Please bear with me -- this blog entry has nothing to do with planets but a lot to do with society. For the last two days, my Twitter feed has been roiling with outrage about the story of Kiera Wilmot.
Note the special time! In this week's Planetary Society hangout at 5pm PDT / midnight UTC, I'll talk with MESSENGER deputy principal investigator Larry Nittler about what MESSENGER has accomplished in its prime and extended missions at Mercury, and what it stands to do if awarded a mission extension.
As the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) team waited out solar conjunction, Opportunity spent most of April atop the western rim of Endeavour Crater, conducting a chemical analysis of an ancient waterborne vein on Matijevic Hill. It was by the book until the last week of the month when the robot field geologist suffered an electronic "hiccup" known as a warm re-boot, and went into auto mode, a kind of safe mode when something doesn't go right.
We received more than 8000 entries from all over the world in the Name That Asteroid contest, and we can finally announce the winner. The asteroid formerly known as 1999 RQ36 is now formally named (101955) Bennu, for a heron associated with the Egyptian god Osiris.