Much has been made of the "enigmatic mound" within Gale crater, which will be the target of the Curiosity Mars rover's investigations. The 5,000-meter-thick section rocks in Gale's central mound will be fascinating to study, but the fact that Gale has a central mound that's taller than its rim is not at all unusual on Mars.
While doing my daily reading today I was struck by the awesomeness of two recent blog posts. Both were composed not by professional bloggers like me but by professional space explorers, one a scientist and the other an engineer.
This photo is making the rounds of Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and whatever other social network you care to name today. It was shot by astronaut Ron Garan from the Space Station, and it's a meteor seen from above. Way cool.
Amateur astronomer Patrick Wiggins sent me this neat little animation of comet Garradd moving against background stars through an hour's worth of observing. I'm not any kind of astronomer but if I were I think I would get a kick out of looking at things that appear to move within one night of watching -- asteroids, comets, Jupiter's spots. I'm impatient that way.
I was not trained as a journalist, so before I started working for the Planetary Society I had no understanding of how much news reporters depend upon press releases to generate story ideas. Did you know that most of the news that you read on the Web or in a newspaper or hear on the radio probably originated as a press release or an arranged press event from somewhere?
I have to admit it: three months ago I did not understand why space science is important. This is a pretty bold statement coming from a practicing aerospace engineer, but recent events have corrected this lack of understanding, and I am not embarrassed to correct myself in this blog. But let us not get ahead of the story.
Juno is a mission that will peer deeply into Jupiter's interior, and didn't really need to take a visible-light camera along in order to accomplish its scientific goals. But I think nobody could bear sending a spacecraft to Jupiter without getting pictures from up close. So they added Junocam.
I had to wait until the kids were in bed and the husband fed last night before I finally had time to sit down and really look at the Dawn images of Vesta. And I still hardly knew where to begin. This brand new world is just so different than others I've seen.
When a spacecraft has visited a new body for the first time, the usual answer to any scientific question is "it's too early to know; we need to study the data more." Scientists are usually very careful to avoid speculation while they're on press panels. But today's press briefing wasn't like that at all.
Now that Dawn's close enough to Vesta, we're seeing absolutely spectacular detail and tremendous diversity across Vesta's surface. As usual it'll probably take me a while to bring together all the new information, so as a stopgap I'm going to post an awesome image and a rotation movie.