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What's up in the solar system in September 2011

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/08/31 05:28 CDT

September is going to start with a bang: the twin GRAIL spacecraft are set for launch on September 8. I would love to be able to attend the launch but my older daughter's first day of kindergarten is September 7! That's a launch of a different kind.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Arrives at Endeavour Crater, Mission Begins Anew

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2011/08/31 11:24 CDT

The Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission roves back into the exploration spotlight this month as Opportunity arrives at the rim of Endeavour Crater, a destination that wasn't even an impossible dream when the rover landed back in January 2004.

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New Horizons workshop, day 1: Chemistry & climate on Pluto & other cold places

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/08/30 11:27 CDT

Today and tomorrow I'm attending the New Horizons Workshop on Icy Surface Processes. The first day was all about the composition of the surface and atmosphere of Pluto, Charon, Triton, and other distant places.

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Pretty picture: Earth and Moon from JunoCam

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/08/30 11:53 CDT

It's always awe-inspiring to see our great world as just a tiny spot within vast space. The latest spacecraft to get such a view of Earth and the Moon is the Jupiter-bound Juno.

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Everybody says we need a NEO survey telescope

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/08/30 03:25 CDT

The next thing needed by both the small bodies science community and people interested in human exploration is a space-based telescope capable of surveying (and following up on) near-Earth space for asteroids that, for a variety of reasons, haven't been found yet.

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Dawn Journal: In Survey Orbit (belatedly)

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2011/08/29 09:11 CDT

Dawn is now beginning intensive observations of the alien world it orbits. The approach phase, which began on May 3 is complete. Today Dawn is in its survey orbit around Vesta.

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The Making of Martian Clouds in Motion: Part 2, tweening the animation

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/08/28 06:14 CDT

Two weeks ago I posted an awesome video of Martian clouds in motion. Last week I explained how I accessed the Mars Express images that comprise the animation. Today I'm going to explain how I turned the five-frame animation of Mars Express images into a smooth movie.

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The Cornell Clock

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/08/26 07:42 CDT

Bill Nye, the Executive Director of the Planetary Society will be at his alma mater, Cornell University, this Saturday, August 27, for the dedication of a remarkable Solar Noon Clock that has been installed on the front face of Rhodes Hall on the Cornell campus.

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Holey Hyperion!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/08/26 05:43 CDT

Yesterday Cassini passed unusually close by Hyperion, the oddly shaped moon that orbits Saturn just beyond Titan. Among the many cool images captured during this flyby were three that I used to make this neato view of Hyperion's crescent.

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Nifty GRAIL animation

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/08/25 05:21 CDT

A pair of lunar spacecraft is launching in two weeks, and NASA had their preview press briefing this morning. Notable from that briefing was this spiffy video.

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Meeting today: The infelicitously named "SBAG"

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/08/25 01:45 CDT

NASA funds regular meetings of scientists who work on different parts of the solar system to provide scientific input into NASA's future plans. These "analysis groups" are known by their acronyms, all of which sound kind of horrible, but none has quite as terrible-sounding an acronym as "SBAG," usually pronouced "ess-bag," the Small Bodies Assessment Group.

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Pretty picture: Saturn from very close up

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/08/24 05:13 CDT

I haven't checked in on Cassini lately. I went to the raw images page and found the frames for this very lovely, very close view of Saturn. It was taken by Cassini two days ago, as it was approaching periapsis.

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365 Days of Astronomy seeks podcasters and supporters

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/08/23 09:33 CDT

365 Days of Astronomy is a daily podcast that is almost entirely user-driven. Each podcast, which can cover astronomical, cosmological, planetological, or educational topics, is written, recorded, and submitted by people like you who are excited about space.

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The Making of Martian Clouds in Motion: Part 1, working with Mars Express HRSC data

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/08/22 08:39 CDT

Last Friday I posted an awesome video of Martian clouds in motion. This week I'll tell you how I made it. The how-to is split up into two parts. The first, today, is how to access Mars Express HRSC image data and process it into the individual animation frames, from which you can make an animated GIF.

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Shoemaker NEO Grant Update: Asteroid discoveries from La Sagra

Posted by Jaime Nomen on 2011/08/22 04:41 CDT

In spite of some bad weather conditions during the first part of this year, the new camera bought with funds from a Planetary Society Shoemaker Near Earth Object grant helped us to discover and confirm ten new near-Earth objects.

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Launch Window Approaching!

Posted by Bruce Betts on 2011/08/21 12:00 CDT

We are super excited that the Planetary Society’s Phobos LIFE (Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment) is about ready to launch to Mars’ moon Phobos and back. We have been working for years preparing this unique test of the effects of long term exposure to deep space on a wide variety of life.

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PAMELA finds some antimatter

Posted by Jason Davis on 2011/08/19 11:58 CDT

A team of international scientists has discovered an antiproton belt around the Earth, using data obtained from PAMELA, a particle identification instrument aboard a Russian Earth observation satellite.

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Martian clouds in motion

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/08/19 10:36 CDT

Behold an amazing (if I do say so myself) video of Martian clouds in motion.

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Rapping the elements, by Oortkuiper

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/08/18 04:45 CDT

This is a bit of a departure from space science, but was so awesome, I had to share. I've always loved Tom Lehrer's "The Elements." Well, Youtube user Oortkuiper has done him an order of magnitude better.

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GRAIL twins together on their rocket

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/08/18 07:35 CDT

It's the first time I've ever seen anything like this -- two identical spacecraft, side by side on one launch adapter ring.

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