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What's up in the solar system, September 2016 edition: OSIRIS-REx launches, Rosetta ends

Emily Lakdawalla • August 31, 2016

The month of September begins with an annular solar eclipse visible from much of Africa on September 1. On or after September 8, we'll see OSIRIS-REx launch into a two-year cruise toward a rendezvous with asteroid Bennu. But September will close, sadly, with the end of the wonderful Rosetta mission.

Let’s be careful about this “SETI” signal

Franck Marchis • August 30, 2016

Several readers have contacted me recently about reports that a group of international astronomers have detected a strong signal coming from a distant star that could be a sign of a high-technology civilization. Here’s my reaction: it’s interesting, but it’s definitely not the sign of an alien civilization—at least not yet.

Will Juno’s Instruments Observe the Moons of Jupiter?

Candice Hansen • August 30, 2016

It is not easy to observe Jupiter’s moons as more than points of light with Juno, because Juno will never get very close to any of the moons, but as its orbit shifts there will be opportunities to collect data on some of the moons.

Selecting the Next New Frontiers Mission

Van Kane • August 29, 2016

NASA’s managers have begun the process for a competition to select a new planetary mission to launch in the mid-2020s that will address one of the most important questions in planetary science.

Juno's first Jupiter close approach successful; best JunoCam images yet to come

Emily Lakdawalla • August 27, 2016

NASA announced this afternoon that Juno passed through its first perijove since entering orbit successfully, with science instruments operating all the way. This is a huge relief, given all the unknowns about the effects of Jupiter's nasty radiation environment on its brand-new orbiter.

Proxima Centauri b: Have we just found Earth’s cousin right on our doorstep?

Franck Marchis • August 24, 2016

What began as a tantalizing rumor has just become an astonishing fact. Today a group of thirty-one scientists announced the discovery of a terrestrial exoplanet orbiting Proxima Centauri. The discovery of this planet, Proxima Centauri b, is a huge breakthrough not just for astronomers but for all of us. Here’s why.

How big is that butte?

Emily Lakdawalla • August 23, 2016

Whenever I share images from Curiosity, among the most common questions I’m asked is “what is the scale of this image?” With help from imaging enthusiast Seán Doran, I can answer that question for some of the Murray buttes.

JunoCam "Marble Movie" data available

Emily Lakdawalla • August 22, 2016

Since a few days after entering orbit, JunoCam has been taking photos of Jupiter every fifteen minutes, accumulating a trove of data that can be assembled into a movie of the planet.

Space in transition: How Obama's White House charted a new course for NASA

Jason Davis • August 22, 2016

Our Horizon Goal series on NASA's human spaceflight program continues with part 3, in which newly elected President Barack Obama and his transition team search for a NASA administrator, commission a review of the Constellation program and decide whether to extend the life of the ISS.

OSIRIS-REx launch preview

Emily Lakdawalla • August 17, 2016

Launch day is coming for NASA's next interplanetary explorer! OSIRIS-REx is on schedule for launch on September 8, 2016 at 19:05 EDT (16:05 PDT, 23:05 UTC) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. OSIRIS-REx is the first NASA planetary launch since MAVEN in 2013, and will be the last until InSight in 2018.

Gullies on Mars: Wet or Dry (Ice)?

Tanya Harrison • August 17, 2016

Martian gullies were in the spotlight last week thanks to a NASA press release stating they were "likely not formed by liquid water" based on spectral results. But how does this stack up against their morphology?

Juno’s other ‘cameras’

Anna Scott • August 16, 2016

Juno’s science goals are to understand the origin and interior of Jupiter, focusing specifically on its atmosphere and magnetic field. Cameras can help answer some of these questions.

Russia may lower its ISS crew complement from three to two

Jason Davis • August 15, 2016

A Russian newspaper report, confirmed today by NASA, says Roscosmos may lower its ISS cosmonaut complement from three to two.

Photos: OSIRIS-REx prepares for launch

Emily Lakdawalla • August 15, 2016

Only 24 days remain until the opening of OSIRIS-REx's launch period, and final preparations are underway. There is a lot to do in the final months before a launch, but things seem to be going well.

Curiosity update, sols 1373-1427: Driving up to Murray buttes, drilling at Marimba

Emily Lakdawalla • August 11, 2016

Curiosity has now covered most of the flat ground that lay between the Naukluft plateau and the Murray buttes. The mission took only 11 days to complete drilling work at Marimba, despite a recurrence of a problematic short in the drill. The rover is ready to drive in among the buttes, shooting spectacular photos along the way.

The Many Names of WFIRST

Jason Rhodes • August 10, 2016

NASA’s next big “flagship” astronomy mission, following the ambitious James Webb Space Telescope due to be launched in 2018, is currently known as the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST)—but it's had a slew of different names.

Yutu is NOT dead (probably)

Emily Lakdawalla • August 10, 2016

Despite what you may have read on other websites last week, China's Yutu lunar rover is probably still functional on the surface of the Moon.

JunoCam raw data from the Juno approach movie

Emily Lakdawalla • August 09, 2016

As it approached Jupiter from June 12 to 29, JunoCam captured an animation of the major moons orbiting the planet. The mission released a processed version of the animation on the day of orbit insertion, but took a few weeks to release the raw image data. I've prepared a page hosting all the raw data, and share a few processed versions.

Half the Park is After Dark: Stargazers Celebrate U.S. National Parks Centennial

CaLisa Lee • August 08, 2016

On August 25th, 2016, the U.S. National Park Service is celebrating its Centennial. That’s 100 years of protecting the lands and the night skies so that people from around the world and all walks of life can come and see the stars!

Back to school: LightSail 2 and Prox-1 provide unique experience for university students

Jason Davis • August 08, 2016

From Cal Poly to Georgia Tech, university students working on SmallSat projects gain critical real-world spaceflight experience, preparing them for promising careers in the space industry.

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