Can science peel back the surfaces of objects to see what’s underneath? Can they go under the observations to find the explanations?
Investigating Vesta: The $466 million DAWN spacecraft left asteroid Vesta recently after a year in orbit, and is now on its way to the largest asteroid, Eros. Two surprises were shared on the news recently: (1) Vesta is “surprisingly covered in hydrogen,” reported Space.com. (2) “Surprising troughs” belting the equator might have resulted from a collision. One theory says that the troughs, “a puzzling finding,” that resemble earth grabens (sunken valleys between faults), resulted from a collision – but only if Vesta has a differentiated interior. Another theory suggests a collision that caused the south pole crater may have spun the equator so fast it bulged. Either way, the troughs are phenomenal: longer than the Grand Canyon and three times as deep.
Timing Titan: More “surprising” news comes from Saturn’s large moon Titan, reported Science Daily. Now that we have data from an entire Titan year (29.5 years, counting data from Voyagers 1–2 and Cassini), we can see seasonal changes occurring. “Dr Athena Coustenis from the Paris-Meudon Observatory in France has analysed data gathered over this time and has found that the changing seasons of Titan affect it more than previously thought.” Said changes are primarily atmospheric, though. The article mentioned the continuous ethane production from solar radiation but did not get into the time problem this creates (2/09/2011). Coustenis did not elaborate on why Titan is interesting to study because of “astrobiology” even though no life is found there.
Europe on Europa: A European scientist has concluded that if Europa has an ocean under its ice, it is deeper down than thought. “Missions hoping to explore the huge subsurface ocean thought to exist on Jupiter’s moon Europa may have to dig deep — really deep,”Space.com said, like 25–50 kilometers instead of just a few miles as previously hoped. “There could be areas of liquid water at much shallower depths, say around 5 kilometers, but these would only exist for a few tens of thousands of years before migrating downwards,” the French Czech said. This would put the quash on mission plans to dig down to the water, where the life presumably is….
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