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Emily LakdawallaOctober 25, 2007

MSL sites, comet outbursts, and other stuff

I'm back at the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) landing site selection meeting in Pasadena, having missed yesterday's discussions of various landing sites. I am going to be getting some notes from a friend, but in the meantime, I'd like to direct you to a couple of excellent blog entries by Ryan Anderson, who is a second-year graduate student of Jim Bell's at Cornell. He's posted already about the first day and the second day of the meeting. Here's a little sample from his second-day commentary:

It was interesting to see the different degrees of candor in people's presentations. Some tended to gloss over the ambiguities in their proposed site, hoping to convince everyone that a water-related origin is the only explanation. Other presentations were brutally honest about their viability as a site, and in fact served more as public service announcements, reminding us of things to keep in mind when evaluating other sites. Of the sites discussed, some were clearly better than others, but I wouldn't say that there are any that I can say are sure to be among the finalists.

Also, you can download almost all of the presentations being made at this three-day MSL landing site selection workshop here.

On an unrelated topic, I've gotten a couple of emails about a major comet outburst going on; 17P/Holmes has suddenly brightened from magnitude 17 to magnitude 3 overnight, making it a naked-eye comet. I'll defer to a better astronomer than me to explain how to look for it; check out the Bad Astronomer's posts on it here and here.

And while I'm linking to stuff, let me point you to this week's Mars Trivia contest; Monday's Planetary Radio interview with Mark Showalter on the rings of Uranus and Saturn; and a news story and press release from yesterday on the successful launch of Chang'e 1.

Read more: comets, mission status, Mars, Curiosity (Mars Science Laboratory)

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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