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NASA releases first topographical map of Mercury

AstronomyOn Friday, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) released the first ever global digital elevation model (DEM) of Mercury.

The DEM was created using data gathered by NASA's MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft, including over 100,000 photographs, and shows a variety of Mercury's topographical features including the planet's highest and lowest points. MESSENGER principal investigator Sean Solomon said they hope the information will be used to investigate Mercury's geological history.

NASA releases complete image of Pluto's crescent

AstronomyOn Thursday, NASA released the first complete picture of Pluto's crescent from the New Horizons probe. The probe captured the image with its Multi-spectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) on July 14, fifteen minutes after closest approach to the planet.

After nine years' journey, New Horizons made closest approach to Pluto on July 14 and released the first coloured photo of the dwarf planet's atmospheric haze on October 8. An incomplete crescent photo of Pluto was released in September.

The photo shows different layers of the haze of Pluto's faint atmosphere with Sputnik Planum, an icy plain, visible on the right side and uneven plateaus on the dark left side.

After Mars, NASA announces water ice on Pluto

AstronomyNASA released yesterday the first coloured pictures of Pluto's blue atmosphere and water ice on the surface taken by the space probe New Horizons.

NASA said the haze particles may be grey or red in colour, but the scattering of light producing blue colour indicates the size of the particles. Smaller particles results in the scattering of the blue light. Scientists calls those soot like grey-red particles tholins.

NASA announces water on Mars

AstronomyOn Monday, NASA announced that signs of liquid water have been found on Mars. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft found evidence of the liquid on the Martian surface, in long dark spots on the Red Planet thought to be formed because of water flow.

In a news conference, NASA's planetary science director, Jim Green said, "We now know Mars was once a planet very much like Earth with warm salty seas and fresh water lakes [...] but something has happened to Mars, it lost its water."

Study estimates Earth has over three trillion trees

BiologyA study published yesterday by Nature estimates the global tree population at just over three trillion. Previous work estimated the total at 400 billion.

The international research, led by Yale University in the US, used satellite images to examine over 400,000 plots of land for estimated tree density. Subarctic regions of Scandinavia, Russia, and North America had the highest densities but the largest forested areas were tropical. The study puts 43% of trees in the tropics, where deforestation is particularly common.
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