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Some first impressions of EPSC-DPS meeting

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/03 11:55 CDT

Today they turned on the scientific fire hose at the Division of Planetary Sciences / European Planetary Science Congress meeting happening here in Nantes, France. My brain already feels full and I still have four more days!

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Tethys and Dione don't seem to be active after all

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/23 01:09 CDT

About four years ago I wrote a blog entry about an ESA press release about paper published in Nature that suggested that Saturn's moons Tethys and Dione might have volcanic activity, like Enceladus. A new paper published in Icarus casts doubt on that conclusion.

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Reading Itokawa's life history from microscopic samples

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/20 01:58 CDT

When Hayabusa's sample return capsule was first opened and found to be very clean-looking inside, I doubted that there could be enough material for laboratory analysis. JAXA announced later that they scraped about 1500 dust grains from the inside with a teflon spatula, and these likely came from Itokawa.

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Video: Zooming around Vesta

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/16 08:44 CDT

The Dawn team released today a nice little video that flies around a shape model of Vesta produced by DLR, the German Aerospace Corporation, who built and operate Dawn's camera.

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New Horizons Day 2: Liquids on Pluto's surface?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/13 01:27 CDT

Jeff Moore's presentation was cool because of the discussion it stimulated. He considered what exogenic processes might be operating on Pluto's surface. What's an exogenic process? It's something that modifies the shape of the surface from the outside, and doesn't require the body to be geologically active inside.

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New Horizons Day 2: Tectonic features on icy worlds

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/09 01:05 CDT

The second day of the New Horizons Workshop on Icy Surface Processes was about geology and geophysics. This long post just covers the first talk of that day.

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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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Gale's not the only Martian crater with an "enigmatic mound"

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/08/17 07:33 CDT

Much has been made of the "enigmatic mound" within Gale crater, which will be the target of the Curiosity Mars rover's investigations. The 5,000-meter-thick section rocks in Gale's central mound will be fascinating to study, but the fact that Gale has a central mound that's taller than its rim is not at all unusual on Mars.

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What a Day! From Earth to the Moon and Mars

Posted by Bill Nye on 2011/07/21 03:02 CDT

Mission accomplished! It's been thirty great years for the Space Shuttle program. With this venerable space vehicle retired, it's on to the next adventure.

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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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Zapping Rocks for Science

Posted by Ryan Anderson on 2011/05/27 09:01 CDT

Laser beams and space exploration are perfect for each other, and not just because all self-respecting starship captains know their way around a blaster. It turns out that zapping rocks with a laser is not only fun, it also can tell you what they're made of!

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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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Searching for one planet, finding another

Posted by Konstantin Batygin on 2011/05/23 07:35 CDT

Some parallels exist between Odysseus' journey and the discoveries of exoplanets. What initially started out as a well-planned trip from Troy back to Ithaca, turned into a series of rather unfortunate events, with episodes of fighting Cyclops and having your crew turned into swine.

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Galileo's still producing discoveries: A magma ocean within Io!

Posted by Jason Perry on 2011/05/13 11:44 CDT

A fresh report was published online yesterday in Science Express on the discovery of a magma ocean beneath the surface of Io. Big news! This is a paper I've been looking forward to seeing for more than year and half.

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The Moon is a KREEPy place

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/04/27 01:03 CDT | 2 comments

If you go to a conference about lunar geology, sooner or later you'll hear the term "KREEP" bandied about. (And almost as soon as KREEP is mentioned, a bad pun will be made. It's inevitable.) Context will tell you it has something to do with a special kind of lunar rock, but that'll only get you so far. What is KREEP, and why is it important on the Moon?

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Mercury's Weird Terrain

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/04/19 11:21 CDT

When Mariner 10 flew past Mercury, it caught an immense impact basin lying half in and half out of sunlight, which they named Caloris. Even with only half the basin visible, scientists knew it was one of the largest in the solar system. Geologists had to wait more than 25 years to see the rest of Caloris, and when they did it turned out to be even bigger than they had thought. But the fact that Caloris was only half in sunlight was fortuitous in one sense, because it meant that the spot on Mercury that was exactly opposite the area of the Caloris impact was also partially in sunlight. That spot looks weird.

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Comparing Clementine and Chandrayaan-1 spectra from the Moon

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/04/11 12:38 CDT

In a paper recently published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, Georgiana Kramer and several coauthors performed a careful comparison of two data sets that seem like they're measuring the same things, so you'd think that the measurements they took would match between the two instruments. But they don't quite match.

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LPSC 2011: Lunar Layers

Posted by Mike Malaska on 2011/03/29 11:49 CDT

Some recent high-resolution images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) have revealed large blocks on the lunar surface that show evidence of layers. The layered blocks were seen near the crater Aristarchus, which is a bright crater in the northeast quadrant of the nearside Moon.

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LPSC 2011: Sponge-moon Hyperion

Posted by Mike Malaska on 2011/03/23 02:51 CDT

Saturn's moon Hyperion has a bizarre sponge-like appearance that is in dramatic contrast to other heavily cratered bodies in the solar system.

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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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