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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?"
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.
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.
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.
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.