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Blog Archive


Checking in on Uranus and Neptune, September 2015 edition

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/09/22 01:28 CDT | 5 comments

There are no spacecraft at Uranus or Neptune, and there haven't been for 30 and 25 years, respectively. So we depend on Earth-based astronomers to monitor them, including Damian Peach.

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How the duck got its neck: Rapid temperature changes from self-shadowing may explain 67P's unusual activity and shape

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/09/11 11:04 CDT | 5 comments

When Rosetta approached comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko last summer, both its shape and its activity were surprising. It looked like two comets welded together at a skinny neck. A new paper explains how the neck may be steepening itself.

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Aluminum Shapemodel of Comet 67P

Posted by Mattias Malmer on 2015/09/04 07:55 CDT | 4 comments

Mattias Malmer describes his MacGyver-esque process in creating a homemade aluminum version of 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

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ESA's cool new interactive comet visualization tool based on amateur imaging work with open data

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/08/13 01:49 CDT | 2 comments

A terrific new visualization tool for comet 67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko demonstrates the value of sharing mission image data with the public. The browser-based tool lets you spin a simulated 3D view of the comet. It began with a 3D model of the comet created not by ESA, but by a space enthusiast, Mattias Malmer.

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New Robotic Spacecraft Posters

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2015/08/06 12:20 CDT | 2 comments

Another round of posters to celebrate historic planetary missions.

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More than 2000 Rosetta NavCam images for your enjoyment

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/07/07 02:10 CDT | 2 comments

Last week, the European Space Agency released the first set of images from Rosetta's navigational camera, or NavCam, from the phase of the mission that followed the Philae landing. That makes more than 3500 NavCam images that have been released from the comet phase of the mission.

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Philae is awake! What's next for the comet lander's scientific mission?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/06/17 05:16 CDT | 5 comments

I woke up early Sunday morning to the dramatic news: Philae is back! With a few days to consider the telemetry, the Philae team is now talking about the science they hope to do. With comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko approaching perihelion in August, it's going to be an exciting ride.

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Unseen latitudes of comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko -- revealed!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/05/15 12:11 CDT | 2 comments

A recent Rosetta image has revealed a good part of the comet's previously hidden southern terrain to the public for the first time.

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More than 1000 Rosetta NavCam images released!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/04/29 11:50 CDT

Today the European Space Agency released a ton of NavCam images, taken as the spacecraft approached and then entered orbit at the comet.

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Rosetta update: Two close flybys of an increasingly active comet

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/04/21 03:07 CDT | 6 comments

In the two months since I last checked up on the Rosetta mission, the comet has heated up, displaying more and more jet activity. Rosetta completed very close flybys on February 14 and March 28, taking amazing photos. But comet dust is making navigation difficult, so the mission is now keeping a respectful distance from the comet and replanning its future path.

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LPSC 2015: Philae at comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/03/18 04:05 CDT | 2 comments

In my first post from the 2015 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, I discuss the latest work on Philae images, and some cometary polymers.

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Adding Churyumov-Gerasimenko to my scale comparison of comets and asteroids

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/03/13 05:47 CDT | 4 comments

Having found a color photo of the comet, I finally added Churyumov-Gerasimenko to my scale comparison of comets and asteroids visited by spacecraft.

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An active comet, from a distance

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/02/13 01:27 CST | 4 comments

Rosetta has closed to within 50 kilometers of Churyumov-Gerasimenko, on its way to a very close, 6-kilometer flyby of the comet tomorrow. To prepare for the flyby, Rosetta traveled much farther away, allowing it to snap these amazing photos of an increasingly active comet from a great distance.

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Rosetta shifts from sedate circular orbits to swooping flybys

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/02/10 12:35 CST | 9 comments

For the period of time before and after the Philae landing, Rosetta was able to orbit the comet close enough that it was in gravitationally bound orbits, circling the comet's center of gravity. As the comet's activity increases, the spacecraft has to spend most of its time farther away, performing occasional close flybys. The first of these is at 6 kilometers, on February 14.

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At last! A slew of OSIRIS images shows fascinating landscapes on Rosetta's comet

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/01/26 11:50 CST | 8 comments

The first results of the Rosetta mission are out in Science magazine. The publication of these papers means that the OSIRIS camera team has finally released a large quantity of closeup images of comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, taken in August and September of last year. I explain most of them, with help from my notes from December's American Geophysical Union meeting.

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New Churyumov-Gerasimenko Shapemodel!

Posted by Mattias Malmer on 2014/12/12 09:00 CST | 1 comments

Mattias Malmer shares his latest shape model of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, created using data from the Rosetta spacecraft.

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Rosetta imaged Philae during its descent -- and after its bounce

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/11/17 05:10 CST | 18 comments

This morning ESA released a set of images of the Philae lander taken by the Rosetta orbiter during -- and after -- the lander's first touchdown. The images contain evidence for the spot Philae first touched the comet, and a crucial photo of Philae's position several minutes into its first long bounce.

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Philae status, a day later

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/11/13 01:26 CST | 9 comments

The Philae team scrambled all morning to comprehend the initially confusing status of the lander, and the picture is much clearer today. Speaking of which, there are lots more pictures!

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Brief Philae "Morning After" update: First ÇIVA panorama from the surface

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/11/13 04:53 CST | 1 comments

I'm just getting up to speed on the news from overnight, which is mostly good: Philae remained in contact with the orbiter (which means the CONSERT radar sounding experiment was working), and it's sitting stably on the surface, although it's not anchored in any way. And they released the first ÇIVA image from the ground!

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Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/11/12 10:21 CST | 16 comments

The landing happened on time just after 16:02 UT today! Philae mission manager Stephan Ulamec said: "Philae is talking to us! The first thing he told us was the harpoons have been fired and rewound. We are sitting on the surface." Those words later turned out not to be true; but we do know at least that Philae survived the landing and is returning good data.

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