day side of Uranus only twice, both times in 2011, while the planet was 2.5 billion miles (4 billion kilometers) from Earth.
Sun spewed a two million mile per hour stream of charged particles toward the invisible magnetic fields surrounding Earth, known as the magnetosphere on April 5, 2010. As the particles interacted with the magnetic fields, the incoming stream of energy caused stormy conditions near Earth. Some scientists believe that it was this solar storm that interfered with commands to a communications satellite, Galaxy-15, which subsequently foundered and drifted, taking almost a year to return to its station.