Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Space Highlights - January 25, 2017

January 25, 2017

The U.S. Air Force successfully launched a new missile warning satellite aboard an Atlas V booster.

Japan launched its first DSN-2 military communications satellite aboard an H-IIA rocket.  Although commercially operated by the DSN Corporation, DSN-2 has been contracted for use by the Japanese armed forces.  This also marks the second successful commercial satellite launch using the H-IIA booster.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has captured stunning images of Saturn's ring-shepherd satellite Daphnis generating waves in Saturn's rings.  Also newly released are fresh images of Saturn's moon Tethys, as Cassini makes its final series of orbits around Saturn.

NASA has launched a public poll among amateur astronomers to identify targets in Jupiter's atmosphere for investigation during future passes by the Juno spacecraft.  The Juno spacecraft is in a wide, elliptical orbit that takes it alternately very close, or very far from the cloud tops of the giant planet.

ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) has realigned the orbit of its Mangalyaan Mars orbiter to avoid future long-duration solar eclipses, which threatened to exhaust the solar-powered spacecraft's batteries.

NASA's Opportunity Mars rover has recently celebrated its 13th year on Mars.  Opportunity is currently studying a gully in Endeavour Crater.

NASA's Curiosity rover has identified what appears to be cracked, sedimentary rock which may once have formed the muddy floor of a Martian lake.

The Curiosity rover has identified what appears to be a small meteorite on the Martian surface.  If confirmed, the meteorite may provide clues to the conditions on the Martian surface when it fell through the atmosphere of Mars billions of years ago.

Using a range of observations, scientists are attempting to unravel the characteristics of the three "super-Earth" planets that were recently identified as orbiting around the M-class dwarf star Wolf 1061 (also known as GJ628), some 14 light years from Earth.  At least one of the three is inside its host star's habitable zone - where liquid water is expected to be able to form.

Scientists have been able to confirm the presence of an atmosphere surrounding the exoplanet GJ 1132b, with possible indications of both water vapor and methane.  Classified as a "super-Earth" planet, it has a diameter some 50-percent larger than that of Earth, and orbits within the "habitable zone" of its host star 39 light years from Earth.

Astronomers have identified three new gas giant exoplanets, using the SuperWASP-South Observatory in South Africa.  Two of the planets are classified as warm super-Jupiters orbiting metal-rich early or mid K-class stars, and the third is a warm super-Neptune planet orbiting a late K-class star.

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