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Emily Lakdawalla's blogs from 2009

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 31: Uranus

Emily Lakdawalla • December 31, 2009

Did you think I was going to skip Uranus? How could I?

Worsening outlook for Spirit

Emily Lakdawalla • December 31, 2009

I just got a press release from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that made my heart sink; the extrication effort for Spirit is not going at all well. I did not want to keep sounding a knell of bad news. But once in a while, I do have to report bad news.

2009: The Year in Pictures

Emily Lakdawalla • December 31, 2009

At last, I've posted my annual Year in Pictures feature. Go check it out!

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 30: Tempel 1

Emily Lakdawalla • December 30, 2009

Looking over the list of planets, moons, and smaller bodies I posted so far, I realized I didn't have an image of a comet yet.

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 29: Rhea

Emily Lakdawalla • December 29, 2009

Rhea? You might be asking. Rhea? When Saturn has so many more interesting moons? Hear me out.

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 28: Ariel

Emily Lakdawalla • December 28, 2009

Here's yet another of the moons of Uranus for you: Ariel, a near-twin in diameter to Umbriel, but apparently with more interesting geology.

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 27: Prometheus (hot off the presses!)

Emily Lakdawalla • December 27, 2009

This one is fresh from the spacecraft! The data were captured yesterday, December 26, by Cassini during its best yet imaging encounter with the small ringmoon Prometheus, and showed up on the Cassini raw images website today.

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 26: Titan

Emily Lakdawalla • December 26, 2009

Titan is a weird alternate-universe Earth, surprisingly similar to our own planet in some ways, but not at all like our planet in others.

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 25: Double planet

Emily Lakdawalla • December 24, 2009

To those of you who celebrate the holiday, merry Christmas! I hope Santa was good to you.

Happy Christmas on Mars!

Emily Lakdawalla • December 24, 2009

This was so cute I had to repost it -- and record it too.

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 24: Ganymede

Emily Lakdawalla • December 24, 2009

I think if you polled most space fans about their favorite moons of Jupiter, Ganymede would come in a consistent third behind Europa and Io. It's just not fair.

A Space Carnival and a radio show

Emily Lakdawalla • December 24, 2009

Wander on over to Cumbrian Sky to check out a special Christmas edition of the Carnival of Space!

Awesome Cassini mutual event movies

Emily Lakdawalla • December 23, 2009

I love posting animations of Cassini images that I compose from frames grabbed from the mission's raw images website, but they are shoddy compared to the versions that eventually come out from the mission's imaging team.

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 23: Deimos

Emily Lakdawalla • December 23, 2009

Mars' moon Deimos never gets as much love as Phobos.

Celebrate exploration with Stephen Hawking and Buzz Aldrin!

Emily Lakdawalla • December 23, 2009

The Planetary Society is hosting a luncheon on January 23, 2010 that will celebrate the achievements of two renowned heroes of space exploration, physicist Stephen Hawking and Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 22: Venus

Emily Lakdawalla • December 22, 2009

Venus is such a beautiful, brilliant light in the sky. (When it's up; just now Venus is actually near solar conjunction, so we'll have to wait a bit for it to grace the heavens.)

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 21: Miranda

Emily Lakdawalla • December 21, 2009

Miranda is the one moon of Uranus for which we have very good images from Voyager 2, and that was a stroke of luck, because low-resolution shots of all of Uranus' moons would have told us that it was, geologically speaking, the most dramatic of the five biggest ones.

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 20: Iapetus

Emily Lakdawalla • December 20, 2009

Iapetus! I'm always interested in Cassini images, but five years ago this month I was refreshing the Cassini raw images website several times a day, eagerly anticipating the mission's first good encounter with Iapetus.

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 19: Eros

Emily Lakdawalla • December 19, 2009

Not quite ten years ago, the Near Earth Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft arrived at the near-Earth asteroid Eros. NEAR accomplished many firsts.

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 18: Neptune

Emily Lakdawalla • December 18, 2009

Here's Neptune, but not quite like you've ever seen it before.

Cassini VIMS sees the long-awaited glint off a Titan lake

Emily Lakdawalla • December 17, 2009

The Cassini mission announced today the first observation of a specular reflection off of a lake on Titan. A specular reflection is a mirror-like flash, and you only get one when you have a mirror-like surface -- very, very smooth.

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 17: Proteus

Emily Lakdawalla • December 17, 2009

Proteus is a weird name for this world. It's the second-largest moon of Neptune, and so it's named (as are all of Neptune's moons) for deities associated with the sea.

Watch that front wheel spin!

Emily Lakdawalla • December 17, 2009

Holy cow, look at that right front wheel spin. I am alternately amazed and horrified by this animation.

Hayabusa on the home stretch

Emily Lakdawalla • December 17, 2009

Hayabusa is still 100 million kilometers from the Earth, less than an astronomical unit away but still with months to travel. But according to an update posted to their websitethis morning by project manager Junichiro Kawaguchi, Hayabusa is on the home stretch.

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 16: Mimas

Emily Lakdawalla • December 16, 2009

Mimas is the anti-Enceladus.

Two cool discoveries today: icy-hot exoplanet and smallest ever Kuiper Belt object

Emily Lakdawalla • December 16, 2009

There are two cool stories circulating today on the theme of discovering new places in the cosmos.

Downloading the "How to work with Mars Express VMC images" class

Emily Lakdawalla • December 16, 2009

Here's the information on how to watch the class on how to work with Mars Express VMC images, which I conducted to a small audience this morning.

Class announcement: How to play with Mars Express VMC images

Emily Lakdawalla • December 15, 2009

Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that I've been fiddling with images from the Mars Webcam, more officially known as the Mars Express Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC), for the last couple of weeks.

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 15: Mars

Emily Lakdawalla • December 15, 2009

We have three orbiters and two rovers currently exploring Mars, each of which returns breathtaking photos on a daily basis.

No, they can't push with the arm to free Spirit

Emily Lakdawalla • December 15, 2009

I've gotten this question about once a week since Spirit got stuck, but yesterday, two different readers asked the same question within an hour of each other, so I figured it was time for a blog entry.

A teeny weeny bit of movement in Spirit's right front wheel

Emily Lakdawalla • December 14, 2009

The ever-vigilant Doug Ellison just posted this animation, which really actually does show a teeny tiny bit of motion in the right front wheel. If you don't notice any motion, look closer.

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 14: The Moon

Emily Lakdawalla • December 14, 2009

The Moon is the most familiar of the objects in the heavens.

Congratulations to the WISE team on a successful launch!

Emily Lakdawalla • December 14, 2009

It was worth my while to get up at 5:15 my time this morning -- I saw a flawless launch of a Delta II from Vandenberg Air Force Base, carrying the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) into orbit.

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 13: Dactyl

Emily Lakdawalla • December 13, 2009

If you don't think Pluto gets enough respect, just imagine what it's like to be a satellite of an asteroid.

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 12: Saturn

Emily Lakdawalla • December 12, 2009

Cassini's amazing cameras have set a new standard for the quality, sharpness, resolution, beautiful color, and all-around spectacularness of images returned from the outer solar system.

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 11: Io

Emily Lakdawalla • December 11, 2009

This is a special post for all of my readers who are lighting the first candle on their menorot this evening.

Awesome Mars Express view of Phobos and Deimos together

Emily Lakdawalla • December 11, 2009

My inbox was exploding this morning with messages about a tremendously cool animation released this morning by ESA's Mars Express team. It shows Phobos crossing Deimos, in what's known as a "mutual event."

The Norway Spiral

Emily Lakdawalla • December 10, 2009

I had a fun conversation with Paul Harris just now on his show at KTRS about the crazy spiral that showed up in Norwegian skies yesterday.

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 10: Triton

Emily Lakdawalla • December 10, 2009

Welcome to the tenth post in my "Advent Calendar" -- I am opening a door each day on a different world in the solar system, and I'll be continuing to do so until New Year's Day.

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 9: Atlas

Emily Lakdawalla • December 09, 2009

Here's another weird-looking one, though it's less weird from this particular, polar point of view than it is when viewed from the side.

Send Your Name to Venus, now with a certificate!

Emily Lakdawalla • December 09, 2009

I wrote a few weeks ago about a new Send Your Name to Venus campaign conducted by the Akatsuki mission. Now The Planetary Society has arranged with JAXA to collect names and messages on our website.

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 8: Itokawa

Emily Lakdawalla • December 08, 2009

I love this asteroid. It's just so weird-looking.

Carnival of Space and Planetary Radio

Emily Lakdawalla • December 08, 2009

This week's Carnival of Space may be found at Steve's Astro Corner.

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 7: Jupiter

Emily Lakdawalla • December 07, 2009

Jupiter has been high overhead at sunset for several months, a brilliant light that's easy to spot even when the sky is still bright at dusk; but it's now moving quickly to the west as Earth speeds ahead of Jupiter's more stately march around the Sun.

Four hundred and fourteen years since Galileo

Emily Lakdawalla • December 07, 2009

Galileo, the scientist, discovered the Galilean satellites of Jupiter four hundred years ago next month, while Galileo, the mission, arrived at Jupiter to study those moons in situ fourteen years ago Sunday.

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 6: Umbriel

Emily Lakdawalla • December 06, 2009

Umbriel is the darkest moon in a pretty dark place in the solar system, the Uranus system.

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 5: Epimetheus

Emily Lakdawalla • December 05, 2009

Epimetheus is one of the many small moons of Saturn that are referred to by the Cassini mission team as "rocks" though they are probably mostly made of ice, not rock.

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 4: Mercury

Emily Lakdawalla • December 04, 2009

Mercury is the smallest of the eight planets and, like Uranus and Neptune, has so far been studied only during flyby encounters.

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 3: Europa

Emily Lakdawalla • December 03, 2009

From a distance, Jupiter's fourth largest moon Europa is the smoothest object in the solar system; its outline traces out a perfect circle.

If Earth had rings

Emily Lakdawalla • December 03, 2009

I am the very last space blogger in the universe to post about this video, but that doesn't make it any less cool.

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 2: Mathilde

Emily Lakdawalla • December 02, 2009

253 Mathilde is the largest asteroid that has ever been visited by a spacecraft. It's held that distinction for more than twelve years, but next year it'll be upstaged by the considerably larger 21 Lutetia, which Rosetta will fly by on July 10.

The November/December issue of The Planetary Report is out

Emily Lakdawalla • December 02, 2009

Members of The Planetary Society, you should now be receiving your November/December issue of The Planetary Report in the mail.

Planetary Society Advent Calendar for December 1: Dione

Emily Lakdawalla • December 01, 2009

I've always loved advent calendars and the way they both managed and heightened my anticipation of the gift-opening frenzy of Christmas morning.

What's up in the solar system in December 2009

Emily Lakdawalla • November 30, 2009

The two big things happening this month are the launch of the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), from Vandenberg Air Force Base no earlier than December 9 at 06:09 PST (15:09 UTC), and the December meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) from the 14th through the 18th.

Spectacular animation of Halley's comet

Emily Lakdawalla • November 26, 2009

It's a holiday and I'm enjoying time with the family, so rather than write a lot, I will let a spectacular image do the talking for me.

Near Earth Objects and Planetary Defense

Emily Lakdawalla • November 26, 2009

Could a space rock hit Earth and cause widespread devastation? What could we do if we found an asteroid or comet on a collision course with Earth?

Saturn's aurora, even better than before

Emily Lakdawalla • November 24, 2009

The Cassini imaging team have posted their own processed and captioned version of the Saturn's aurora movie that I posted a preview of about six weeks ago, and it was worth the wait.

Two more awesome pictures from the Enceladus flyby

Emily Lakdawalla • November 22, 2009

I'm getting to be a broken record here, but I can't stop looking at these photos from the Enceladus flyby.

Another great Enceladus shot

Emily Lakdawalla • November 21, 2009

Here's a 4-frame mosaic of Enceladus images -- just another everyday spectacularly alien landscape.

Prepare for your jaw to hit the floor when you see these pictures of Enceladus

Emily Lakdawalla • November 21, 2009

Wow, just wow. I didn't know what to expect from the second flyby of Saturn's geyser moon Enceladus in November, which happened yesterday.

Encouraging motion on Spirit

Emily Lakdawalla • November 19, 2009

It really looks like the second attempt at driving Spirit out of the trap has had the hoped-for result: some forward progress (maybe about a centimeter), and no evidence for further downward sinking.

Space Imaging II: Getting Started with MER and Cassini Raw Images now available for download

Emily Lakdawalla • November 19, 2009

I probably crammed too much into today's class: an hour-and-a-half whirlwind tour through the cameras on the rovers and Cassini, how to access their raw images on the Internet, and some basic processing that you can do with each of them.

Hayabusa's still coming home: JAXA engineers come up with yet another creative solution

Emily Lakdawalla • November 19, 2009

Trouble has come time and again to JAXA's little Hayabusa asteroid sample return mission, yet the mission's engineers always come up with new and creative ways to solve problems.

Opportunity's poking at Marquette Island; Cassini's catching dancing moons

Emily Lakdawalla • November 18, 2009

Since tomorrow's class is going to be on playing with raw images from the rovers and Cassini, I've been playing with recent raw images from the rovers and Cassini! I just thought I'd share a couple of the fun items I've been working with.

Results of the first "Free Spirit" extrication drive, sol 2088: not much, as expected

Emily Lakdawalla • November 17, 2009

Even though all of us rover fans know that Spirit is really, really stuck, I think I'm not the only one who was secretly hoping that today's images downlinked from Spirit would show that the rover had magically popped out of the ground overnight. Of course, she didn't.

How to download the first imaging class: "Images Are Data"

Emily Lakdawalla • November 16, 2009

I finally prevailed in hosting the first in my series of classes on processing space images for amateurs this morning, while most people who were not working were probably watching the flawless launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis.

Rosetta Earth swingby successful

Emily Lakdawalla • November 13, 2009

Rosetta appears to have operated flawlessly as it streaked past Earth for its flyby early this morning. Here are a few more gems from the flyby.

LCROSS team: "Yes, we found water!"

Emily Lakdawalla • November 13, 2009

I just posted a story on the announcement today that LCROSS definitely found lots of water in the spectra from their October 9 impact.

Two new names in the solar system: Herse and Weywot

Emily Lakdawalla • November 12, 2009

Via the USGS I learned that Jupiter has passed a milestone of sorts, and now has fifty named satellites.

First space imaging class tomorrow, 10:30 a.m. Pacific / 18:30 UT

Emily Lakdawalla • November 12, 2009

The topic of the first class is: "Images Are Data." I'll go through how images actually represent scientific data, some very basic image processing stuff like histogram adjustment and what that does to the data, and what RGB color images are and how to compose them.

Highlights from today's Spirit press briefing

Emily Lakdawalla • November 12, 2009

Since A. J. S. Rayl was also listening in on today's press briefing about the efforts to extricate Spirit from her predicament at Troy, I'll just hit the high points and send you over to her story when she has posted it.

Crescent Earth

Emily Lakdawalla • November 12, 2009

Just hours away from its Earth flyby, Rosetta is busily snapping images and gathering other science data.

Hayabusa stumbles on the path back to Earth

Emily Lakdawalla • November 11, 2009

JAXA issued a press release (in Japanese) on November 9 stating that one of Hayabusa's ion thrusters, thruster D, had stopped operating. Hayabusa launched with four ion thrusters, but D was one of only two that are still functioning. So the failure of thruster D is a serious problem.

Tracking the stars -- and Earth

Emily Lakdawalla • November 11, 2009

This was a neat photo from ESA today.

Four moons and a ring

Emily Lakdawalla • November 10, 2009

Thanks to Mike Malaska for the tip on this one. The image is part of an animation that ends with Rhea transiting Saturn.

Rosetta is homing in on Earth

Emily Lakdawalla • November 10, 2009

Heads up! ESA's Rosetta spacecraft is approaching for its last flyby of Earth, on Friday, November 13.

Planetary Radio Q and A: Are meteorites on Mars actually interesting?

Emily Lakdawalla • November 09, 2009

The Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has been studying a lot of meteorites. That made me wonder, why study meteorites on Mars when we can study them in hand on Earth? How are Mars meteorites interesting?

A million dollars says The Planetary Society can make a solar sail fly

Emily Lakdawalla • November 09, 2009

The Planetary Society announced today that an anonymous donor has put up one million dollars to help us get a solar sail in flight.

She moves! "First drive sequence in 145 sols" for Spirit

Emily Lakdawalla • November 08, 2009

It's been an awful long time since we've seen one of these from Spirit: an animation of four Navcam frames documenting motion!

Space Image Processing Classes are Go!

Emily Lakdawalla • November 06, 2009

I got a huge response from readers interested in me conducting some online classes on space image data -- how to access and process it.

Reviews of several space-themed books for young children

Emily Lakdawalla • November 05, 2009

While I was on maternity leave I suddenly decided to see what books were out there that could help me teach my daughters (one's three years, and the other six months old) about the science and the thrill of space exploration.

MESSENGER Rewrites Mercury Textbooks Even Before Entering Orbit

Emily Lakdawalla • November 05, 2009

As MESSENGER zoomed toward Mercury for its third flyby, it was commanded to rotate in a maneuver that would help it test a surprising result from the second flyby.

Planetary Radio Q and A: Saturn's Hexagon

Emily Lakdawalla • November 04, 2009

On "Questions and Answers" I answered this question: "How do they explain the hexagon near Saturn's north pole?"

Planetary Radio Q and A: Not-so-gassy giants

Emily Lakdawalla • November 04, 2009

On Planetary Radio's "Questions and Answers" I answered this question: "I read that Uranus got its tilt when it was hit by another object. What does it mean for a ball of gas to be hit -- wouldn't another object just pass through it?"

Data from Kaguya's prime mission to the Moon has been released

Emily Lakdawalla • November 03, 2009

Yesterday, the Japanese space agency announced the public release of the data from the primary mission of the Kaguya (a.k.a. SELENE) lunar orbiter.

Another marvelous image from Cassini's Nov 2 Enceladus flyby

Emily Lakdawalla • November 03, 2009

This image goodie was produced from the raw images from Cassini's close encounter with Saturn's geyser moon Enceladus yesterday by Gordan Ugarkovic.

Cassini's Enceladus encounter, with bonus Tethys

Emily Lakdawalla • November 02, 2009

Raw images from Cassini's close pass by Enceladus today started appearing on the JPL raw images website, and some less-compressed versions of a few of them showed up on the CICLOPS website.

Happy Halloween!

Emily Lakdawalla • October 31, 2009

Enjoy tonight's nearly-full Moon! I couldn't resist posting these snapshots that Alice Wessen took of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's costume contest.

Fun Friday photo: Titan and Rhea

Emily Lakdawalla • October 30, 2009

Cassini recently captured a series of images documenting Rhea passing behind Titan.

What's up in the solar system in November 2009

Emily Lakdawalla • October 29, 2009

There are two -- actually three -- big things to look forward to this month.

Gorgeous high-res image of the Apollo 17 landing site

Emily Lakdawalla • October 28, 2009

The LROC team posted today a new image of the Apollo 17 landing site, captured after Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter had gotten in to its 50-kilometer mapping orbit, so this is much more detailed than the previous view.

HiRISE sees Phoenix in the Martian spring

Emily Lakdawalla • October 28, 2009

These Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter HiRISE images of the defunct Phoenix lander in the early dawn light of northern spring have been out for some time, but no one had accomplished the difficult task of locating the Phoenix hardware in them until this week.

Arizona Daily Star reports MRO managers working to avoid "unlikely but potentially fatal scenario"

Emily Lakdawalla • October 28, 2009

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been in safe mode for nine weeks, since August 26, the date of the fourth in a series of safing events.

Request for input: Any interest in tutorials on space imaging?

Emily Lakdawalla • October 27, 2009

I am toying with the idea of running a series of classes via Ustream on the basics of space image processing.

What "phase angle" means

Emily Lakdawalla • October 27, 2009

As is probably obvious by now, I love playing with spacecraft image data. I am always looking for excuses to dive into space image archives to unearth images of stuff in space that haven't really been seen by very many people before.

Carnival of Space #126, plus more from Jupiter's moon Io

Emily Lakdawalla • October 26, 2009

The 126th Space Carnival is live over at Jason Perry's always-excellent (if rather narrowly focused) Io blog The Gish Bar Times.

Send your name to Venus with Venus Climate Orbiter (PLANET-C), now known as Akatsuki

Emily Lakdawalla • October 23, 2009

The Japanese space agency's science missions have an abundance of names. They start out with a programmatic name, like MUSES-A, PLANET-A, etc. -- which might be like calling NEAR "Discovery-A" and Mars Pathfinder "Discovery-B" and so on.

Last Chance for Bargains at The Planetary Society Store

Emily Lakdawalla • October 22, 2009

We are preparing to have a brand new online store with new and different merchandise; to that end, we are clearing out EVERY LAST BIT of our old store inventory.

Spinning spokes in Saturn's rings

Emily Lakdawalla • October 21, 2009

Here's a neat animation captured last month by Cassini and assembled by Mike Malaska: spokes in Saturn's B ring.

Window onto an abyss: Cave skylight on the Moon

Emily Lakdawalla • October 20, 2009

This just in: researchers on JAXA's Kaguya lunar orbiter have discovered an open pit on the Moon that is likely a window onto a sublunar world -- a skylight into a subsurface cavern.

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