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Blog Archive


Origins 2011 conference, part 1

Posted by Frank Trixler on 2011/07/14 12:53 CDT

The Origins 2011 conference, which took place last week in Montpellier, France, was dedicated to the origins of life and its occurrence in the universe. At this meeting, scientists from very different disciplines came together to share their ideas.

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Ever closer to Vesta

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/07/04 09:30 CDT

Here's a photo of Vesta that was released by the Dawn team on Friday. I didn't post it right away because the version of the image in the official release has some bizarre processing artifacts that make it look as though the image had been made by cutting construction paper.

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Amateur takes on the Dawn Vesta images

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/06/24 10:12 CDT

I am pretty sure that the Dawn team put nearly every image they've taken of Vesta so far in the animation they released yesterday, which is awesome. It hasn't taken long for the amateur image processing community to pick that animation apart into its component frames and process the heck out of the individual images to produce some very fine looking images and animations.

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Vesta looks pretty battered

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/06/23 01:53 CDT

There was a press briefing on Dawn today at NASA Headquarters, and there are new pictures! Here's what Vesta looked like as of three days ago, when Dawn was only 189,000 kilometers away.

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Vesta, now better than Hubble!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/06/17 07:55 CDT

Closer and closer! Vesta is still fuzzy, but as Dawn inexorably draws closer it's beginning to come into focus. The view is now better than anything Hubble has ever returned to Earth.

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Land ho!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/05/11 12:23 CDT

It's hard to convey just how excited I am to see Dawn's first image of asteroid Vesta.

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Why haven't we found evidence for life starting in asteroids?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/05/10 01:51 CDT

Here's a theoretical paper that asks an interesting question: When the solar system was very young and still very hot, could medium-sized asteroids have been habitable abodes for life?

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The scale of our solar system

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/05/02 11:26 CDT has taken advantage of the infinitely scrollable nature of Web pages to produce a really cool infographic on the scales of orbital distances in the solar system.

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Place names on Lutetia

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/04/26 05:56 CDT

Whenever we explore someplace new -- a new island, a new continent, a new cave, a new world -- there's a necessary activity that explorers must perform before they can sensibly tell the world about their discoveries: name things.

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So far, no moons found at Ceres or Vesta

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/04/15 02:37 CDT

Since the Galileo mission discovered tiny Dactyl circling Ida in 1993, quite a lot of asteroid systems have been found to be binary; there are even a few triples. So it's quite reasonable to guess that two of the biggest asteroids, Ceres and Vesta, might also have satellites.

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Welcome to Carnival of Space #191

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/04/05 11:25 CDT

Welcome, everyone, to the Planetary Society Blog for the 191st Carnival of Space! Every week, a different webmaster or blogger hosts the Carnival, showcasing articles written on the topic of space.

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In honor of Stardust: The Annefrank encounter

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/03/24 04:32 CDT

Since Stardust is being decommissioned today I thought it'd be fitting to take a look back at one of its data sets. I hadn't fiddled with the Annefrank data set before, and it was small and easy to deal with.

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LPSC 2011: Analysis of the grains returned by Hayabusa

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/03/16 12:39 CDT

I'd been despairing of finding a good source for a writeup of the presentations in the Hayabusa session at last week's Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, but am happy to report that I've finally found an excellent one.

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LPSC 2011: Day 1: Small bodies

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/03/08 12:28 CST

Here are some of the noteworthy items from the morning's session on "Small Bodies: A Traverse from NEOs to TNOs" and the afternoon's session on "Asteroid Geophysics and Processes: Surfaces and Interiors."

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A dog-bone-shaped asteroid's two moons: Kleopatra, Cleoselene, and Alexhelios

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/02/23 12:47 CST

Asteroid (216) Kleopatra has been interesting to astronomers for a long time because its brightness is highly variable, but it seems to get more interesting every time somebody looks at it with a new instrument. This week a paper was published in Icarus revealed that it's 30 to 50% empty space.

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Close approach to Earth turns Apollo into Aten

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/02/08 12:49 CST

Last week we got buzzed by a very small asteroid, something that happens fairly often. But there were several details that made the close approach of asteroid 2011 CQ1 worthy of note.

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How much is Vesta's geology controlled by its one huge impact feature?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/02/07 02:09 CST

Here's a neat paper just published in Geophysical Research Letters: "Mega-ejecta on asteroid Vesta." In it, Martin Jutzi and Erik Asphaug consider Vesta's shape -- which appears to be dominated by a very large impact crater centered at its south pole -- and ask how much of the great big asteroid Vesta's global appearance is likely to be dominated by the effects of that one large impact.

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Dawn Journal: ORT ORT ORT

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2011/02/03 12:10 CST

Dawn continues its flight through the asteroid belt, steadily heading toward its July rendezvous with Vesta, where it will take up residence for a year. On January 10, Dawn performed some of the activities that it will execute in its low altitude mapping orbit (LAMO) at Vesta.

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2010 JL33: How to see an asteroid from quite a long way away

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/01/13 11:42 CST

A terrific set of Goldstone radar images of a good-sized near-Earth asteroids named 2010 JL33 was posted to the JPL website yesterday. They also posted a movie version but something about these pixelated radar image series absolutely begs for them to be displayed as an old-school animated GIF, so I made one.

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365 Days of Astronomy Podcast: Small Worlds

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/12/27 03:56 CST

Today the 365 Days of Astronomy podcast aired my contribution, Small Worlds, about the smaller denizens of the solar system visited in the past year, and due to be visited in the next.

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