Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Space Highlights - October 14, 2015

October 14, 2015

NASA has confirmed that the first of its tiny, "CubeSat" satellites has successfully reached its intended orbit. The small Sentinel 2A satellite weights only five pounds and measures four inches across when fully collapsed.  It was launched last week from Vandenberg Air Force Base, and carries an optical payload.

The last of 12 GPS IIF satellites has arrived at Cape Canaveral for preparation for launch.

Russia rolled out a Proton booster to launch a Turkish communications satellite at the end of the week.  The Turksat 4B will be launched from Russia's Kazakhstan site on Friday.

Imagery from the New Horizons space probe has discovered a pale blue haze in the atmosphere of Pluto.  Pluto's thin atmosphere is mostly nitrogen, but the presence of Tholin particles in the upper reaches of the atmosphere give it a blue haze - which from the surface would be most notable at sunset and sunrise. Scientists have also confirmed the detection of patches of water ice on Mars - much of it died red by the presence of Tholins.

The Cassini probe has begun a series of close-passes of Saturn's moon Enceladus - which is now known to harbor a global ocean of liquid water beneath its icy surface.

The European Space Agency has released new images of Mars' southern polar ice cap, captured by the Mars Express orbiter.  The ice cap is composed of a mixture of water and carbon dioxide ices.

The Curiosity rover has identified small, round stones near its landing site at Gale Crater that appear to have been shaped by an ancient river that carried them downstream, billions of years ago.

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