Astronomy / Astrophysics

The panorama seen by the Mars Rover Opportunity on the top of Cape Tribulation (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

NASA released an image of the Martian landscape seen from the Mars Rover Opportunity on the occasion of the earth’s eleventh anniversary of its arrival on Mars. Opportunity landed at 5:05 UTC on January 25, 2004 and now has traveled for about 41.7 km (25.9 miles) on the red planet. About three weeks ago it reached the top of the segment of the Endeavour Crater called Cape Tribulation and from there it used its Pancam (panoramic camera) instrument to take a series of photographs that were combined together.

A section of the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko’s smaller lobes seen by the Rosetta space probe (Image ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

A special edition of the journal “Science” shows the results of the research done so far on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko using 7 of the 11 instruments of ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft. The various detections conducted between August and December 2014 have mostly confirmed the first impressions but reserved some surprises. Meanwhile, the comet is slowly approaching the Sun and its activity is increasing due to the higher heat that receives and causes more and more ice sublimation.

The NGTS dome during the day. In the background the VLT and VISTA domes (Photo ESO/R. Wesson)

In recent days the NGTS (Next-Generation Transit Survey) has been put into operation. It’s a new instrument to search for exoplanets built to find super-Earths with a size starting from twice the Earth up to Neptune-like planets eight times the size of the Earth. It’s composed of an array of 12 telescopes with an aperture of 20 cm each which is located at the ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile.

The most promising exoplanet found with the Kepler Space Telescope with their size proportional to that of the Earth (Image NASA)

At the 225th meeting of the American Astronomical Society there was the announce of the identification of the 1000th exoplanet verified using observations of the Kepler space telescope. That’s become a routine but the interesting thing is that among the verified planets there are eight that have a size less than twice the Earth and are in the habitable zone of their star.

The new picture of the Pillars of Creation captured by the Hubble Space Telescope compared to the 1995 one (Photo NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)/J. Hester, P. Scowen (Arizona State U.))

In 1995, the Hubble Space Telescope allowed to obtain an image of columns of interstellar gas and dust in the Eagle Nebula. These structures were dubbed the “Pillars of Creation” and the image became one of the most iconic not only among the ones taken by Hubble but among space photographs in general. Now astronomers returned to that region to take a new photograph that, thanks to the updated instrument, is in high definition so it provides details never before seen in visible and infrared light.