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How to follow MESSENGER's orbit insertion today

Emily Lakdawalla • March 17, 2011

The day is finally here! In only five and a half hours, at 00:45 on March 18 (according to the spacecraft's clock), MESSENGER must ignite its main engine and run though a third of its fuel in only 15 minutes in order to enter its planned orbit around Mercury.

LPSC 2011: Day 4: Ted Stryk on icy moons and The Moon

Ted Stryk • March 17, 2011

Here are Ted Stryk's notes from the sessions he attended in the afternoon of Thursday, March 10, at the 42nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.

Nick Schneider: Notes on an earthquake

Nick Schneider • March 16, 2011

I was heading south to Tokyo with Seiko and Ishi, two students from the conference. We were planning a dinner together, maybe catching the nighttime skyline from the top of Tokyo Tower. I dozed off as the train flew silently through the countryside. Next thing I knew, Seiko was shaking me awake saying "Earthquake! Earthquake."

Stardust: Decommissioning planned for March 24

Emily Lakdawalla • March 16, 2011

Stardust (probably) has only a week remaining in its operational lifetime, according to a status report just posted to the mission website.

LPSC 2011: Analysis of the grains returned by Hayabusa

Emily Lakdawalla • March 16, 2011

I'd been despairing of finding a good source for a writeup of the presentations in the Hayabusa session at last week's Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, but am happy to report that I've finally found an excellent one.

Two days from MESSENGER's Mercury arrival

Emily Lakdawalla • March 15, 2011

Today the MESSENGER team briefed the press on the impending arrival of their spacecraft at Mercury.

LPSC 2011: Kirby Runyon on Mars, the Moon, Hartley 2, and Ganymede

Kirby Runyon • March 15, 2011

Kirby Runyon, a second-year grad student at Temple University, offered to send me some writeups of selected presentations from last week's Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, and I enthusiastically agreed.

The curse of living on a geologically active planet

Emily Lakdawalla • March 14, 2011

As the disaster of the magnitude 8.9 Sendai quake of Friday, March 11, at 05:46:23 UTC continues to unfold in Japan, I have been unable to tear my attention away.

365 Days of Astronomy Podcast: A MESSENGER to Mercury

Emily Lakdawalla • March 14, 2011

I've got another 365 Days of Astronomy podcast airing today, this one an overview of the MESSENGER mission with particular attention to what's been learned in the three Mercury flybys, and what's going to happen when it enters orbit only a little more than three days from now!

Our Thoughts Are With Friends in Japan

Charlene Anderson • March 12, 2011

Yesterday, after the earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan, we sent out the e-mail message below and were elated to receive a response almost immediately from one of our members in Tokyo. We are also excited to report that Tak Iyori, the Executive Director of Planetary Society/Japan, is also safe.

LPSC 2011: Wanted: Pioneer 10 & 11 digital data

Emily Lakdawalla • March 11, 2011

This is both a Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) update and a public service announcement. Ted Stryk has been working for years to locate the original Pioneer 10 and 11 image data from the Jupiter and Saturn encounters.

LPSC 2011: Day 3: Deep Impact at Hartley 2

Emily Lakdawalla • March 10, 2011

Wednesday's sessions at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) on the Deep Impact flyby of Hartley 2 were one of two that I was most looking forward to, the other being this morning's talks on Hayabusa's samples from Itokawa, about which I don't yet have any notes. I am again grateful to Franck Marchis and Andy Rivkin for sending me their notes on Hartley 2.

LPSC 2011: Day 3: Moon, Mars, and Venus

Ted Stryk • March 10, 2011

Wednesday morning included some interesting conversations. Notably, I spoke with Pamela Gay, who is responsible for the MoonZoo citizen science program and who is presently working on developing a site through which the public will be able to help search for potential Kuiper belt objects for the New Horizons mission to encounter after the Pluto flyby.

Dawn Journal: HAMO2; the destination glows bright

Marc Rayman • March 09, 2011

Deep in the asteroid belt, Dawn continues thrusting with its ion propulsion system. The spacecraft is making excellent progress in reshaping its orbit around the sun to match that of its destination, the unexplored world Vesta, with arrival now less than five months away.

Martian timekeeping

Emily Lakdawalla • March 09, 2011

While scanning through the talks scheduled for this week's Lunar and Planetary Science Conference I came across the following talk title: "Interannual and Seasonal Variability in the North Polar Region of Mars: Observations in Mars Years 29 and 30 by MARCI, CTX, and CRISM." My first thought was "hey, cool research spanning a long time period and across data sets." But my second was "Mars years 29 and 30? What does that mean?"

Pretty picture: Viking 1 across Mars

Emily Lakdawalla • March 09, 2011

Image magician Daniel Macháček has been turning his energies to Viking Orbiter views of Mars lately, with some stunning results, like the one below. I'm not sure how he makes images that look so sharp and clean and with such rich color out of the Viking Orbiter data.

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."

Pretty picture: Saturn storm

Emily Lakdawalla • March 08, 2011

To relieve this week's text-heavy LPSC posts, here's a brief one on an incredible panorama across Saturn's northern storm, taken on February 26 by Cassini and assembled by unmannedspaceflight.com member "Astro0."

Just Released: The Planetary Science Decadal Survey for 2013-2022

Charlene Anderson • March 07, 2011

The embargo has just been lifted on the National Research Council's "Visions and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013 -- 2022 (PDF)," which sets out priorities for which planetary missions should be undertaken in next ten years.

The 42nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC)

Emily Lakdawalla • March 07, 2011

Science is all about asking questions, coming up with ideas that might explain the answers, and then poking at those ideas to see if they work. Scientists spend much of their time in solitary research working out those ideas. But they also devote big chunks of time to meetings where they pitch their ideas and see what their peers think of them.

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