Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Space Highlights - February 3, 2016

February 3, 2016

The United States and South Korea protested North Korea's announcement of an imminent satellite launch attempt this month.  North Korea has routinely advertised its ballistic missile test launches as satellite launch efforts.

In its second launch of the year, a Chinese Long March 3C placed a Beidou-3 navigation satellite into orbit.

The U.S. has moved its 12th and final GPS IIF satellite into the launch preparation area in anticipation of a launch later this week.

A Russian Proton booster successfully launched the Eutelsat 9B communications and relay satellite into orbit earlier this week.

NASA released a recent black-and-white image of Saturn captured by the Cassini space probe, that was filtered to capture wavelengths absorbed by methane gas is Saturn's atmosphere.  The image highlights bands and cloud patterns in Saturn's atmosphere.

A recent study from images of Saturn's rings suggests that the opacity of each ring was not necessarily an indication of the density of the ring at any particular location.  The density of Saturn's B-ring, for example, appeared to be consistent across the entire ring width, regardless of whether that segment of the ring was opaque or translucent.

The Curiosity rover recently snapped a "selfie" of itself perched at the edge of a Martian dune field that it is currently exploring.

A pair of researchers at Arizona State University have suggested that "cauliflower"-like patterns observed in Martian opaline silica formations by the Spirit rover are reminiscent of similar deposits on Earth that were formed by microbial life.

France has announced a cooperative venture with India to help land an Indian lander on Mars.  India's next Mars mission is scheduled for 2020, and would focus on sending an orbiter to the red planet.  A lander mission is expected to follow.

NASA has released a new "fly over" video of the dwarf planet Ceres, using images from the Dawn space probe.

NASA researchers have discovered evidence for far more water ice on Pluto than had been previously expected.  The evidence suggests that much of Pluto's water ice is masked by deposits of more volatile ices, formed from methane, nitrogen and carbon dioxide.  The smoothest and most youthful areas of Pluto - such as the "heart" region - also appear to be devoid of water ice.

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