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The Shores of the Kraken Sea: Great Place Names in the Solar System

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2013/05/28 08:59 CDT | 9 comments

Nothing reflects the romance of deep space exploration more than the evocative names of places on the planets and moons.

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Dueling Desolations: Mercury vs. the Moon

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2013/05/13 01:02 CDT | 7 comments

They look so similar they can be hard to tell apart, but each hides its own mysteries.

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Planetary Society Weekly Hangout (Special Time): MESSENGER at Mercury with Larry Nittler, Fri May 3 5pm PDT / midnight UTC

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/05/02 07:00 CDT | 2 comments

Note the special time! In this week's Planetary Society hangout at 5pm PDT / midnight UTC, I'll talk with MESSENGER deputy principal investigator Larry Nittler about what MESSENGER has accomplished in its prime and extended missions at Mercury, and what it stands to do if awarded a mission extension.

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One Day in the Solar System

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2013/04/08 09:12 CDT | 4 comments

Dispatches from five different worlds--all sent by robotic spacecraft on the same day.

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LPSC 2013: Seeing in Permanent Shadow

Posted by Michael Poston on 2013/04/03 01:21 CDT | 1 comments

The case for water ice hidden in permanently shadowed regions at the north pole of the planet Mercury received another boost recently. On Wednesday March 20, 2013 at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, Nancy Chabot presented the very first visible-light images of what is in the shadows of these polar craters.

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LPSC 2013: Do we have a meteorite from Mercury?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/03/21 06:14 CDT | 7 comments

Before yesterday, my answer to this question would be "no." Now my answer is "probably." But it's not clear if we know which of the meteorites in our collections is from the innermost planet.

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Messages of Wonder

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2013/03/18 04:22 CDT

Some lovely, rarely-seen images from the MESSENGER mission.

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Isostasy, gravity, and the Moon: an explainer of the first results of the GRAIL mission

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/12/11 01:04 CST | 15 comments

Last week the GRAIL mission published their first scientific results, and what they have found will send many geophysicists back to the drawing board to explain how the Moon formed and why it looks the way it does now. To explain how, I'm going to have to back way up, and explain the basic science behind gravity data.

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Water ice and organics at Mercury's poles

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/11/29 02:16 CST | 9 comments

Water ice at Mercury's poles? That's crazy, right? The MESSENGER team has made a very good case that radar-bright material seen by the Arecibo telescope is, in fact, water ice, covered in most places by a veneer of dark organic material.

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MESSENGER Mission Update: First burn performed to lower extended mission altitude

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/04/16 07:58 CDT

The MESSENGER mission just issued a press release announcing that they have completed the first step in the two-step process of lowering the spacecraft's orbit around Mercury.

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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 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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Scale solar system presentation slide, a provisional version for you to review

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/15 02:18 CDT

I'm preparing a talk for the Pacific Astronomy and Telescope Show here in Pasadena on Sunday afternoon at 1:45. I have spent the morning putting together a slide that I have long wanted to have for presentations.

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Early MESSENGER science results: Mercury is its own planet, not Moon or Earth

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/06/16 03:44 CDT

There was a press briefing today giving some early science results from MESSENGER and it was surprisingly meaty. I'm going to focus on just one set of the results that they presented.

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Summer Sights of the Solar System

Posted by Ray Sanders on 2011/06/07 03:23 CDT

What can you expect to see if you look at the night sky this summer (2011)?

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Memo to early risers: Look up!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/05/02 11:46 CDT

There is a traffic jam of planets on the eastern horizon in the early morning right now and for the next several weeks, a prize for those of you who have to rise before dawn.

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The scale of our solar system

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/05/02 11:26 CDT

Space.com has taken advantage of the infinitely scrollable nature of Web pages to produce a really cool infographic on the scales of orbital distances in the solar system.

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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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365 Days of Astronomy Podcast: What's up in the second quarter of 2011

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/04/07 11:16 CDT

Regular readers of this blog will find the content of today's 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast familiar, because it's an update on what the solar system exploration spacecraft are up to, based on my monthly "what's up" updates.

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Welcome to Carnival of Space #191

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/04/05 11:25 CDT

Welcome, everyone, to the Planetary Society Blog for the 191st Carnival of Space! Every week, a different webmaster or blogger hosts the Carnival, showcasing articles written on the topic of space.

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