Chang'e-4 Mission Awesome Facts!

 Von Karman crater for Chang’e-4 landing site!

Von Karman crater for Chang’e-4 landing site!

Greetings Lunar Fanatics, which I’ll lovingly call Lunatics!

This week I want to give an update on the cool Chang’e-4 mission from the China National Space Administration (CNSA)! This mission is part of the growing Chinese Lunar Exploration Program, which is designed to build and operate orbiters, landers, and rovers to the lunar surface!

In December 2018, the Chang’e-4 mission will deploy the lander and rover, and we’re so excited!

Here are some awesome updates about the upcoming Chang’e-4 mission!

1- The landing site is Crater Von Karman, which is situated in the South Pole-Aitken Basin! It is also observed to be the oldest crater on the Moon!

2-spacecraft is named after Chang’e the Chinese Moon goddess.

3-The orbiter has been there since May 2018, but the lander and rover will land in December 2018. The rover is only 120 kg! (The Curiosity rover on Mars is 899 kg!)

4- Some of the science objectives include: measuring lunar surface temperature, measure the chemical compositions of lunar rocks and soils, low-frequency radio astronomical observations, and solar radiation/cosmic ray effects.

5-In addition, the lander will carry a container with seeds and insect eggs to test whether plants and insects could hatch and grow together. The experiment includes seeds of potatoes and Arabidopsis thaliana (flowering plant in Eurasia), and silkworm eggs!  

  Arabidopsis thaliana  plants to be taken to the Moon onboard the Chang’e-4 rover!

Arabidopsis thaliana plants to be taken to the Moon onboard the Chang’e-4 rover!

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at Tadpole Galaxies!

The Galileo Mission

 Surface of Ganymede from the Galileo probe! Image credit: NASA

Surface of Ganymede from the Galileo probe! Image credit: NASA

Hello, Earthlings!

While the planetary community is gearing up for the Europa Clipper mission and the excitement of high-definition Juno images of Jupiter’s swirling storms of awe and DOOM, let us remember the Galileo mission, which gave us quite a few accomplishments to better study the Jovian system! Here are some fun facts about the Galileo Mission:

1-Launch date was October 18th, 1989. Mission ended on September 21, 2003 and plummeted it into Jupiter (on purpose) so that we don’t accidentally hit Europa on a collision course!

2-It actually went to Venus first so that it may sling-shot outward to catch up in Jupiter’s orbit! Got some nice Venusian cloud images!

3-It had 9 spacecraft instruments and 6 atmospheric probe detectors!

4-It was the first spacecraft to visit an asteroid -- two in fact, Gaspra and Ida!

5-It also provided direct images of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet as it plunged into Jupiter in 1994!

6-Discoveries included evidence for the existence of a saltwater ocean beneath Europa, volcanic processes on Io, and a magnetic field generated by the moon Ganymede!

 Surface of Io from the Galileo probe! Image credit: NASA

Surface of Io from the Galileo probe! Image credit: NASA

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at the Chang’e-4 mission!

Devon Island: Mars or Bust!

 Climbing out of the Habitat onlooking the Haughton crater rim. Image credit: FMARS/Mars Society

Climbing out of the Habitat onlooking the Haughton crater rim. Image credit: FMARS/Mars Society

Hello, Earthlings! Let's take a trip to Devon Island!

Devon Island, in the far, cold, desolate reaches of the Arctic in Canada lies one of the most studied meteor crater areas on the planet Earth! This is Haughton Crater, one of the best Mars analogue places! This area is home to several Mars-specific research groups from around the world. Here are some interesting facts about this area:

1- Haughton Crater has been compared to Endeavour Crater on Mars, not only for its size and shape, but also the geologic aspects, such as the dryness and frost compaction in the soil- which is very relevant to Mars!

2- Other factors, such as the Arctic day and night cycle and restricted communications, offer fitting analogs for the challenges that crewmembers will likely face on long-duration space flights.

3- NASA has the Haughton Mars Project and the Mars Society sponsors the international FMARS: Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station- both using Devon Island to its full potential

4- White dome structures are built to allow crewmembers to test habitat living, safety, and isolation. 

5- A number of different researchers have been brought in, including psychologists to study the isolation and lack of communication to the outside world psychology toward crewmembers. Biologists are also brought in to see if the dry soil can be treated regularly for planting of small low-maintenance crops. 

 Crewmembers after a long day of geologic sampling of Devon Island and testing custom spacesuits for their study. Image credit: FMARS/Mars Society

Crewmembers after a long day of geologic sampling of Devon Island and testing custom spacesuits for their study. Image credit: FMARS/Mars Society

Thank you for reading and come back soon for a look at the past Galileo mission!

Sunspotting!

Hello, Earthlings!

Viewer discretion advised: Before you start any solar observing program, make absolutely certain that you have safe filters and a safe set-up!

Sunspotting can be quite the sport, very similar to bird-watching, in that there are different classifications of sunspots!

Before we learn how to name them, let's look at what are sunspots...

Sunspots are temporary phenomena on the Sun's photosphere that appear as dark spots (noticeable in a solar telescope). They are regions of "relatively cooler" surface temperatures caused by concentrations of convecting magnetic fields.

So why do we need a classification system? Well, sunspots tend to be all sorts of shapes and sizes! By learning about the classification, solar astronomers use this as a tool for understanding our Sun's magnetic field and solar cycles!

There are two main sunspot classification systems:

Modified Zurich Sunspot Class: A seven class (A-F, H) system of describing a sunspot group, mainly by the size of the group and distribution 

McIntosh Sunspot Classification System: Adds classes for the type of the largest sunspot and sunspot distribution to the Modified Zurich Class by this three-letter system. (For example, a small lone sunspot with a penumbra might be coded as Hsx. A very large complex group might be Fkc.) 

Here's the diagram that solar astronomer's use for classifying:

zonnevlekclassificatie.jpg

One this to notice about sunspots is that sometimes they'll have a halo effect called the "penumbra". The dark sunspot is called the umbra. 

Here is an example of a sunspot group with a penumbra effect:

 Notice the lighter gray halo around the darker sunspots? That's the penumbra!

Notice the lighter gray halo around the darker sunspots? That's the penumbra!

Would you like to classify sunspots? Take a look at completing the Sunspotter Observing Program by the Astronomical League: https://www.astroleague.org/al/obsclubs/sunspot/sunsptcl.html

Thank you for reading and come back next week on a segment about Devon Island!

 

Welcome back!

Welcome back, Earthlings, to another exciting year of space! Get ready for some awesome planetary updates and some activities you- YES YOU- can get involved with!

Come back every Monday for a new blog segment!

Today, I'd like to talk about Venusian craters!

Venus is the hottest planet in our Solar System. With that power, the crust is almost like a plastic- it deforms, but we're not entirely sure if it is brittle enough to crack from an impact, like Earth. 

Turns out, there is a type of terrain on Venus- called tessera- that is the most deformed and cratered terrain on Venus. And it is surrounded by fresh, smooth lava plains. From this, geologists suggest that this terrain is considered the "oldest" of the Venusian geologic layering, and that more recent (at least in the last couple thousands of years!) volcanic activity would surround these terrains like islands. Another interesting thing to note about this terrain type is that it is usually found in the higher latitudes of Venus.

Two main features are currently puzzling planetary geologists: 

1) the craters do not show any ejecta and rarely a central peak, leading to the mystery of Venus' plastic-like crust

2)Most craters found in this terrain were followed by volcanic in-filling (or volcanic material slushing into the crater after impact). How much infilling and what type of material is still being explored. 

 Dickinson Crater, Venus. Image credit: NASA/JPL

Dickinson Crater, Venus. Image credit: NASA/JPL

Figure: Magellan image centered at 74.6 degrees N, 177.3 E, Atalanta Region, Venus. The image is approximately 185 kilometers (115 miles) wide at the base and shows Dickinson, an impact crater 69 kilometers (43 miles) in diameter. Extensive radar-bright flows that emanate from the crater's eastern walls may represent large volumes of impact melt, or they may be the result of volcanic material released from the subsurface during the cratering event.

Thank you for reading and join us next week for a look at Sunspot Classification!

Summer break!

Hello Earthlings!

I'm boarding my spaceship to go venture for more awesome space science! I shall return in August!

If there are any space news in the meantime, I'll be sure to transmission them here!

Keep looking up- there's much to discover! Have a fantastic summer!

We need to go back...to the Moon!

  APOD August 27, 2016 image from Lunar Orbiter 1 looking at an Earthrise! Image Credit:   NASA  /  Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project

APOD August 27, 2016 image from Lunar Orbiter 1 looking at an Earthrise! Image Credit: NASA / Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project

Good morning Earthlings and Lunatics alike!

Did you know it's been almost 50 years since our very first step onto the Moon with Apollo 11? Did you know it's been 46 years since our last mission to the Moon with Apollo 17?

Since then, we've sent numerous rovers and cameras to Mars and beyond. But what about our celestial neighbor? Have we really learned everything there is to learn about our Moon? Far from it...

The debate is still on-going, mainly scientists vs government. But scientists even have debates among themselves about whether we should go back to the Moon. It is mainly looking like YES, but it is a question of HOW and WHAT. 

HOW: We have advanced our rocket systems for robotics, but not necessarily for people in a (long) while...

Maybe we need to send rovers to the Moon?

WHAT: what are some objectives to get our feet back onto the lunar soil? What are some outstanding questions we have about the Moon?

The one major debate point to date is this: our technology has changed SO MUCH that we are not 100% sure that our technology can withhold to better standards than those of the 1960s...

Hopefully, we'll find out soon!

Thank you for reading and enjoy the summer night skies!

Pyroclastics!

 Mars HiRISE image of Aureum Chaos pyroclastic textured terrain.  Image credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona 

Mars HiRISE image of Aureum Chaos pyroclastic textured terrain.  Image credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona 

Hello again, Earthlings!

Let's talk about what in the world are pyroclastics!

Pyro- meaning fire, and clastics- meaning rock chunks, are referring to globs of rock spewed from volcanoes! Pyroclastics can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but finding them can tell us many secrets about the surrounding volcanoes- mainly- how destructive they can be!

Pyroclastics on Mars was once a tricky thing to decipher from low resolution images, but the recent HiRISE camera has given us many images to look for such pyroclastic grounds. 

Why look for pyroclastics? Because finding how much and how concentrated in an area could give us insight into the past ancient dynamics of Mars' large volcanoes!

So far, recent research led by Dr. Broz of the Institute of Geophysics, The Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, has found that pyroclastic mounds are relatively recent and from majorly explosive volcanic sources! His paper is here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S001910351100457X

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at why we should go back to the Moon!

The Venus Debate: Should We Go Back?

 Image taken of the surface of Venus by Venera 13 in 1982. These images depict the distorting effects of the thick Venusian atmosphere. SOURCE: C.M. Pieters, et al., The color of the surface of Venus, Science 234:1379-1383, 1986. 

Image taken of the surface of Venus by Venera 13 in 1982. These images depict the distorting effects of the thick Venusian atmosphere. SOURCE: C.M. Pieters, et al., The color of the surface of Venus, Science 234:1379-1383, 1986. 

Venus, the hottest planet in our Solar System, has been through years of "should we go back?" and "why do we want to go back?" debates...

In recent development, NASA keeps choosing outer Solar System bodies, such as Titan or cometary bodies, for further investigations. Recently, the Venus planetary community strengthens their determination toward a Venus mission. 

Here are some facts to think about:

1- the U.S. has never landed on Venus. The U.S. sent several probes to image the atmosphere and surface via RADAR, but the landers were actually the Soviet Union. 

2-We know very little about the surface of Venus. We know there are a lot of volcanoes (A LOT- more than 400!), but not enough to know how these volcanoes are built or what kind of minerals the surface actually has!

3- Did water exist on Venus? That's a debate currently regarding the shape and locale of some of the major volcanoes and certain lava flows. Hopefully a soil sample could help us with that question!

4- What are storm systems like on Venus? We have detected lightning on Venus, but to what effect, how powerful, or how frequent- we still don't know!

Hopefully the Venus community will gain enough support to allow NASA to approve a mission to Venus!

More about the Venus Community and news: https://www.lpi.usra.edu/vexag/VISE/

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at what are "pyroclastics"?

BepiColombo!

 Artist rendition of BepiColombo approaching Mercury.  Credit: ESA/ATG medialab; Mercury: NASA/JPL

Artist rendition of BepiColombo approaching Mercury. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab; Mercury: NASA/JPL

October 2018 will be an exciting month for Mercury lovers! 

The BepiColombo spacecraft is set to launch in October as Europe's first mission to Mercury. The BepiColombo is also partnered with the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA). 

It will arrive at Mercury by 2025, swinging around Venus a few times and test out its instruments there!

Here are some more fun facts about this cool new mission!

1- It will be exposed to temperatures over 600 degrees Fahrenheit!

2-Comprises of two main parts: the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO), each with its own set of instruments!

3- It will launch from French Guiana after some more review testing for stability!

4- BepiColombo is named after Professor Giuseppe (Bepi) Colombo (1920-1984) from the University of Padua, Italy, a mathematician and engineer of astonishing imagination. He was the first to see that an unsuspected resonance is responsible for Mercury's habit of rotating on its axis three times for every two revolutions it makes around the Sun. He also suggested to NASA how to use a gravity-assist swing-by of Venus to place the Mariner 10 spacecraft in a solar orbit that would allow it to fly by Mercury three times in 1974-5.

Thank you reading and come back next week for a look at some Venus debates!

Hazy, crazy days of Titan

 (Top view) near-infrared wavelength image. (Bottom view) longer wavelength image of same location at same time! Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Univ. Arizona/Univ. Idaho

(Top view) near-infrared wavelength image. (Bottom view) longer wavelength image of same location at same time! Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Univ. Arizona/Univ. Idaho

Hello Earthlings!

This week we peer into the mysterious cloud cover of Saturn's largest moon, Titan!

Titan is home to some extraordinary and rather unique features for such a large moon, one of which being the only moon with a thick atmosphere and similar surface pressure to that of Earth! With the clouds, planetary scientists were able to image with the Cassini probe weather and a type of cycle, similar to our Earthly water cycle. 

Except water is too cold at Titan's temperatures...what else is a liquid at the surface? Methane!

Cassini took images in the near-infrared of the cloud tops of Titan...and found very little. Some little wispy cloud bands and that's about it.

BUT when the images were taken in longer wavelengths...large blotches of clouds appear!

How? Why? We still don't know...but it may have something to do with that methane water-like cycle and the concentration of clouds around the larger polar lake regions!

Hopefully the mystery will unveil itself as planetary scientists are still sifting through the last of Cassini's data. 

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at what BepiColombo is all about!

 

Paleolakes! On Mars?

 Possible Intravalley Paleolake in Shalbatana Vallis. Image credit: HiRISE/ASU PSP_010316_1830

Possible Intravalley Paleolake in Shalbatana Vallis. Image credit: HiRISE/ASU PSP_010316_1830

Good morning, Earthlings!

Let us dive right in to what is one of the most discussed debates in the Martian community- water on Mars! Not just if there is present water on this dusty red planet, but rather how much water would there have been in the planet's dynamic past?

Well, we have some geologic clues...One of which are paleolakes!

Paleolakes, as the name suggests, are ancient, dried, flat plains that have clues about once having some sort of water interaction. But these are not little ponds, but rather larger standing bodies of water. 

The hypothesis goes that the northern latitude has large lowland plains and basin-like features, enough to house plentiful water. On a timescale though, this may have been relevant over 3.7 million years ago!

The existence of seas or lakes is supported by a large variety of morphologic landforms, including ridges and coastal cliffs. Some of these morphologies appear along two global “paleoshorelines” that represent the two most continuous contacts on Mars. 

If interested, here is a 2014 blog post from Dr. Erkeling with more information about paleolakes on Mars! Great read! https://planetarygeomorphology.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/paleolakes-on-mars/

 Paleolake candidate on Mars. Image credit: HiRISE/ASU ESP_012541_1600

Paleolake candidate on Mars. Image credit: HiRISE/ASU ESP_012541_1600

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look into cloud systems on Titan!

Say what, Seyfert?

 NGC 1275 Type I Seyfert Galaxy. Image credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration

NGC 1275 Type I Seyfert Galaxy. Image credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration

Here's to another week in 2018! Let's chat about Seyfert Galaxies...

Seyfert Galaxies are in the category of "active galaxies" along with quasars. Both are very luminous, distant, and with intense radiation. Seyfert Galaxies, however, have a clear host galaxy!

To the telescope, Seyfert Galaxies look like young spiral galaxies. But looking at these through multiple wavelengths reveals that Seyfert galaxy cores could be as large as the Milky Way! WOW!

Seyfert galaxies make up about 10% of all galaxies and are considered one of the most highly studied astronomical objects. 

There are two main types of Seyferts- Type I and Type II- depending on the wavelengths and compositions seen in emission spectroscopy. Type I are mainly very bright in the xray and ultraviolet wavelengths, whereas Type II is mainly in the infrared and visible. 

 NGC 3081 Type II Seyfert Galaxy. Image credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration

NGC 3081 Type II Seyfert Galaxy. Image credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at paleolakes on Mars!

Venus Tectonics

 Sample of Venus' surface taken from Magellan. Image credit: NASA/JPL

Sample of Venus' surface taken from Magellan. Image credit: NASA/JPL

Good morning, Earthlings!

Earth has faults, mountains, folds, volcanoes all due to plate tectonics. These plates of rock slide and crash into each other, creating such interesting geologic features!

Venus ALSO has volcanoes, mountains, folds...and no plate tectonics...

That is due to Venus being extremely hot and dry, so the crust is not broken into sliding pieces, but rather like a bendable plastic. A good example of how folds work on Venus is to squeeze a stress ball. As you squeeze it, crease lines form, then relax. We think Venus works the same way!

If something were to "break" on the surface of Venus, it is still volcanically active and fluid that it can essentially "heal" itself. This is why we think we don't see noticeable craters- volcanic fluids cover those up too!

A type of ridge-like faults, known in the planetary community as rupes, are found across the surface of Venus. This is the result of what is called "crustal shortening", or when the crust overlaps and sticks. 

 Magellan image of Lakshmi Planitia (north of image) bounded by Danu Montes mountain range (south). Image credit: NASA/JPL

Magellan image of Lakshmi Planitia (north of image) bounded by Danu Montes mountain range (south). Image credit: NASA/JPL

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at what Seyfert Galaxies are! 

Lobate Debris Aprons

 Lobate debris apron in Phlegra Montes, as seen by HiRISE. Scale bar is 500 meters long.

Lobate debris apron in Phlegra Montes, as seen by HiRISE. Scale bar is 500 meters long.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Lobate debris aprons, or LDA, are features on Mars that give clues as to how material moves from rocky cliffs and past glaciers. 

Let's take a look at the word, piece by piece:

Lobate- the material falling from the cliffs and glaciers leave tongue-like lobes

Debris-the type of material is thought to be a mixture of water ice and rock. 

Aprons-the material skirts around the cliff or glacier

These features were actually first discovered by the Viking orbiter. The cool part is that shallow radar onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter had detected that these aprons are mainly made from water ice, causing a slippery friction to slide down the cliff faces.

Detecting these features have become more popular as the detection of water ice associated with these LDAs may prove resourceful for future astronauts. 

 Wide view of mesa with surrounding lobate debris apron, as seen by CTX and HiRISE. Location is the Ismenius Lacus quadrangle.

Wide view of mesa with surrounding lobate debris apron, as seen by CTX and HiRISE. Location is the Ismenius Lacus quadrangle.

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at tectonics on Venus!

49th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference!

lpsc-logo.png

Hello Earthlings!

I have just come back from an exciting trip to Houston to attend the 49th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference! This conference happens every March for an entire week filled with planetary research! Nearly 2,000 researchers, professionals, and students come here to present and network!

From Mercury all the way to Pluto and everything- and I mean EVERYTHING- in between!

Much research has been done, but many more questions remain and discover about our Solar System! 

The Arkansas Center for Space and Planetary Sciences had quite the group! Check it out:

-Glaciers on Pluto (C. Ahrens)

-Mars Simulation Chamber experiments (R. Slank)

-Rain on Titan (K. Farnsworth)

-Evaporites on Titan (E. Czaplinski)

-Frost mineralogy on Venus (S. Port)

-Swiss cheese features on Mars (M. Fusco)

-Terrestrial analogues on Earth for Mars (P. Knightly)

-Enceladus' core material experimentation (C. Nunn)

-Astrobiological microbes on Mars (M. Silver)

If you have a Twitter, I encourage you to check out the hashtag #LPSC2018 to look at all the blogging that was going on during the conference!

Next week, we'll take a look at lobate aprons on Mars!

White Dwarf Planets

 White dwarf compared to Earth size. Image credit: Ohio State University/Richard Pogge

White dwarf compared to Earth size. Image credit: Ohio State University/Richard Pogge

Our Sun will eventually have the ultimate fate of becoming a white dwarf surrounded by gaseous remnants of its former life. White dwarfs are called "skeleton stars", no longer developing. What if solar systems with Sun-like stars still survive? What happens to these planets?

First, how close is that planet? For Earth, if we don't get engulfed in our own Sun when it goes into its Red Giant stage, we would have to endure intense solar winds as it transforms from Red Giant to barely the size of Earth in a matter of seconds! For our Sun in reality, Earth would very much get destroyed. Planets out by Jupiter and beyond are considered "safe."

Then, once our Sun has gone through those stages, the orbits of such planets would be in a bit of a chaotic mode then settle, first going outward due to tidal pressures from the Red Giant phase, then slowly inward as the white dwarf resumes smaller gravity. 

The current research involving detecting such planets around white dwarfs include three main questions:

1- How far out does a planet need to orbit to escape engulfment, and what happens to its orbit as the star evolves?

2 -What happens to a planet that survives engulfment? Under what conditions might it survive?

3- Suppose an Earth or super-Earth is detected in the habitable zone of a white dwarf. What are the chances that it is actually habitable instead of a burnt-out cinder?

 The fate of planets around a white dwarf star. Image credit: Figure 4 from "On the Orbits of Low-Mass Companions to White Dwarfs and the Fates of the Known Exoplanets" by Nordhaus and Spiegel, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

The fate of planets around a white dwarf star. Image credit: Figure 4 from "On the Orbits of Low-Mass Companions to White Dwarfs and the Fates of the Known Exoplanets" by Nordhaus and Spiegel, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Thank you for reading and come back March 26th for highlights from the 49th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference!

The Tales and Tails of Comet 67P

 Evolution of vapor tails of 67P through the Rosetta mission. Image credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Evolution of vapor tails of 67P through the Rosetta mission. Image credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Good morning, Earthlings!

This week is a special look at Comet 67P from the Rosetta mission. Although the mission has ended in late 2016, images are still being processed and data results are pouring in!

Here are some amazing details about this interesting comet:

1- This comet is called a "Jupiter Family Comet" (JFC) due to its orbit reaching within the bounds of Jupiter's orbit, whereas most comets are beyond any planetary orbit. 

2- The Rosetta mission is part of the European Space Agency. Rosetta rendezvoused with the comet, then sent a small lander named Philae, being the first spacecraft to land on the comet. Unfortunately, Philae landed in a shadowed region and could not maintain its solar battery life for very long.

3- At its longest and widest dimensions, it is only 2.7 by 2.5 miles, respectively.

4- 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is named after two Soviet astronomers who discovered the comet via glass plates

5- There are varying regions of different textures- ranging from extremely smooth to rocky, bouldering chunks.

6- Work is currently in two-fold: "surface processes and building" and "vaporization/sublimation"

7- Vapor tails are being studied through different times of the Rosetta mission

8- Surface process research includes how the surface may change during the Rosetta mission

 Imhotep region on Comet 67P. Image credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Imhotep region on Comet 67P. Image credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at White Dwarf Planets

Graphite on Mercury?

 Carbon-encrusted impact crater taken from MESSENGER. Image credit: NASA/JHU Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Carbon-encrusted impact crater taken from MESSENGER. Image credit: NASA/JHU Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Good morning, Earthlings!

The discovery of graphite on Mercury was certainly a surprise on a few levels, but one thing that came to mind to hundreds of planetary scientists- can we make pencils?

We know Mercury lacks iron...so why is it darker than the moon? The Mercury MESSENGER orbiter found dustings of soft carbon- much more in abundance than Mars, Moon, and even Earth!

The carbon is suspected to come from Mercury's early crust (so about 4.5 billion years old!)

That is some very old pencil lead...

With Earth, minerals from magma would just crystallize and fall into the iron core. Since Mercury is only partially melted with a core, the carbon is less dense and floats to the top, waiting to get exposed from impact cratering events!

What planetary scientists are looking into now is how much abundance is that carbon on a localized and global scale!

Thank you for reading and next week we'll take a look at some spectacular Rosetta images of a bizarre comet!

A group of its own

800px-MarsMeteorite-NWA7034-716969main_black_beauty_full.jpg

Meteorites, just like famous diamonds, are given special names- at least those at the top of their class used for comparison reasons. Campo de Cielo, Canyon Diablo, Murchison, Sikhote-Alin to name a few...

But there is one that recently has taken it's own classification- Black Beauty.

Formally known as NWA 7034, the exact drop point is unknown due to it being collected haphazardly and eventually donated for research purposes. 

Here's some incredible facts about this beautiful specimen from space!

1-it is a volcanic breccia (or broken pieces of minerals melded together from extreme temperature and pressure) from Mars! Minerals include pyroxene and feldspars. 

2-The iron/manganese chemical ratio matches other samples from Mars

3-The oxygen isotopes, however, do not correlate with other Martian samples, suggesting it had once been buried in the crust or impact temperatures messed up the oxygen isotopes!

4-Found in 2011 and recognized officially by the Meteoritical Society in 2013. It was then that it received its own meteorite category "Martian breccia"

5-Has the highest water content in any Martian sample to date! Reasons are still unknown.

6- It is claimed to be the second oldest Martian meteorite to date! (It dates back about 2 billion years!)

Thank you for reading and next week- what is graphite like on Mercury?