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Why can Hubble get detailed views of distant galaxies but not of Pluto?

Emily Lakdawalla • February 14, 2013

How come Hubble's pictures of galaxies billions of light years away are so beautifully detailed, yet the pictures of Pluto, which is so much closer, are just little blobs? I get asked this question, or variations of it, a lot. Here's an explainer.

New Contest: Name the Moons of Pluto!

Emily Lakdawalla • February 11, 2013

The discoverers of Pluto's fourth and fifth moons are inviting the public to vote on (and write in candidates for) their formal names. Voting closes in two weeks.

DPS 2012: Double occultation by Pluto and Charon

Emily Lakdawalla • October 26, 2012

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.

Citizen "Ice Hunters" help find a Neptune Trojan target for New Horizons

Alex Parker • October 09, 2012

2011 HM102 is an L5 Neptune Trojan, trailing Neptune by approximately 60 degrees. This object was discovered in the search for a New Horizons post-Pluto encounter object in the Kuiper Belt.

A fifth moon for Pluto, and a possible hazard for New Horizons

Emily Lakdawalla • July 16, 2012

Pluto is now known to have at least five moons (Charon, Nix, Hydra, P4, and the newly discovered P5), and its burgeoning population might pose a risk to New Horizons during its flyby, three years from now.

Salacia: As big as Ceres, but much farther away

Emily Lakdawalla • June 26, 2012

A newly published paper shows trans-Neptunian object Salacia to be unexpectedly large; it's somewhere around the tenth largest known thing beyond Neptune. It has a companion one-third its size, making it appear similar to Orcus and Vanth.

What Saturn's moons can tell us about comets (Notes from LPSC 2012)

Emily Lakdawalla • April 03, 2012

My notes on a two-part presentation by collaborators Jim Richardson and David Minton about the sizes of things in the Kuiper belt, a story they told by looking at Saturn's moons. How does that work? What connects Saturn's moons to the Kuiper belt is craters.

Where are the big Kuiper belt objects?

Emily Lakdawalla • February 16, 2012

Earlier today I wrote a post about how to calculate the position of a body in space from its orbital elements. I'm trying to get a big-picture view of what's going on in trans-Neptunian space.

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

Emily Lakdawalla • September 15, 2011

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.

Meeting today: The infelicitously named "SBAG"

Emily Lakdawalla • August 25, 2011

NASA funds regular meetings of scientists who work on different parts of the solar system to provide scientific input into NASA's future plans. These "analysis groups" are known by their acronyms, all of which sound kind of horrible, but none has quite as terrible-sounding an acronym as "SBAG," usually pronouced "ess-bag," the Small Bodies Assessment Group.

Observing at the WIYN

Meg Schwamb • June 08, 2011

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.

South of the Border

Meg Schwamb • May 25, 2011

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.

LPSC 2011: Day 1: Small bodies

Emily Lakdawalla • March 08, 2011

Here are some of the noteworthy items from the morning's session on "Small Bodies: A Traverse from NEOs to TNOs" and the afternoon's session on "Asteroid Geophysics and Processes: Surfaces and Interiors."

Report from the 2011 New Horizons Science Team Meeting

Ted Stryk • January 24, 2011

The annual New Horizons Science Team Meeting was held last week at NASA's Ames Research Center.

Orcus and Vanth

Emily Lakdawalla • January 11, 2011

As part of a big, ongoing project to make a comparison chart of the dimensions and physical properties of solar system objects I've spent the morning tackling the difficult problem of summarizing the physical characteristics of the biggest things that are out there beyond Neptune.

365 Days of Astronomy Podcast: What's in a Science Meeting?

Emily Lakdawalla • November 17, 2010

Today the 365 Days of Astronomy podcast aired my contribution, What's in a Science Meeting?, about what scientists do at big meetings like the Division of Planetary Sciences.

DPS 2010: Centaurs and Trans-Neptunian objects

Emily Lakdawalla • November 11, 2010

I attended all day Tuesday of the Division of Planetary Sciences meeting on October 5. The afternoon session on Tuesday was a grab bag about different small objects in the outermost solar system.

Eris might be smaller than Pluto after all (but it's still more massive)

Emily Lakdawalla • November 08, 2010

Several astronomers pointed their telescope at Eris to watch it pass in front of a background star. Occultations permit precise measurement of the diameters of distant, faint objects, and it turned out that Eris was much smaller than previously thought, so much so that its diameter may turn out to be the same as, or even smaller than, Pluto's.

DPS 2010: Pluto and Charon opposition surges, Nix and Hydra masses, Pluto and Eris compositions

Emily Lakdawalla • October 25, 2010

An awful lot of the talks in the Pluto session on Tuesday morning, October 5, at the Division of Planetary Sciences meeting spent more time focusing on how bad weather conditions were during the astronomers' attempts to view Pluto as it occulted background stars than they did on any measurements or science that came out from the data.

Quaoar: A rock in the Kuiper Belt

Emily Lakdawalla • April 01, 2010

The paper I'm writing about today, "Quaoar: a Rock in the Kuiper Belt," is based upon seven sets of Hubble Space Telescope WFPC2 observations of Quaoar and its recently-named moon, Weywot.

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