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Blog Archive


Favorite Astro Plots: The Pyroxene Quadrilateral

Melissa Lane • June 15, 2018

Petrology is a field of science in which scientists study the compositions of rocks and minerals and interpret their geologic history. A common graph petrologists use is the “pyroxene quadrilateral.” These graphs, like photos of space, can reveal an understanding of the remotest parts of the solar system.

Big news from the magnetosphere

Geoffrey Reeves • June 05, 2018

At five years and counting, the Van Allen Probes mission continues to reshape our thinking about how Earth’s radiation belts flex and reconfigure under the influence of solar storms.

How long is a day on Saturn?

Emily Lakdawalla • May 30, 2018

One of the Cassini mission's goals was to figure out how long a day on Saturn is. We still don't know. A new paper reports a measurement of the rotation period of Saturn that is different from past measurements.

#Mercury2018: From MESSENGER to BepiColombo and beyond

Emily Lakdawalla • May 17, 2018

A Mercury meeting held May 1-3 summarized the current and future science of the innermost planet. Emily Lakdawalla was there and shares her notes.

Philae science results: Comet 67P is crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside

Emily Lakdawalla • May 09, 2018

What is the surface of a comet like? That's one of the main questions that motivated Philae's mission to the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. We now know the comet has a rigid crust about 10 to 50 centimeters thick, below which the comet is much more fluffy.

#LPSC2018: Mars mass wasting in the laboratory

Jake Robins • March 26, 2018

Mars today is a dynamic place. One visually dramatic sign of change on Mars is "mass wasting," more commonly known as "stuff falling downhill". Scientists presented the results of recent laboratory work on Mars mass wasting at last week's Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.

Yoshihide Kozai (1928 - 2018)

Konstantin Batygin • February 27, 2018

Caltech planetary scientist Konstantin Batygin pays tribute to a pioneer in celestial mechanics.

#AGU17: Spherical harmonics, gravity, and the depth of winds at Jupiter

Emily Lakdawalla • December 20, 2017

Results from the Juno gravity science experiment presented at last week's American Geophysical Union meeting suggest Jupiter's winds penetrate only to 3000 kilometers deep.

#DPS17: The Moon's Giordano Bruno crater through many eyes

Emily Lakdawalla • October 30, 2017

Today's story from the Division for Planetary Sciences meeting looks at one youthful rayed crater on the Moon from many different spacecraft.

#DPS17: Wobbling the Moon and art by James Tuttle Keane

Emily Lakdawalla • October 24, 2017

James Tuttle Keane is increasingly famous (among planetary scientists anyway) for his remarkable illustrated notes from conferences. Here's his work from the Division for Planetary Sciences meeting, illustrating both his own and others' research.

#DPS2017: Progress report on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter images of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring

Emily Lakdawalla • October 20, 2017

Three years ago, on October 19, 2014, comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring passed within 138,000 kilometers of Mars. At the 2017 meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society, we heard a progress report on Mars orbiter imaging of the comet's nucleus.

In total eclipse of a star, New Horizons' future flyby target makes its presence known

Emily Lakdawalla • July 19, 2017

The team reported two weeks ago that the first attempts at observing 2014 MU69 were unsuccessful. But in their third try, on July 17, astronomers in Argentina saw the telltale sign of MU69's presence: a stellar wink.

Geology on Mars: Using stratigraphic columns to tell the story of Gale Crater

Heidi Stauffer • May 15, 2017

Stratigraphic columns are a basic tool in geology, used on both Earth and Mars to tell the story of a location. But what are they really?

Radar in Earth and Planetary Science, Part 2

Heather Hunter • May 12, 2017

Heather Hunter brings us the next installment in her series on radio detection and ranging.

Radar in Earth and Planetary Science: An Intro

Heather Hunter • February 24, 2017

Heather Hunter explains how radar works and what it's used for on Earth and beyond.

Subsurface Water Ice in Utopia Planitia, Mars

Cassie Stuurman • November 22, 2016

Martian radar expert Cassie Stuurman explains how the SHARAD instrument aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was used to detect buried ice deposits.

DPS/EPSC update on New Horizons at the Pluto system and beyond

Emily Lakdawalla • October 25, 2016

Last week's Division for Planetary Sciences/European Planetary Science Congress meeting was chock-full of science from New Horizons at Pluto.

DPS/EPSC update: 2007 OR10 has a moon!

Emily Lakdawalla • October 19, 2016

The third-largest object known beyond Neptune, 2007 OR10, has a moon. The discovery was reported in a poster by Gábor Marton, Csaba Kiss, and Thomas Mueller at the joint meeting of the European Planetary Science Congress and the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society (DPS/EPSC) on Monday.

Rosetta spacecraft may be dying, but Rosetta science will go on

Emily Lakdawalla • September 29, 2016

The Rosetta mission will end tomorrow when the spacecraft impacts the comet. ESA took advantage of the presence of hundreds of members of the media to put on a showcase of Rosetta science. If there’s one thing I learned today from all the science presentations, it’s this: Rosetta data will be informing scientific work for decades to come.

Gaia's first galaxy map

Emily Lakdawalla • September 14, 2016

The astronomy world is abuzz today because of ESA's announcement of the first release of data from the Gaia mission. Gaia is a five-year mission that will eventually measure the positions and motions of billions of stars; this first data release includes positions for 1.1 billion of them, and proper motions for 2 million.

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