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The not-planets

Emily Lakdawalla • July 14, 2015

Now that I have a reasonable-resolution global color view of Pluto, I can drop it into one of my trademark scale image montages, to show you how it fits in with the rest of the similar-sized worlds in the solar system: the major moons and the biggest asteroids.

Pluto minus one day: Very first New Horizons Pluto encounter science results

Emily Lakdawalla • July 13, 2015

At a press briefing this morning, New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern divulged some extremely preliminary first science results from the New Horizons Pluto encounter. Science results include Pluto's diameter and information on its surface composition and atmospheric escape.

Zooming in to Pluto and Charon

Emily Lakdawalla • July 12, 2015

In the span of a few days, Pluto and Charon have turned from spots into worlds. The latest images from New Horizons are showing Pluto and Charon to have unique faces, distinct from any other icy worlds in the solar system.

Two more brief mission updates: Philae makes contact; Akatsuki to perform course correction

Emily Lakdawalla • July 10, 2015

As a followup to yesterday's post about Dawn, Juno, and OSIRIS-REx, I have updates on two more missions. With this post, I hope to have cleared the decks so that I can focus on Pluto for the next week!

More than 2000 Rosetta NavCam images for your enjoyment

Emily Lakdawalla • July 07, 2015

Last week, the European Space Agency released the first set of images from Rosetta's navigational camera, or NavCam, from the phase of the mission that followed the Philae landing. That makes more than 3500 NavCam images that have been released from the comet phase of the mission.

New Horizons "back in action" after safe mode event, ready to resume encounter science

Emily Lakdawalla • July 06, 2015

NASA held a press briefing today to explain the nature and cause of the spacecraft anomaly that halted science on New Horizons for four days as it was on its terminal approach to Pluto. As of the moment that I write this post, New Horizons is not yet performing science observations, but it will resume them tomorrow, July 7.

In Pictures: Russian Spacecraft Ends Streak of Station Supply Mishaps

Jason Davis • July 05, 2015

Following back-to-back space station resupply failures, a Russian Progress vehicle pulled into port this morning at the International Space Station.

Pluto's progression: Third-to-last Pluto day before encounter

Emily Lakdawalla • July 03, 2015

Only two days remain until New Horizons' historic encounter with Pluto....two Pluto days, that is. Pluto and Charon rotate together once every 6.4 days, so as New Horizons has approached the pair over the last week, we've been treated to one stately progression of all of their longitudes.

New Horizons update: Resolving features on Charon and seeing in color

Emily Lakdawalla • June 23, 2015

Only about three weeks remain until the flyby — it's getting really close! I almost don't want the anticipation to end. New Horizons is now getting color images and is seeing features on Charon. Deep searches have yielded no new moons.

Preparing America’s Spaceport for NASA’s New Rocket

Jason Davis • June 22, 2015

At Kennedy Space Center, NASA's ground systems program prepares for the first flight of the Space Launch System in 2018.

Thank You, LightSail Trackers

Jason Davis • June 19, 2015

A thank-you to all the space enthusiasts who helped track LightSail during its 25-day test mission.

Transient hot spots on Venus: Best evidence yet for active volcanism

Emily Lakdawalla • June 18, 2015

In a paper released in Geophysical Research Letters today, Eugene Shalygin and coauthors have announced the best evidence yet for current, active volcanism on Venus. The evidence comes from the Venus Monitoring Camera, which saw transient hot spots in four locations along a system of rifts near Venus' equator. They saw the hot spots in two distinct episodes in 2008 and 2009.

Pluto and Charon spin among the stars

Emily Lakdawalla • June 16, 2015

I've spent a happy couple of days playing with raw data downloaded from the New Horizons website, making animations of the dances of Pluto and Charon.

Welcome home, AstroSamantha

Emily Lakdawalla • June 15, 2015

Three astronauts have returned to Earth, and while I'm happy that they landed safely, I'm very sad that astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti is not in space anymore to wish us "buona notte dallo spazio" with her lovely photos and piquant comments.

LightSail Test Mission Ends with Fiery Reentry

Jason Davis • June 15, 2015

The LightSail test mission is officially over. Following a 25-day stay in low-Earth orbit, the spacecraft tumbled back into Earth’s atmosphere Sunday afternoon.

Curiosity update, sols 978-1011: Into Marias Pass; ChemCam back in action; solar conjunction

Emily Lakdawalla • June 10, 2015

It’s been an eventful few weeks for Curiosity on Mars. From sols 981 to 986, Curiosity’s human pilots tried and failed to drive the rover southward; but, retracing their steps to Logan's Run, they quickly found a way up and into a beautiful geological amphitheater named Marias Pass, where they will stay throughout Mars solar conjunction. They also returned ChemCam to normal operations.

An enigmatic line across Pluto: Plutonian canali!?

Emily Lakdawalla • June 09, 2015

Pluto and Charon are growing larger in New Horizons' forward view, beginning to develop distinct personalities. A version of recent New Horizons photos processed by Björn Jónsson reveals an enigmatic dark line. Our maps of Pluto's surface are now as good as our maps of Mars and Venus, circa 1900!

Sails in Space: Partial Photo, Video and Light Curve (Updated)

Jason Davis • June 08, 2015

It’s official: The sails are out. This afternoon, LightSail mission controllers downlinked a partial image of the spacecraft’s solar sails in space.

First Look: Partial Camera Test Images from LightSail

Jason Davis • June 01, 2015

A jumbled JPG never looked so pretty. This afternoon, LightSail sent home pieces of two images taken by one of the spacecraft's onboard cameras.

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