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Notes from the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference: Is there ice at Mercury's poles?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/03/22 10:28 CDT

Water ice at Mercury's poles? That's crazy, right? Mercury is so close to the Sun that it seems inconceivable that you could have water ice there. But Mercury's rotational axis has virtually no tilt (MESSENGER has measured its tilt to be less than 1 degree), so there are areas at Mercury's poles, most often (but not always) within polar craters, where the Sun never rises above the horizon to heat the surface.

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Notes from Titan talks at the 2012 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/03/20 02:16 CDT

One of the topics I found most exciting yesterday was a series of talks on Titan's climate. Bob West showed how Titan's detached haze has shifted with time. Zibi Turtle presented about how Titan's weather has changed with these seasonal changes. Jason Barnes followed up Zibi's talk -- which was based on Cassini camera images -- with a study of the same regions using data from Cassini's imaging spectrometer, trying to figure out what was going on with that brightening. Ralph Lorenz talked about rainfall rates on Titan. Jeff Moore asked: what if Titan hasn't always had a thick atmosphere?

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Online Astronomy Course Update

Posted by Bruce Betts on 2012/03/06 11:27 CST

All the archived lectures from my free Introduction to Astronomy and the Solar System course, as well as links to the syllabus and how to watch the lectures live, can be found online.

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New "Snapshot From Space": Defending Our Planet

Posted by Mat Kaplan on 2012/03/06 10:18 CST

A new installment of our "Snapshots" video series examines the threat posed by asteroids on collision courses with our home planet. Emily Lakdawalla explains why it's so important to find, understand and learn to deflect these potential civilization enders.

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Iapetus' peerless equatorial ridge

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/02/22 01:49 CST

A new paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research - Planets by Dombard, Cheng, McKinnon, and KayI claims to explain how Iapetus' equatorial ridge formed. Cool!

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Emily's New Video Series: Snapshots From Space

Posted by Mat Kaplan on 2012/02/20 04:29 CST

This is the first episode of editor Emily Lakdawalla's new video series exploring the solar system.

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Figuring out orbital positions from orbital elements

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/02/16 05:03 CST | 6 comments

A few times a year I find myself confronting a table full of numbers describing the orbits of things in the solar system, and cursing at myself because I've forgotten, again, what all these numbers mean and how to manipulate them to get the particular numbers I want.

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Has Mars Express MARSIS data proved that Mars once had a northern ocean?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/02/07 05:46 CST

There's been a bit of buzz on the Web this week regarding an ESA press release titled "ESA's Mars Express radar gives strong evidence for former Mars ocean." I don't ordinarily write about press-released science papers, but am making an exception for this one.

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The Arecibo Trip

Posted by Bill Nye on 2012/02/03 01:09 CST | 1 comment

I have just returned from my first Planetary Society-sponsored trip to Puerto Rico and this historic, remarkable, big idea of a telescope.

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Six days in the crater (day one)

Posted by Pat Donohue on 2012/02/03 10:02 CST

This is the first in a series of posts based on field notes and memories supplemented by background reading material from the Meteor Crater Field Camp that was held from October 17-23, 2010.

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Steno's principles and planetary geology

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/01/11 12:29 CST

The Google Doodle for January 11, 2012 celebrates Nicholas Steno, one of the founding fathers of modern geology, on the occasion of his 374th birthday. This article describes Steno's set of rules that guide geologists in reading rocks to tell the story of how a place came to be and how the rules are currently used in geology.

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Project for Awesome Video On Behalf of the Planetary Society

Posted by Mat Kaplan on 2011/12/22 12:22 CST | 1 comment

WhirledSol posted a cool Youtube tribute to the Planetary Society a year ago, and we just now found it! It has a nice explanation of why we are so passionate about space exploration.

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Separating fact from speculation about Kepler-20's Earth-sized planets

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/20 04:53 CST

A large team of researchers has announced in a Nature article the discovery of not one, but two, Earth-sized planets orbiting a star named Kepler-20. This article separates the observational facts from the quite-likely-to-be-true inferences from the downstream speculations.

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Notes on Dawn at Vesta from the 2011 American Geophysical Union meeting

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/08 03:19 CST

A report on the press briefing and talks from the Fall 2011 American Geophyisical Union meeting about the data on Vesta collected so far by Dawn.

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First-ever high-resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar image of Enceladus

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/01 07:22 CST

On the November 6, 2011 flyby of Enceladus -- the third such flyby in just a few weeks -- the Cassini mission elected to take a SAR swath instead of using the optical instruments for once. So here it is: the first-ever SAR swath on Enceladus. In fact, the only other places we've ever done SAR imaging are Earth, the Moon, Venus, Iapetus, and Titan.

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How radio telescopes get "images" of asteroids

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/08 10:52 CST

This is a repost of an article I wrote in April 2010; I thought it'd be useful reading for those of you interested in today's near-Earth flyby of asteroid 2005 YU55.

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Earth observing satellites record large Arctic ozone loss

Posted by Jason Davis on 2011/10/14 06:31 CDT

Data from Earth observing satellites Aura and CALIPSO have shown record losses of seasonal ozone in the Arctic.

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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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Notes from Day 5 of the EPSC/DPS meeting: Saturn's storm, Phobos, and Lutetia

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/07 07:09 CDT

Today was (is) the last day of the Division of Planetary Sciences / European Planetary Science Congress meeting in Nantes, France.

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Notes from Day 3 of the EPSC/DPS meeting (all about MESSENGER)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/05 11:04 CDT

Today I largely spent in the MESSENGER sessions. They have a lot of data to talk about.

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