Ever wanted to stand on Mars and watch a sunset? Unfortunately for many of us, it will never be something that we get to experience in person. But thanks to our robotic emissaries on Mars, and some careful processing of images from NASA's Planetary Data System, we can get a sense of what it’s like.
Early this morning, Scott Kelly and Tim Kopra released a trash-filled Cygnus cargo spacecraft from the International Space Station. Orbital ATK flight controllers will send Cygnus into Earth's atmosphere for a controlled reentry Saturday morning.
Recently, space image processing enthusiast Thomas Appéré noticed that Curiosity had taken five photos of exactly the same spot on the rim of Gale crater, identical but for being taken at different times of day. That spot was due north of the rover, so the rising and lowering Sun illuminates the rounded hummocks of the crater rim differently from early morning to early afternoon.
Curiosity has spent the last month sampling and processing dark sand scooped from the side of Namib Dune. The rover has now departed Namib and is preparing to cross the Bagnold dune field, while working to diagnose an anomaly with the CHIMRA sample handling mechanism.
January 24 was the 30th anniversary of the Voyager flyby of Uranus. Uranian moons have been on my mind ever since New Horizons sent us close-up images of Charon. On the occasion of the anniversary, Ted Stryk produced latest-and-greatest versions of the Voyager views of these worlds.
Tomorrow, Cassini will fly by Titan, picking up a gravity assist that will tilt its orbit slightly up and out of the ring plane. That will end what has been a wonderful year of frequent encounters with Saturnian moons.
Juno is now fewer than six months and 100 million kilometers away from Jupiter, and the Juno team is busily preparing for the arrival. Amateur astronomers are supporting them by taking lots of Jupiter photos.
In the six weeks since my last detailed Curiosity update, the rover has driven to, on, and around a couple of active barchan sand dunes on Mars. They are now searching for a site to scoop and sample sand on the western edge of Namib dune.