Some mission updates

A few spacecraft have been reporting interesting findings.

WISE, the infrared space telescope, has picked up ninety five new Near Earth Objects as it maps the infrared sky. Asteroids are relatively brighter in the infrared than visible light as they are at the right temperature to emit most of their radiation at these wavelengths.

The prototype of the ExoMars rover, called Bridget, had a day out in the Welsh Sun (see, they do find rare things) to help calibrate the colours on the camera and test software and hardware in the field. The day at the beach in Aberystwyth brought the device a step closer to being declared a good candidate for a Martian sojourn.

The Cluster Mission is celebrating a decade in space. The four satellites act together to sample the magnetic structure of the near Earth environment. This includes the solar wind, the magnetosphere of the Earth and the connections between them. The complex structures require as many data points as possible to map how the fields twist and turn.

The Herschel Infrared Space Telescope has put out its first science results. These papers are mostly extragalactic, but there’s at least one exoplanet (and one exo-kuiper belt) paper as well as a look at Neptune, which is getting more attention now we have suitable instruments out there.

The Cassini mission to the Saturn system has uncovered a seasonal fall in the depth of lakes in a region on Titan. The lakes of methane, ethane and propane that exist on the cold world undergo seasonal changes just as water lakes on the Earth do, except on Titan they take place over the course of Saturn’s 27 year journey around the Sun. It is presently midsummer in the region explored. Cassini used a radar to shine down on the lakes. The radar can penetrate down to a depth of eight metres. Any deeper and a black blob is recorded, any shallower and shades of grey are seen that can be used to estimate depth. Repeated observations across the various lakes have shown several to partly vanish or turn a lighter shade of grey, amounted to the equivalent of a metre per year drop in the depth of the lakes. This is the only hydrological cycle known outside of the Earth.

Finally, it may not be a mission as such, but the LHC at CERN has put out a status report.

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