osirisREXIn an interplanetary faux pas, it appears some pieces of asteroid Vesta ended up on asteroid Bennu, according to observations from NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. The new result sheds light on the intricate orbital dance of asteroids and on the violent origin of Bennu, which is a “rubble pile” asteroid that coalesced from the fragments of a massive collision.
“We found six boulders ranging in size from 5 to 14 feet (about 1.5 to 4.3 meters) scattered across Bennu’s southern hemisphere and near the equator,” said Daniella DellaGiustina of the Lunar & Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona, Tucson. “These boulders are much brighter than the rest of Bennu and match material from Vesta.”
“Our leading hypothesis is that Bennu inherited this material from its parent asteroid after a vestoid (a fragment from Vesta) struck the parent,” said Hannah Kaplan of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Then, when the parent asteroid was catastrophically disrupted, a portion of its debris accumulated under its own gravity into Bennu, including some of the pyroxene from Vesta.”

orage jupiter vignetteNew Juno results suggest that the violent thunderstorms taking place in Jupiter’s atmosphere may form ammonia-rich hail, or ‘mushballs’, that play a key role in the planet’s atmospheric dynamics. This theory, developed using data from Juno’s microwave radiometer by the Juno team, is described in two publications led by a researcher at the Laboratoire Lagrange (CNRS/Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur/Université Côte d’Azur) with support from the CNES. The theory sheds light on some puzzling aspects of the meteorology of Jupiter and has implications for how giant planet atmospheres work in general. This, and related findings, are presented in a series of three articles published in the journals Nature and JGR Planets.

200610 MatsuwaIsland NASA WekimediaCC CopieUnderstanding the formation and evolution of the most primitive asteroids that populate the main asteroid belt is a crucial problem in planetary science; these objects being considered as the building blocks of the formation of our planetary system. The study of meteorites, in particular carbonaceous chondrites considered as rock fragments of these primitive bodies, has proved to be the most relevant approach. It is generally admitted that the parent bodies of carbonaceous chondrites were formed by accretion of primitive components of the protoplanetary disc: pre-solar grains, refractory inclusions rich in calcium-aluminum, chondrules, metal, ice, etc., during the first 10 million years from our solar system.

vignette first impactOn the evening of 27th of May 2020, a team of the Planetology group of Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur, detected a transient light on the night side of the lunar surface. The light phenomenon that had the extremely short duration of 0.2 seconds was caused by the impact of a meteoroid on the Moon. This is not only the first detection for the Flash! team but also is the first for France ! The telescopic observations took place at the site of Mont-Gros with a moderate telescope and a fast camera. Preliminary analysis has shown that the meteoroid did not originate from a known meteor stream but belonged to the so-called sporadic population and therefore it’s impact speed is estimated to be 19-24 km/s.

euclidAfter more than 10 years of design, fabrication and testing, the NISP (Near-Infrared Spectrometer and Photometer) instrument was delivered to ESA on Tuesday 19 May to be installed inside the telescope of the European Euclid astrophysics mission. Carrying the largest infrared camera ever sent into space, NISP is set to deliver key insights as scientists seek to unlock the secrets of dark matter and dark energy. The instrument is the result of an international effort coordinated by France, with partners notably from Italy, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Norway and the United States.

A team from the Lagrange laboratory (CNRS-UCA-OCA) is involved in this space mission, it is notably working on the development and testing of algorithms which will make it possible to use and analyze the data from the Euclid satellite.

Read the CNES press release

[Press release] Using ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), astronomers, including two from Côte d'Azur Observatory, have captured the unprecedented dimming of Betelgeuse, a red supergiant star in the constellation of Orion. The stunning new images of the star’s surface show not only the fading red supergiant but also how its apparent shape is changing.

vignette comparison asteroidsurfacesThe two on-going sample return space missions, Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx, have returned invaluable information for the nature of the surfaces of their target near-Earth asteroids, Ryugu and Bennu. These primitive, dark, carbonaceous asteroids appear to be at least covered by extremely weak material. Asteroids send free samples to Earth that we collect as meteorites, however such weak materials cannot survive the passage from Earth’s atmosphere. In the light of these new space mission data, it appears that we miss asteroid material from our meteoritic collection. Which are the properties of these materials?

graviton vignetteScientists from the observatories of Paris and Côte d’Azur, as well as the scientific center of Monaco, have used solar system data in order to constrain the mass of the graviton*.

ryugu vignetteIn October 2018, Space Shuttle Hayabusa2 dropped the Asteroid Surface Landing Gear (MASCOT) on the surface of the asteroid Ryugu (162173). Jaumann et al. analyzed the images taken by the camera MASCOT and allowed to reconstrZuct the trajectory of descent and rebound of the landing gear of 10kg on the asteroid. The analysis is the subject of a publication in Sciences, published on 23 August 2019 and co-written by Patrick Michel of the Lagrange Laboratory of the Côte d'Azur Observatory (CNRS / OCA / UNS).

vignette beta pictoris 082019A team of astronomers discovers a second giant planet around β Pictoris, a young star already known for its dust disk, its exocomets and its massive giant planet, β Pictoris b. The new planet is closer in, but more than 10 years of high precision data had to be analysed to discover it. Because β Pictoris is so bright and so close to us, it should help us to understand the formation of planetary systems.

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