SOHO was launched more than 15 years ago to study the Sun, primarily; but a side benefit of its constant observation of the Sun has been its ability to notice "sungrazers," comets that are on deadly close approaches to our star.
In a move that's kind of hard to understand in the wake of the immense public outreach success of the Hayabusa mission, JAXA is closing JAXA i, its public information center in Tokyo today (December 28 in Japan).
Ordinarily it's not my thing to do so many updates on a mission that failed to arrive in orbit, but I know that it's difficult for English-speaking readers to locate information on Asian missions so I'm keeping up the reporting on Akatsuki.
Unless you live under a rock you probably know that there is a total lunar eclipse tonight, one that should be particularly favorable for viewing from North America but which will be at least partially visible to viewers in South America, Europe, and easternmost Asia and Australia too.
Time to open the eleventh door in the advent calendar. Until the New Year, I'll be opening a door onto a different landscape from somewhere in the solar system. Where in the solar system are these sinuous ridges?
An English-language article in the December 11 Yomiuri Shimbun summarizes the news from the Akatsuki press briefing held at 11:00 December 10 JST (last night, my time). It's succinct and clear so I'm reposting it here.
JAXA held two press briefings about Akatsuki yesterday. Reports in both English and Japanese based on these press briefings have cleared up some, but not all, of the mystery about what happened and what is to happen with Akatsuki.
I was unable to follow Akatsuki's entry into Venus orbit in real time due to family obligations. Checking in now, about four hours after it was to have entered orbit, it seems that something did not go correctly, but not much information is available.
Time to open the third door in the advent calendar. Until the New Year, I'll be opening a door onto a different landscape from somewhere in the solar system. Where in the solar system is this wispy terrain?
Time to open the second door in the advent calendar. Until the New Year, I'll be opening a door onto a different landscape from somewhere in the solar system. Can you guess where this crater-scarred surface lies?
December really has arrived, and that means that the year is racing to a close. Continuing last year's tradition, I'm counting the days to the New Year with an advent calendar, where each "door" opens onto a global image of a different world in the solar system.
Europe is apparently of the mind that science and technology will help to carry them out of tough economic times, and has made three-year commitments to continue the in-space operations of 11 missions through 2014.
Ever since I first saw Tyler Nordgren's awe-inspiring photographs of the Milky Way arching above the natural wonders of the national parks, I knew I wanted them on my wall. Well, now I can get them, and you can too.
Jupiter, always a pretty sight in the sky, is now worth visiting every day; the "outbreak" that heralds the return of Jupiter's formerly red, now fadedsouth equatorial belt is expanding and multiplying.
The saddest item of business to note in this linky post is that noted astronomer Brian Marsden, retired director of the Minor Planet Center and a good friend to many, passed away yesterday at the age of 73.
Today the Deep Impact/EPOXI science team held a press briefing that followed up on their very successful flyby of two weeks ago, a status report on what they can say so far about the science that's coming out of the encounter.
Just in time for today's Deep Impact press briefing, which you can watch on NASA TV in a few minutes: I've updated my montage of all the asteroids and comets that have been visited and photographed to include Hartley 2.
Since I posted an update Monday about JAXA confirming extraterrestrial samples in the Hayabusa sample return capsule, JAXA has posted an English-language version of their press release, which contains a bit more information.
While giving a talk at the University of Southern California last night, Planetary Society Executive Director Bill Nye fainted briefly, but returned to his feet and finished delivering his presentation.
It's official: in a press release today, JAXA announced that some 1,500 dust grains scraped from the interior of Hayabusa's clean-looking sample return capsule are not of terrestrial origin so must be from Itokawa.
In the last few days, Opportunity's passed by several craters, and the rover drivers took advantage of the chance encounters for what they call "drive-by shooting" (a phrase I can't say I'm particularly fond of, but they didn't ask me).
On Thursday, November 4, at 13:50 UTC, Deep Impact flew within 700 kilometers of comet Hartley 2. Hartley 2 is the smallest and most active of the five comets that have been directly by a spacecraft, and the first to be visited within the lifetime of its discoverer.
Several astronomers pointed their telescope at Eris to watch it pass in front of a background star. Occultations permit precise measurement of the diameters of distant, faint objects, and it turned out that Eris was much smaller than previously thought, so much so that its diameter may turn out to be the same as, or even smaller than, Pluto's.
I had to catch up with tasks left undone at home today and didn't have time to write up my notes from the Hartley 2 press briefing, for which I apologize. I'll leave you for the weekend with three cool Hartley 2 pictures.
It was a very happy set of scientists, engineers, managers, and administrators who filled the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Von Karman auditorium this afternoon to do the postgame show on Deep Impact's flyby of Hartley 2.