The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft closed in Thursday for a deliberate crash landing on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Friday, a slow-motion kamikaze plunge to bring the enormously successful mission to an end after more than two years of unprecedented close-range observations.
Less than a month before the end of the mission, Rosetta’s high-resolution camera has revealed the Philae lander wedged into a dark crack on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The images were taken on 2 September by the OSIRIS narrow-angle camera as the orbiter came within 2.7 kilometres of the comet’s surface.
ESA’s Planck satellite has revealed that the first stars in the universe started forming later than previous observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background indicated. This new analysis also shows that these stars were the only sources needed to account for reionising atoms in the cosmos, having completed half of this process when the universe had reached an age of 700 million years.
Extensive systems of fossilised riverbeds have been discovered on an ancient region of the Martian surface on a northern plain called Arabia Terra, supporting the idea that the now cold and dry Red Planet had a warm and wet climate about 4 billion years ago, according to University College London-led research.
In this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image we see the central Wolf-Rayet star known as Hen 2-427 — more commonly known as WR 124 — surrounded by the nebula M1-67. Both objects are found in the constellation of Sagitta some 15,000 light-years away. The hot clumps of gas ejected by the star into space are travelling at over 150,000 kilometres per hour.
The European Space Agency’s orbiting XMM-Newton X-ray observatory has proved the existence of a ‘gravitational vortex’ around a black hole. The discovery, aided by NASA’s NuSTAR mission, solves a mystery that has eluded astronomers for more than 30 years and will allow them to map the behaviour of matter very close to black holes.
Overall, about 1 kg of material is escaping our atmosphere every second. Every day, around 90 tonnes of material escapes from our planet’s upper atmosphere and streams out into space. Although missions such as ESA’s Cluster fleet have long been investigating this leakage, there are still many open questions. How and why is Earth losing its atmosphere?