Space science roundup

It’s a great time to be a space science geek. Today NASA launched JUNO, it’s satellite mission to Jupiter that will further our understanding of the largest planet in the solar system. It’s scheduled to arrive at Jupiter in the summer of 2016 and will help us understand the formation of the solar system. In 2015, New Horizons will be snapping the first up close pictures of Pluto and possibly other members of the Kuiper belt.

Yesterday, JPL announced (again) further evidence for water on Mars with this gorgeous picture.

Gullies with dark streaks indicate the possible existence of water. (Image from JPL/NASA)

Let’s not forget the MESSENGER mission to Mercury either. I feel that of all NASA’s robotic missions, this one gets the least amount of attention, yet it churns some really nice pictures that display Mercury’s violent past.

Young portions of Mercury's crust display fewer impact craters than the darker areas along the edges (Image from NASA)

As exciting as the aforementioned are, what really gets me going are the pictures sent back from the Dawn Mission. Dawn is studying two protoplanets in the asteroid belt- Ceres and Vesta.  A group of meteorites called HED’s- Howardites, Eucrites, Diogenites- are thought to come from Vesta and this mission will fill in the gaps of information that the meteorites can’t. This mission, along with JUNO, will greatly further our understanding of the evolution of the solar system. It’s thought that Jupiters formation basically stunted the growth of Vesta, Ceres and even Mars by sucking up material needed for accretion.

Vesta as seen from Dawn. The south pole is basically an impact crater from which the HED's possibly originated. (Image from NASA)

These images barely scratch the surface of what we’re accomplishing in our neck of the galaxy. There’s a long list of satellites that take beautiful images of our own planet, the moon and the sun. I didn’t even mention all the awesome information we’re getting back from the Cassini mission. Things may seem bleak for the science community with funds becoming more scarce, but we still have some reasons to celebrate what we do and further reasons to fight for what we do.

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