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Bruce Betts' Free Online Intro To Astronomy Course

Mat Kaplan • January 31, 2012

Bruce Betts will be returning to the virtual classroom at California State University, Dominguez Hills for an Intro To Astronomy course. The first lecture will be Wednesday, February 8, from 3:00 to 4:30pm Pacific Time.

Official Phobos-Grunt Failure Report Released

Louis D. Friedman • January 31, 2012

Roscosmos, the Russian Space Agency, has released its official report concerning the failure of the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, which fell back to Earth from orbit on January 15 after failing to ignite the engines that were to take it to the largest Martian moon.

What's Up in the Solar System in February 2012

Emily Lakdawalla • January 31, 2012

I think the word for the month of February is: "routine." The 21 missions that I'm tracking (amounting to 24 spacecraft) are nearly all in routine science operations or cruise behavior, gathering data from across the solar system or journeying to new destinations.

Akatsuki to try for Venus orbit in June 2016

Emily Lakdawalla • January 31, 2012

Japan's Venus climate orbiter Akatsuki failed to enter orbit in December 2010 when a clogged valve caused catastrophic damage to its main engine. Since then, JAXA's engineers and navigators have determined that although the main engine is a total loss, there is the possibility of achieving Venus orbit on a future encounter, using only the attitude control rockets.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Celebrates 8, Keeps on Rockin' into Year 9

A.J.S. Rayl • January 31, 2012

As Opportunity worked away on its winter science campaign, the Mars Exploration Rover mission quietly completed its eighth Earth year of exploring the surface of the Red Planet last week, and is now roving on into Year 9 of its 90-day mission.

Dawn Journal: How does Dawn know where "down" is?

Marc Rayman • January 30, 2012

Since the last log, the robotic explorer Dawn has devoted most of its time to its two primary scientific objectives in this phase of the mission.

A shooting star is not a star at all

Emily Lakdawalla • January 29, 2012

They Might Be Giants present "What Is a Shooting Star?"

One Man's Quest for SETI's Most Promising Signal

Amir Alexander • January 27, 2012

A review of Robert H. Gray's "The Elusive Wow: Searching for Extraterrestrial Intelligence."

Today's 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast Offers a Free, Online Astronomy Class!

Mat Kaplan • January 26, 2012

The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast begins this year's effort with an interview with Bruce Betts, who will be starting an online astronomy course. A transcription of the interview is included in this post, as well as a link to the podcast.

Solar flares from Skylab

Jason Davis • January 26, 2012

Before automated space observatories like SDO could send pictures and videos of solar phenomenon in real-time, humans had to do it manually, as in the case of the groundbreaking Skylab space station missions, which featured the Apollo Telescope Mount.

Parallel planetary processes create semantic headaches

Emily Lakdawalla • January 26, 2012

I ran into a semantic problem today: what to call the science of studying liquids on Titan?

Stephen Hawking's Curios? UPDATE

Charlene Anderson • January 25, 2012

The Cosmos Award for Public Presentation of Science -- at least the blown-glass Saturn trophy given to Stephen Hawking by The Planetary Society -- continues to appear around the Internet.

Geek craft: GRAIL twins Ebb and Flow in plastic canvas

Emily Lakdawalla • January 25, 2012

Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that after beginning with Dawn last week, I've kept my fingers busy, stitching more spacecraft from plastic canvas. I now have prototypes for GRAIL, New Horizons, and MESSENGER.

At last: Rosetta's Mars flyby photos have been released!

Emily Lakdawalla • January 24, 2012

On February 24, 2007, the Rosetta spacecraft passed by Mars, the second of four planetary gravity-assist flybys on its long route to a 2014 rendezvous with comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. At the time, they released two photos from the main science camera, OSIRIS.

Dusty girl

Emily Lakdawalla • January 23, 2012

Today Opportunity sent back to Earth the last few frames of the "deck pan" self-portrait she took during the waning days of 2011. Her solar panels are very dusty, which isn't helpful. It's near winter solstice in her southern location on Mars, so the angled Sun is not providing as much power as it would in a different season.

Is there life on Venus? Not in reprocessed Venera-13 images.

Emily Lakdawalla • January 23, 2012

At the end of last week, a rather sensational article appeared in both the Russian- and English-language sites of the Russian news agency, RIA Novosti. "Life Spotted on Venus - Russian Scientist," ran the English headline; a Google translation of the Russian one goes: "The Soviet probes may have photographed creatures on Venus."

Stephen Hawking's Curios

Charlene Anderson • January 20, 2012

Catching up on my blog reading today, I turned to "Cosmic Log," science writer Alan Boyle's must-read column on msnbc.com. Today's entry is titled "Stephen Hawking's curios explained."

Blast from the past: The Galileo Messenger

Emily Lakdawalla • January 20, 2012

From 1981 to 1997, the Galileo mission published an approximately quarterly newsletter called the Galileo Messenger. It eventually ran to 45 issues, until the end of the Prime Mission. The first 20 were published before Galileo ever got off the ground. That period is the subject of this post.

Watch this week's Google+ Space Hangout

Emily Lakdawalla • January 19, 2012

This week's lineup is a largely astronomical crowd so most of the conversation concerned dark matter and boiling exoplanets and imaging the black hole at the center of our galaxy.

Weekly Google+ Hangout Starting Shortly

Emily Lakdawalla • January 19, 2012

Tune in soon (in 10 minutes, as I post this) to Fraser Cain's Google+ page for the weekly Space Hangout.

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