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Why can Hubble get detailed views of distant galaxies but not of Pluto?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/02/14 12:37 CST | 18 comments

How come Hubble's pictures of galaxies billions of light years away are so beautifully detailed, yet the pictures of Pluto, which is so much closer, are just little blobs? I get asked this question, or variations of it, a lot. Here's an explainer.

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New Contest: Name the Moons of Pluto!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/02/11 11:41 CST | 15 comments

The discoverers of Pluto's fourth and fifth moons are inviting the public to vote on (and write in candidates for) their formal names. Voting closes in two weeks.

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Kuiper Belt Objects Submitted to Minor Planet Center

Posted by Alex Parker on 2013/01/25 03:30 CST | 2 comments

Recently, several of the Kuiper Belt Objects our team has discovered while searching for New Horizons post-Pluto flyby candidates have been submitted to the Minor Planet Center (the organization responsible for designating minor bodies in the solar system) and their orbital information is now in the public domain.

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Alan Stern Returns to Planetary Radio

Posted by Mat Kaplan on 2012/11/27 04:08 CST

The New Horizons Pluto mission PI provides an update, and introduces his new public project called Uwingu.

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DPS 2012: Double occultation by Pluto and Charon

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/26 03:12 CDT | 5 comments

A few talks at last week's Division for Planetary Sciences meeting discussed observations of a double occultation -- both Pluto and Charon passing in front of the same star.

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A fifth moon for Pluto, and a possible hazard for New Horizons

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/07/16 02:55 CDT | 9 comments

Pluto is now known to have at least five moons (Charon, Nix, Hydra, P4, and the newly discovered P5), and its burgeoning population might pose a risk to New Horizons during its flyby, three years from now.

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Salacia: As big as Ceres, but much farther away

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/06/26 12:27 CDT | 10 comments

A newly published paper shows trans-Neptunian object Salacia to be unexpectedly large; it's somewhere around the tenth largest known thing beyond Neptune. It has a companion one-third its size, making it appear similar to Orcus and Vanth.

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Where are the big Kuiper belt objects?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/02/16 05:35 CST | 8 comments

Earlier today I wrote a post about how to calculate the position of a body in space from its orbital elements. I'm trying to get a big-picture view of what's going on in trans-Neptunian space.

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Visiting the San Diego SpaceUp Unconference

Posted by Mat Kaplan on 2012/02/14 08:38 CST

Emily Lakdawalla and I drove down to the 3rd annual San Diego SpaceUp Unconference on February 4. We had great fun hanging out with the other space geeks.

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Eris and embargoes (or: don't fear Ingelfinger!)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/12 04:49 CDT | 2 comments

Last Tuesday at the Division of Planetary Sciences meeting Bruno Sicardy presented the results of his research group's observations of a stellar occultation by Eris.

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Brief notes from Day 2 of the DPS-EPSC meeting

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/04 11:18 CDT

It's been a very full day at the DPS-EPSC 2011 joint meeting. My day was less full than it might have been, because I overslept and missed most of the morning's session. I really needed the rest though so I think it was probably for the best!

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New Horizons workshop, day 1: Chemistry & climate on Pluto & other cold places

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/08/30 11:27 CDT

Today and tomorrow I'm attending the New Horizons Workshop on Icy Surface Processes. The first day was all about the composition of the surface and atmosphere of Pluto, Charon, Triton, and other distant places.

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Meeting today: The infelicitously named "SBAG"

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/08/25 01:45 CDT

NASA funds regular meetings of scientists who work on different parts of the solar system to provide scientific input into NASA's future plans. These "analysis groups" are known by their acronyms, all of which sound kind of horrible, but none has quite as terrible-sounding an acronym as "SBAG," usually pronouced "ess-bag," the Small Bodies Assessment Group.

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In their own words

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/08/16 08:42 CDT

While doing my daily reading today I was struck by the awesomeness of two recent blog posts. Both were composed not by professional bloggers like me but by professional space explorers, one a scientist and the other an engineer.

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The most exciting citizen science project ever (to me, anyway)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/06/21 08:23 CDT

A guest blogger here recently rounded up the large number of participatory research projects that are collectively known as citizen science. I think these are all very cool and I encourage you to check them out but none of them has yet inspired me to spend my precious time as grunt labor on a gigantic collective project. Until now.

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Observing at the WIYN

Posted by Meg Schwamb on 2011/06/08 02:43 CDT

On May 5 and 6, I had a run on the WIYN (Wisconsin-Indiana-Yale-NOAO) telescope, a 3.5 m telescope, the second largest telescope on Kitt Peak in Arizona.

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South of the Border

Posted by Meg Schwamb on 2011/05/25 08:30 CDT

The last decade has seen an explosion in our understanding of the solar system with the discovery of the largest Kuiper belt objects (KBOs) of comparable size to Pluto.

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Another scientific clarification: Vanth probably not half the mass of Orcus

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/01/14 12:16 CST

Earlier this week I got all excited about the Orcus-Vanth system. It turns out there was a math error in the version of the paper that I read, which resulted in the notion that Vanth could be nearly as big as Orcus.

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Eris might be smaller than Pluto after all (but it's still more massive)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/11/08 04:48 CST

Several astronomers pointed their telescope at Eris to watch it pass in front of a background star. Occultations permit precise measurement of the diameters of distant, faint objects, and it turned out that Eris was much smaller than previously thought, so much so that its diameter may turn out to be the same as, or even smaller than, Pluto's.

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New maps of Pluto show pretty amazing amounts of surface change

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/04 02:17 CST

I just posted my writeup of today's press briefing on a new map of Pluto produced from Hubble images. The main conclusion was that Pluto has shown an astonishing amount of changes across its surface between 1994 and 2002 -- more, in fact, than any other solid surface in the solar system.

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