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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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Talking Climate With Bill Nye

Posted by Mat Kaplan on 2012/07/03 04:04 CDT | 2 comments

Talk about changing climates on this world and others brought 600 people to the Boulder Theater.

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A geochemist's Periodic Table of Elements

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/06/25 07:39 CDT | 5 comments

The Periodic Table of Elements that hangs in chemistry classrooms doesn't include a lot of the information about elements that's most important to geologists. Here's one that does.

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Some Details About Transits of Venus

Posted by David Shortt on 2012/05/22 06:02 CDT | 2 comments

The upcoming rare transit of Venus is one step in a long dance among Earth, Venus and the Sun. Transits of Venus follow a peculiar pattern—two transits 8 years apart, then 105.5 years with no transits, then two transits 8 years apart, then 121.5 years with no transits, for a total cycle of 243 years—and thereby hangs a tale.

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Third Martian Anniversary for Mars Climate Sounder

Posted by David Kass on 2012/05/16 11:35 CDT | 2 comments

May 16, 2012 is the third martian anniversary of the start of Mars Climate Sounder (MCS) observations from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. MCS started measuring the atmosphere of Mars three Mars years ago, on September 24, 2006. We can now compare the weather and behavior of the atmosphere in three different years, and find the temperature differences to be surprisingly large.

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Earth’s toughest life could survive on Mars

Posted by Mike Malaska on 2012/05/15 06:22 CDT | 6 comments

The surface of Mars is a tough place to survive, but researchers at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) found some lichens and cyanobacteria tough enough to handle those conditions.

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A possible nine-planet system

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/04/06 04:06 CDT | 1 comment

Someone on Twitter pointed me to a paper recently posted to ArXiv titled "Evidence for 9 planets in the HD 10180 system." If the (tentative) conclusion holds up, HD 10180 will be the first exoplanetary system known to have more planets than our own.

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What Saturn's moons can tell us about comets (Notes from LPSC 2012)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/04/03 05:20 CDT

My notes on a two-part presentation by collaborators Jim Richardson and David Minton about the sizes of things in the Kuiper belt, a story they told by looking at Saturn's moons. How does that work? What connects Saturn's moons to the Kuiper belt is craters.

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Notes from the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference: Making Cassini's radar images prettier

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/03/26 02:12 CDT

One of the more exciting talks last week was given by Antoine Lucas about his work with Oded Aharonson "denoising" Cassini radar images of Titan. Cassini's radar images are superior to the camera photos in revealing fine details and topography on Titan's surface, but they do suffer from a random noise component that makes the pictures look snowy. Antoine and Oded have developed a method for removing much of this noise.

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Notes from the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference: A little bit of Phobos and Deimos

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/03/22 12:04 CDT | 3 comments

I just sat in the "small bodies" session at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, listening to three talks about Phobos. The first was by Abby Fraeman, who looked at data on Phobos and Deimos from the two imaging spectrometers in orbit at Mars. The next talk, by L. Chappaz, was motivated by Phobos-Grunt's mission. It asked: if you grabbed 200 grams of soil from the surface of Phobos, how much of that material would actually have originated on Mars? Then there was a particularly interesting talk that dealt with the question of how Phobos' grooves formed.

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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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Guest Post: Patrick Donohue: Six days in the crater (day one)

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

Guest Post: Patrick Donohue: Six days in the crater (day one)

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