Cosmos

What are we up to at ISAS?

Global space news: the conditions of planets around M-dwarf stars

In 2016, astronomers announced a thrilling discovery. A small planet had been discovered around the nearest star to the Sun, Proxima Centauri. The planet's orbit was just 11.2 days, but the small size and corresponding lower luminosity of Proxima Centauri compared to our Sun meant that this planet was in the habitable zone, receiving similar levels of radiation from its star as the Earth. So could the surface of our nearest neighbour actually be habitable?

Global space news: NASA’s Ingenuity flies!

On April 19, 2020, NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter took to the skies above the red planet for the first time. Our ISAS researchers share their impressions!

Why explore the moons of Mars?

“With MMX, we will study a tiny moon,” says Hyodo. “But this is not only about the moon, it is also about Solar System material and material from Mars.” Dr Ryuki Hyodo shares the science behind JAXA’s upcoming MMX mission to the Martian moons, and the unique features of this journey to Mars’s domain.

Helping to bring an asteroid home

Two weeks before Hayabusa2 was due to return to Earth, Caitlin Caruana feared it would all go wrong. Caruana is part of the Australian Space Agency’s (ASA) international engagement team and for the last six months of 2020, she was dedicating nearly all her time to ensuring that JAXA would be able to collect their spacecraft’s sample return capsule when it landed in Australia on December 6, 2020.

BepiColombo is set for science, as the spacecraft performs a Venus swing-by

On October 15, the ESA・JAXA BepiColombo spacecraft will swing-by Venus, using the gravity of our neighbouring planet to adjust its orbit en route to Mercury. This close approach presents a unique opportunity to examine the thick Venusian atmosphere and its space environment through three different JAXA missions simultaneously, providing an unprecedented view of a terrestrial planet that evolved very differently from the Earth.

Ready for swing-by! BepiColombo will pass close to the Earth on April 10

On April 10, JAXA’s MIO Mercury orbiter will swing-by the Earth onboard the BepiColombo spacecraft. As the spacecraft receives a tug from the Earth’s gravity to assist the journey to Mercury, MIO will be testing its instruments on our planet’s magnetic field.

Creating a crater to constrain the age of an asteroid’s surface

An important science goal for the Hayabusa2 mission is to map the history of asteroid Ryugu. As a primitive carbonaceous asteroid from the early days of the Solar System, Ryugu’s life traces the movement of ices and organics; the ingredients for habitability.

Are primitive asteroids “fluffy”?

The first photographs from Hayabusa2 of the surface of asteroid Ryugu revealed a treacherous landscape, with large boulders carpeting the asteroid to form a rugged topology. Yet when the spacecraft turned on its thermal infrared imager (TIR), it saw a surprisingly homogenous surface in the thermographic images.

Is the history of Mars etched in the grains of its moons?

The ISAS・JAXA Martian Moons eXploration Mission (MMX) will bring home a sample from the moons of Mars. New results from ISAS researchers suggest this sample may not only uncover the origins of the moons, but also reveal the evolution of the habitat on Mars itself.

Measuring the waves through Titan: ISAS builds a seismometer for NASA’s Dragonfly mission

In June this year NASA announced the selection of Dragonfly for the agency’s New Frontiers program. The mission will fly an innovative multi-rotor drone through the atmosphere of Titan, investigating multiple sites on the Saturn moon. The goal is to study chemistry similar to that which supported the development of life on the early Earth. Onboard Dragonfly will be a seismometer designed here at ISAS・JAXA to investigate the interior of one of the most Earth-like locations in the Solar System.

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