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Checking in on Jupiter

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/03/12 01:57 CDT | 2 comments

We don't have any spacecraft at Jupiter right now, which is a pity. Until we do, we have to rely upon Earth-based astronomers to monitor the changing face of the largest planet.

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Sea Salt

Posted by Mike Brown on 2013/03/06 10:41 CST | 3 comments

Ever wonder what it would taste like if you could lick the icy surface of Jupiter’s Europa? The answer may be that it would taste a lot like that last mouthful of water that you accidentally drank when you were swimming at the beach on your last vacation.

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Planetary Society Weekly Hangout: Studying Asteroids from Earth with Andy Rivkin

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/02/28 01:25 CST | 5 comments

Emily Lakdawalla's guest this week was Applied Physics Laboratory asteroid astronomer Andy Rivkin. We talked about the menagerie of rocks in the asteroid belt, how many of them travel in pairs and triples, how some of them are surprisingly wet, and how much you can learn about asteroids using Earth-based telescopes.

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Observing 2012 DA14

Posted by Edward Gomez on 2013/02/18 05:14 CST | 4 comments

Mostly the Universe stays unchanged for hundreds, thousands or even millions of years. There are some cases however when some things change really rapidly. Recently I observed one of these rapidly changing, transient phenomena, as asteroid called 2012 DA14. I work for Las Cumbres Observatory and we have been trying to observe this asteroid since 5 February.

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Stars, and stars, and stars: pretty pictures from the European Southern Observatory

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/01/21 03:39 CST | 4 comments

My solar system chauvinism is well-established, but I am as much a sucker for beautiful astrophotos as the rest of you. Once in a while I get a media advisory from the European Southern Observatory about a new pretty picture posted on their website, and then I inevitably lose an hour following links to one stunner after another.

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The Astronomy Budget Squeeze
It's not just NASA. All of space science feels the pinch of smaller budgets.

Posted by Casey Dreier on 2013/01/09 07:11 CST | 1 comment

It's not just the Planetary Sciences division within NASA that's under harsh budgetary times. The NSF Division of Astronomical Sciences is facing a choice between funding scientists and funding telescopes. A report from the 221st AAS meeting in Long Beach.

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DPS 2012: Double occultation by Pluto and Charon

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/26 03:12 CDT | 5 comments

A few talks at last week's Division for Planetary Sciences meeting discussed observations of a double occultation -- both Pluto and Charon passing in front of the same star.

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DPS 2012: Future impact risks

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/24 01:14 CDT | 7 comments

Continuing my writeup of notes from last week's Division for Planetary Sciences meeting: presentations on the risks of future asteroid impacts. How much risk do we face, and what are the appropriate actions to take in the face of that risk?

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DPS 2012: The most detailed images of Uranus' atmosphere ever

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/22 04:14 CDT | 3 comments

New ground-based images of Uranus show more finely detailed structure than any photos I have ever seen.

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Following up the dark spot on Uranus

Posted by Heidi Hammel on 2012/09/04 06:38 CDT | 2 comments

It was a surprise and delight to have our Icarus paper highlighted in Emily Lakdawalla's blog. Thanks for highlighting Uranus, since it has gotten, ahem, a bum rap over the years. Here's more about our discovery of the dark spot on Uranus.

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Optical SETI Gets a Major Upgrade

Posted by Bruce Betts on 2012/08/30 03:57 CDT | 5 comments

The Planetary Society Optical SETI Telescope in Harvard, Massachusetts just got a major upgrade of its electronics. The telescope, which has been operating the only all-sky optical SETI survey since its opening in 2006, is run by Harvard University Professor Paul Horowitz and his team. The telescope scans the sky every clear night with a 72-inch primary mirror, looking for laser pulses as short as one billionth of a second that could be transmitted by distant extraterrestrials. When observing, it has been able to process 1 terabit (trillion bits) of data every second, that’s as much as in all the books in print every second.

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Virtual Star Parties
staff-blog-post

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/06/28 12:02 CDT

Hang out with Fraser Cain and amateur astronomers all over the world in Cosmoquest's Virtual Star parties conducted over Google+. Here's how -- plus an inspiring video produced by Google to show just how cool this is.

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Artist's views of a night sky transformed by a galaxy merger

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/06/04 12:25 CDT | 2 comments

A measurement of the Andromeda galaxy's proper motion shows it's coming directly at us, and will collide with the Milky Way in 4 billion years. The event will transform the appearance of our night sky.

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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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Checking up on Jupiter and Saturn

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/02/10 01:51 CST

It's amateur astronomers, not professionals, who are shouldering the burden of constant monitoring of the weather on Jupiter and Saturn. What's going on these days in the outer solar system?

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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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Comet Garradd in 3D (sort of)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/08/12 12:52 CDT

Amateur astronomer Patrick Wiggins sent me this neat little animation of comet Garradd moving against background stars through an hour's worth of observing. I'm not any kind of astronomer but if I were I think I would get a kick out of looking at things that appear to move within one night of watching -- asteroids, comets, Jupiter's spots. I'm impatient that way.

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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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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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So far, no moons found at Ceres or Vesta

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/04/15 02:37 CDT

Since the Galileo mission discovered tiny Dactyl circling Ida in 1993, quite a lot of asteroid systems have been found to be binary; there are even a few triples. So it's quite reasonable to guess that two of the biggest asteroids, Ceres and Vesta, might also have satellites.

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