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Curiosity sol 11 update: Decision to drive to "the high thermal inertia unit" and what that means

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/08/17 06:06 CDT | 8 comments

Some notes from this morning's Curiosity press briefing: the rover will be driving to "Glenelg" to investigate the "high thermal inertia unit." I explain what that means, with psychedelic Odyssey THEMIS images of the landing site.

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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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Full Free Intro Astronomy Class Now Online

Posted by Bruce Betts on 2012/05/22 02:57 CDT | 1 comment

Bruce Betts' complete CSUDH Intro Astronomy and Planetary Science class is now available online. Find out how to access it, and go behind the scenes.

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Rovers in the desert

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/05/14 03:02 CDT | 5 comments

I took a field trip to watch scientists and engineers play in the sand with Mars rover models, and got a bonus tour of some evidence for the "Snowball Earth" hypothesis.

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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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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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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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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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Is Europa's ice thin or thick? At chaos terrain, it's both!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/17 04:32 CST | 6 comments

Among Europa scientists there are two warring factions: the thick-icers and the thin-icers. The question is how thick is the ice shell that overlies Europa's subsurface ocean (the existence of which pretty much everyone agrees on).

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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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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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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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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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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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