We’ve seen our share of photos of Mars from orbit and the surface, but what about its moons? The United Arab Emirates Hope orbital mission to Mars sent home new beautiful high-resolution images of the Red Planet’s moon Deimos when it flew within 100 km of the moon last month. This is the closest any spacecraft has been to Deimos in almost 50 years.
In the photos, the science team says that their images of Deimos help provide evidence that the moon wasn’t a captured asteroid but came from Mars itself during an impact in the ancient past, much like Earth’s Moon.
Planet 9 continues to remain elusive. This potential super-Earth-sized object in the outer Solar System is only hypothetical, as something out there appears to be gravitationally influencing several Kuiper Belt Objects into unusual orbits. Whatever or wherever it may be, Planet 9 has yet to be found, despite several different hypotheses and numerous observational searches.
But what if Planet 9 has moons? Could they help us find it? A new paper speculates that any moons orbiting the theoretical planet could provide indirect clues to the location of Planet 9, while revealing some basic properties of this mysterious object.
Jupiter was solidly in the lead with Sheppard and team’s announcement of 12 new moons back in 2018, but then in 2019, Sheppard and colleagues found a whopping 20 new moons orbiting Saturn, bringing the ringed planet’s total number of moons to 82. But now this latest addition moves Jupiter back in the lead.
With Sheppard around, we may never know the final count.
In a recent study published in The Planetary Science Journal, a pair of researchers led by The Carl Sagan Center at the SETI Institute in California investigated the potential origin for the thick regolith deposits on Uranus’ moon, Miranda. The purpose of this study was to determine Miranda’s internal structure, most notably its interior heat, which could help determine if Miranda harbors—or ever harbored—an internal ocean.
In a recent study published in Earth and Planetary Astrophysics, a team of researchers from the University of Texas at Arlington, Valdosta State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory estimated how many moons could theoretically orbit the Earth while maintaining present conditions such as orbital stability. This study opens the potential for better understanding planetary formation processes which could also be applied to identifying exomoons possibly orbiting Earth-like exoplanets, as well.
Now less than one year until the projected launch date, ESA’s JUICE mission is in the final phases of development. The JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE) is now fully built with all ten instruments integrated into the spacecraft bus. Next comes all-up testing in a full flight configuration.
Launch is currently scheduled for April of 2023, with the mission slated to conduct detailed investigations of Jupiter and its system of moons, focusing on Europa, Callisto and especially Ganymede.
Who is excited to send a spacecraft to Europa? Every person I’ve talked to who is even remotely interested in planetary exploration is incredibly enthusiastic about the upcoming Europa Clipper mission to explore Jupiter’s icy moon. With strong evidence of a subsurface liquid ocean, Europa is considered by many to be the most likely place in our Solar System – besides Earth — which might harbor life. The many mysteries about this moon make it a compelling place to explore.
In the past three decades, the field of extrasolar planet studies has advanced by leaps and bounds. To date, 4,903 extrasolar planets have been confirmed in 3,677 planetary systems, with another 8,414 candidates awaiting confirmation. The diverse nature of these planets, ranging from Super-Jupiters and Super-Earths to Mini-Neptunes and Water Worlds, has raised many questions about the nature of planet formation and evolution. A rather important question is the role and commonality of natural satellites, aka. “exomoons.”
Given the number of moons in the Solar System, it is entirely reasonable to assume that moons are ubiquitous in our galaxy. Unfortunately, despite thousands of know exoplanets, there are still no confirmed exomoons available for study. But thanks to Columbia University’s Professor David Kipping and an international team of astronomers, that may have changed. In a recent NASA-supported study, Kipping and his colleagues report on the possible discovery of an exomoon they found while examining data from the Kepler Space Telescope.
Japan’s space agency (JAXA) is gearing up for its Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) mission, with plans to have a sample from Mars’ moon Phobos return to Earth by 2029. Mission scientists say they hope to find clues to the origins of Mars two moons, as well as Mars itself, and possibly even traces of past life.
“We think that the Martian moon, Phobos, is loaded with material lifted from Mars during meteorite impacts,” the MMX team said on Twitter. “By collecting this Phobos sample, MMX will help investigate traces of Martian life and the new era of Martian habitability exploration in the 2020s will begin.”