On 12 November 2014, as the Philae lander slowly descended onto Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the first instruments on board began to take measurements. Philae touched down three times during the first ever landing on a comet, scraped against a crater rim, and finally arrived at the unforeseen landing site, called Abydos, at 18:31 CEST.
Acting on behalf of the NASA Dawn mission team, researchers from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) chose 17 of approximately 150 fertility deities to name the most prominent craters on Ceres, which they presented to the International Astronomical Union (IAU). These names were chosen because the dwarf planet bears the name of the Roman goddess of agriculture.
After a nine-and-a half year journey, the NASA New Horizons spacecraft will fly past the dwarf planet Pluto – approximately 4.8 billion kilometres from Earth – at 13:50 CEST on 14 July 2015. This is the first time that the former 'ninth planet' in the Solar System will receive a visitor.
Geology is a fairly young science when compared with physics, mathematics or astronomy. Emerging from the quest for natural resources and ores, it developed into an independent field of research only in the last few centuries.
At 13:28 CEST on 2 July 2015, the alarm in the Wünsdorf forest fire centre went off. Smoke had been seen rising from the forest district in Baruth. The German Meteorological Service had previously raised the risk of forest fire to the highest alert level. In the past, employees of the Brandenburg state forestry office sat in the cramped towers – 100 steps above the ground – using binoculars as they scanned the horizon for signs of forest fires during the hot summer months.
Today, Mars appears bone-dry and dusty – but new analyses of Istok crater provide evidence of periodic flows of debris from its walls into its interior. "What is surprising is that it must have happened reasonably often," explains Ernst Hauber, a planetary researcher at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR).
The Philae lander has reported back on 13 June 2015 at 22:28 (CEST), coming out of hibernation and sending the first data to Earth. More than 300 data packets have been analysed by the team at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Lander Control Center: "Philae is doing very well – it has an operating temperature of minus 35 degrees Celsius and has 24 watts of power available," explains DLR’s Philae Project Manager, Stephan Ulamec. "The lander is ready for operations." Philae 'spoke' for 85 seconds with its team on ground in its first contact since it went into hibernation.
On 15 November 2014 at 01:15 CET, Philae's battery was exhausted and, after nearly 60 hours of operation on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the lander went into hibernation – in an unexpected place. Philae 'bounced' several times before landing in its current location, and its exact position has still not been determined.
The Dawn orbiter initially traced the path of the equator before crossing the north and south poles of Ceres. Researchers at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) have used the images acquired thus far with the Framing Camera on board the spacecraft and the first three-dimensional terrain models created from them to produce a virtual scenic flight over icy Ceres.
At present, the Siloe Patera construct in the Martian highlands is the cause of much debate among scientists. Is Siloe Patera actually the remains of a supervolcano? There is evidence to suggest this – but also evidence against it. It is a current example of an interesting geoscientific debate.