I'll be on vacation from June 8 to 16, and I will be leaving my computer behind, a prospect that I find a little scary but which I know will be necessary for me actually to enjoy my time off and spend time with family instead of checking up on Phoenix every day! I'm sorry to those of you who have been relying on me for Phoenix news, but I have lined up two guests to fill in during my absence who I hope will not only provide you with continued news but will give you a new perspective on things.
First off, the one and only Jim Bell will be sending in occasional guest blogs from a variety of locations. Jim is an associate professor in the Cornell University Astronomy Department and the lead scientist for the Pancam color imaging system on the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. He is also a member of The Planetary Society's Board of Directors. And he's an all-around good guy. On June 9 and 10 he will be in Milwaukee at a workshop on MARCI and CTX data processing and analysis (those are the two cameras built by Malin Space Science Systems for Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter). From June 11 to 13 he will be in Great Sand Dunes National Park, doing field work designed to help him understand the environment in Mars' north polar erg, the "sand sea" around the northern polar cap. Then from June 14 to 16 he'll be doing lab and field work with a colleague in Winnipeg, working on lab spectroscopy and a visit to an acid mine drainage site looking for sulfate minerals relevant to his ongoing work with the Mars Exploration Rovers. He'll be sending in reports as his schedule permits; he said there'd probably be one every two to three days.
Then, so that this blog won't be utterly empty of Phoenix news, I've invited one of my favorite amateur image magicians, James Canvin, to file daily image reports that should keep you up-to-date on the goings-on near the north pole of Mars. James used to work as an extragalactic astronomer, but recently switched fields to terrestrial weather. In his spare time he works in between these two fields, following and processing data from planetary spacecraft, in particular the near-real-time raw data from the Mars Exploration Rovers and Phoenix. I've posted his images very frequently on this blog, and he's currently doing some of the best work out there with the Phoenix raw image data.
It's possible but not certain that I'll post one more update on Phoenix before I go, but if I don't find time to write tomorrow this will be my last post until Monday, June 16. I hope you enjoy the contributions of the dueling Jims during my absence!
P.S. this is my 1500th post. Wow.
P.P.S. a little humor for the weekend's funny pages, thanks to "Airbag" from unmannedspaceflight.com: