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Congratulations to the Dawn team on their orbit entry & pretty pictures!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/07/18 05:08 CDT

There's a new orbital mission on the map! As of Friday, the relatively small mass of the asteroid Vesta has finally taken hold of its new artificial satellite, Dawn.

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Cassini animations: Rhea and Dione and Titan

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/06/28 04:12 CDT

I've been mucking about in the Cassini data archives (as I often do when procrastinating) and unearthed a neat, if short, mutual event sequence of two crescent moons passing by each other.

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Cassini finally catches Helene

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/06/20 04:41 CDT

Cassini has finally achieved gorgeous global imaging of Helene with a spectacular flyby on Saturday, in which they got Helene to pose prettily for the camera from beginning to end of the encounter. And what a wacky, wacky world Cassini has revealed Helene to be!!

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Color versions of the recent Titan & moon beauty shots

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/06/02 01:46 CDT

Last week I got very excited about a set of pictures that had appeared on Cassini's raw images website, but was sad that I couldn't make color versions myself. I was so excited that I failed to identify the little icy moon in the picture correctly.

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Tantalizing photos of Titan, Dione, Tethys, and Saturn

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/05/23 02:23 CDT

It figures. I just start a three-week trip, with my only computer a diminutive Netbook, and guess what's just been radioed across the 1.3 billion kilometers separating us and Saturn? A set of photos that should become -- when properly processed -- an iconic image from Cassini's fourteen-year mission to the Saturn system.

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Titan's lack of lightning

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/05/19 12:27 CDT

It's a fact of life in science that not all of your hypotheses will turn out to be correct (or even verifiable at all). But there's a bias toward the publication of positive results -- the discovery of this, or the proof of that.

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Watch Saturn's storms spin with VIMS

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/04/28 01:15 CDT

A lot of attention has been paid recently to a storm in Saturn's northern hemisphere that is large and bright enough to be visible from Earth, but Saturn's atmosphere actually features lots more swirling storms. They can be hard to see, at least in visible wavelengths.

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Outside scientists being invited in to Cassini mission

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/04/20 10:09 CDT

NASA announced last week the start of a Participating Scientist program for Cassini, which is big news, for outer planets scientists anyway. Lots and lots of other missions have participating scientist programs, from big missions like Mars Science Laboratory to little ones like Dawn; but this is the first time for Cassini, which is kind of surprising given that it's been almost seven years since it arrived at Saturn.

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Nearly behind Saturn

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/04/19 01:03 CDT

Some recent photos that Cassini took from a position nearly in Saturn's shadow caught my eye, and I made a quick color composite. What an amazing view this would be if you were riding on the spacecraft!

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365 Days of Astronomy Podcast: What's up in the second quarter of 2011

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/04/07 11:16 CDT

Regular readers of this blog will find the content of today's 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast familiar, because it's an update on what the solar system exploration spacecraft are up to, based on my monthly "what's up" updates.

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What's up in the solar system in April 2011

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/03/31 03:59 CDT

April 2011 will see MESSENGER begin the science phase of its orbital mission at Mercury, and should, I think, also see the start of Dawn's approach observations of Vesta. At Mars, Opportunity is back on the road again, rolling inexorably toward Endeavour. At Saturn, Cassini will continue its focus on Saturn and Titan science.

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Evidence for rain on Titan

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/03/22 04:40 CDT

Last week, Zibi Turtle and Jason Perry and a dozen other coauthors published a paper in Science discussing evidence for rain on Titan.

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LPSC 2011: Day 4: Ted Stryk on icy moons and The Moon

Posted by Ted Stryk on 2011/03/17 11:22 CDT

Here are Ted Stryk's notes from the sessions he attended in the afternoon of Thursday, March 10, at the 42nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.

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Pretty picture: Saturn storm

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/03/08 10:46 CST

To relieve this week's text-heavy LPSC posts, here's a brief one on an incredible panorama across Saturn's northern storm, taken on February 26 by Cassini and assembled by unmannedspaceflight.com member "Astro0."

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What's up in the solar system in March 2011

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/02/28 02:43 CST

I don't think there's any question what the big event of this month will be: MESSENGER is finally, finally entering orbit at Mercury on March 18 at 00:45 UTC (March 17 at 16:45 for me).

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Some recent pictures of Saturn's northern storm

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/02/07 04:35 CST

There is a huge storm that's spreading across so much of Saturn that it's been readily visible even from Earth-based telescopes. Over the past couple of days a couple of new images of Saturn have appeared that show just how enormous the storm is today.

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Two fine color Cassini animations: Prometheus rotating, Tethys and Dione dancing

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/01/20 11:23 CST

Daniel Macháček has reached into the dark side of Prometheus and pulled out an incredible amount of detail where the potato-shaped moon is illuminated by Saturnshine. He produced an animation that morphs among the three sets of four-filter color images that Cassini snapped during the flyby.

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Goodies from the January 11 Rhea flyby

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/01/12 10:44 CST

Cassini got some incredibly tricky shots during its January 11 Rhea flyby!

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A Martian Moment in Time, revisited

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/05/12 02:30 CDT

A good start to my day today: The New York Times' Lens Blog featured the "Martian Moment in Time" photo that Opportunity took last week in a really nice writeup. I'm so grateful, and still a little surprised, that the folks on the Mars Exploration Rover mission took this idea and ran with it!

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Radar glories in Titan rivers

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/05/11 04:53 CDT

Wow, this is a cool paper. Here's the gist: the Cassini RADAR team has spotted some river channels on Titan that shine so brightly in radar images, there must be something special going on to explain that brightness.

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