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Blogs

Emily Lakdawalla's blogs from 2010

LPSC, Day 2: Impacts onto icy moons

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/03/03 03:29 CST

There has been big news from Moon and Mars here at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, but I can't find the time to wrap that stuff up into a properly illustrated blog post; while I'm still on site at the conference I'll be tossing the easier-to-digest bits into the blog.

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LPSC, Day 1: Spirit and Phoenix

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/03/02 09:35 CST

Where to begin with the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC)?

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Programming Note: The Pluto Files

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/03/02 05:49 CST

This is just a brief note to advertise this evening's edition of NOVA on public television here in the U.S. The show is "The Pluto Files" and is hosted by former Planetary Society president Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

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LPSC: Why Ganymede and Callisto are so different

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/03/01 08:59 CST

The first talk I attended at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston was my one icy satellite talk for the day.

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In Houston

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/28 10:30 CST

Despite the best efforts of many different kinds of gremlins, I have managed to arrive in Houston to attend the 41st Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, at least the first 2.5 days of it.

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Welcome news on DSN upgrades

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/25 11:23 CST

I've written before about a serious problem looming for planetary exploration: the aging infrastructure of NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN).

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What's up in the solar system in March 2010

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/24 09:42 CST

I am getting an early start on this month's "What's Up" post because March is going to start with a bang.

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Cassini at Enceladus: Baghdad's Glowing Canyon

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/23 05:33 CST

The Cassini mission released a pile of images today from the super-close flyby of Enceladus that happened on November 21.

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Pretty picture: Mini-RF exposes lunar geology

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/22 12:03 CST

There are all kinds of neat things to see in this recently released image from the Mini-RF synthetic aperture radar instrument aboard Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

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Hello, snowman! (Cassini observes Iapetus)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/19 02:05 CST

I visited the Cassini raw images site today and was pleased to see another couple of sets of images have been captured on Iapetus.

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NSRC: Engaging the Interested Public

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/19 10:20 CST

I gave a presentation this morning to the Next-generation Suborbital Researchers Conference (NSRC) on "Social Networking Planetary Science."

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Recording of today's UStream chat with Bill Nye and Lou Friedman available

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/18 03:27 CST

As I mentioned on Tuesday, we organized a UStream chat today where Bill Nye and Lou Friedman discussed the proposed NASA budget.

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Lovely album of photos from WISE

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/17 11:56 CST

Today the Wide-field Survey Explorer (WISE) team released a small album of beautiful astrophotos.

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Carnival of Space #141

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/17 11:54 CST

Wander on over to StarryCritters for the 141st Carnival of Space!

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Cassini tour page updated for the Solstice Mission

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/16 03:20 CST

My enormously long page describing the details of Cassini's tour -- each and every Cassini orbit of Saturn -- is now updated to include the entire Solstice Mission, which doubles its length.

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Cassini eyes the eyeball

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/16 02:11 CST

On Saturday, Cassini flew within 9,500 kilometers of Mimas, the innermost of the medium-sized icy moons of Saturn.

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Calypso coolness

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/14 08:42 CST

Cassini got pretty close to Calypso yesterday, on the way in to Mimas. Calypso is one of the smaller moonlets of Saturn.

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Twenty years since Voyager's last view

Posted by Emily LakdawallaCharlene Anderson on 2010/02/12 01:17 CST

On Sunday comes the twentieth anniversary of an iconic image from the Voyager mission: the "Pale Blue Dot" photo of Earth caught in a sunbeam, which was captured by Voyager 1 as part of a Solar System Family Portrait.

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Hubble sees both of Saturn's aurorae

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/12 01:01 CST

Yesterday, the European wing of the Hubble PR machine released this cool image of Saturn and its aurorae, with an associated video.

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Find pics and track the rovers in Google Mars

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/11 05:28 CST

I think a goodly proportion of you readers have already figured this out for yourselves since it was launched last March, but I didn't download and install it until last weekend, so this is new to me: Google Mars is awesome.

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A Space Carnival (#140) and some new names for Enceladus

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/09 10:39 CST

This week the Carnival of Space is over at one of my favorite new blogs, Lights in the Dark. Actually it's not so new -- evidently this week marks its first anniversary!

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Pretty picture: Opportunity around Concepcion

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/09 10:32 CST

Here's a neat picture from Opportunity, a panorama composed of its wide-angle, mast-mounted Navcam cameras, showing the crater Concepcion.

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WISE has found its first comet, P/2010 B2 (WISE)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/08 04:50 CST

Having discovered its first asteroid on January 12, Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) has now officially discovered its first comet, P/2010 B2 (WISE).

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Manic Monday: Chocolate Hills, Io, and NASA's budget

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/08 02:21 CST

Although I am not suffering under the "snowpocalypse" on the East Coast, I woke up to Monday absolutely buried under a massive pile of things to do for both home and work, and it looks like it's going to take me a few days to dig out. So, with apologies, I'm going to make today's post a linky one.

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That's a lot of motion for a "stuck" rover!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/06 08:14 CST

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory posted a video to YouTube today showing what seems to be a remarkable amount of motion out of Spirit lately, especially given that she's supposed to be a "stationary science platform" now.

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New maps of Pluto show pretty amazing amounts of surface change

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/04 02:17 CST

I just posted my writeup of today's press briefing on a new map of Pluto produced from Hubble images. The main conclusion was that Pluto has shown an astonishing amount of changes across its surface between 1994 and 2002 -- more, in fact, than any other solid surface in the solar system.

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Way-cool Martian flyovers by Doug Ellison

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/04 09:16 CST

Doug Ellison has been playing with Martian digital terrain models recently, to great effect.

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Hooray! Cassini's tour has been extended for SEVEN MORE YEARS!

Posted by Emily LakdawallaJohn Spencer on 2010/02/03 01:12 CST

NASA has just announced that once Cassini's Equinox Mission runs out in June of this year, they will extend it a further seven more years, long enough for the spacecraft to see Saturn through its solstice!!

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Spectacular Hubble view of the aftermath of an asteroid collision

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/02 01:25 CST

Hubble has caught an astonishing view of something that's never before been observed, the aftermath of a collision between two asteroids in the main belt.

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Mars Express animation of Phobos' shadow transiting Mars

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/02 12:08 CST

For the first time ever, Mars Express' Visual Monitoring Camera has imaged the shadow of Mars' moon Phobos crossing the surface of Mars.

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What's up in the solar system in February 2010

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/01 01:56 CST

Probably the biggest topic of discussion this month will concern the news contained within the President's proposed fiscal year 2011 budget, about which there was a NASA press conference this morning.

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This blog now has comments!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/01 11:07 CST

Every once in a while I get an email from a reader expressing irritation with the fact that this blog doesn't permit comments. The reasons have always been technical/financial, not philosophical.

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A pretty picture of Concepcion crater

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/01 10:37 CST

It looks like the rover team thinks Concepcion is pretty enough (in both aesthetic and a scientific senses) to be worthy of the full-color Pancam panorama treatment; color frames started arriving on Earth over the weekend.

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Opportunity's thousand-year-old crater

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/01/29 10:59 CST

Since leaving Marquette Island on sol 2,122, Opportunity has been barreling southward on her journey toward Endeavour crater. On her horizon for the last several sols has been a very small but very fresh looking crater named Concepción.

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Cassini Aegaeon and Prometheus awesomeness

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/01/28 12:38 CST

There were many, many treats waiting on the Cassini raw images website this morning. Yesterday, Cassini traversed the G ring, taking photos all the way.

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NASA decides Spirit is henceforth to be a lander

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/01/26 03:22 CST

There was a press briefing today that announced the official end of efforts to extricate Spirit from her sand trap at Troy. Instead, the rover drivers will now focus on improving the chances that Spirit will survive the coming winter so that she can carry on doing science once the power situation improves in the spring.

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Brief rover update: "We do not believe [Spirit] is extractable."

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/01/26 11:36 CST

There's a press briefing going on right now that marks today, January 26, 2010, more than six years after she landed, the day that NASA decided that Spirit's roving days were over.

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WISE bags its first near-Earth object, 2010 AB78

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/01/22 04:14 CST

The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) just took its lens cap off on December 29, and posted its "first light" image on January 6. Now, just two weeks later, WISE has bagged its first near-Earth object.

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Mars and a moonbow

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/01/21 04:00 CST

Moonbows represent the same phenomenon as rainbows, it's just that the light from the Sun has reflected off of the Moon first before it's separated into its colors by the myriad tiny water droplets in the cloud.

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Your chance to shoot your own high-resolution pictures of Mars

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/01/20 11:48 CST

The HiRISE public suggestion tool, called HiWish, is a Web site that allows you to log in and select a spot on Mars as a suggestion for where the HiRISE instrument should take an image.

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Figuring out the shape of Mars (and other places)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/01/19 01:31 CST

An amateur named Bernhard Braun ("nirgal" on unmannedspaceflight) has been posting the results from a new piece of software he's developed that generates 3-D models of landscapes from single photos.

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What about the non-imaging data from spacecraft?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/01/18 10:48 CST

Data from all science instruments on all of NASA's and ESA's space missions, not just cameras, is archived in the Planetary Data System and Planetary Science Archive, and almost all of that data is available online.

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Buttoning up the Mars Orbiter Camera science investigation

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/01/15 04:21 CST

The science team for Mars Orbiter Camera, or "MOC" (pronounced "mock") has just published a paper that attempts to summarize an investigation that spanned more than two decades.

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Just a Few More Approaches to Try for Extrication

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/01/13 10:09 CST

"The list of remaining maneuvers being considered for extricating Spirit is becoming shorter."

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Highlights from the January 1, 2010 Cassini imaging data release

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/01/13 03:43 CST

The January 1, 2010 Cassini imaging data release includes everything acquired by Cassini from January 1 to March 30, 2009 in all its high-quality glory.

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ESA mission analyst suggests 2010 AL30 might be Venus Express rocket

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/01/13 10:30 CST

2010 AL30 zipped past us harmlessly about five hours ago. Because of its one-year orbital period, many people speculated it might be a manmade object, but 2010 AL30 might, in fact, be artificial.

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Goldstone detects "STRONG" radar echoes from 2010 AL30

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/01/12 10:05 CST

Radio scientist Lance Benner posted to the Minor Planets Mailing list this evening the following message: "We have detected STRONG radar echoes from 2010 AL30 at Goldstone."

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2010 AL30: Watch out for low-flying asteroids

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/01/12 11:52 CST

In less than 24 hours, a newly discovered asteroid known as 2010 AL30 will be zipping past Earth at an altitude of approximately a third the Earth-Moon distance. There's no chance it'll hit us, but it's generating a lot of excitement in the community of amateur and professional near-Earth asteroid observers.

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Odyssey's going to start listening for Phoenix

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/01/11 05:26 CST

It's been the second most popular question I get from readers: "When might we possibly hear from Phoenix?"

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Results from the Rosetta Encounter with Asteroid 2867 Steins

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/01/11 01:12 CST

Last week in Science magazine appeared the first peer-reviewed article on the results of Rosetta's September 2008 encounter with the smallish main-belt asteroid Steins. This morning I got a chance to sit down and read the article, and I wrote up a summary.

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Asteroid 2867 Steins

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/01/11 02:01 CST

This description of asteroid 2867 Steins is based upon an article published in the January 8, 2010 issue of Science by H. Uwe Keller and numerous coauthors and on a related press release.

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Spirit's still "extricating"

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/01/08 01:08 CST

It's been two months, now, that extrication efforts have been going on. It's discouraging that the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit isn't out of the trap.

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400 Years of the Galilean Satellites

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/01/07 03:34 CST

It was 400 years ago today that Galileo discovered smaller planets attending the planet Jupiter.

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Congratulations to the WISE team on a beautiful "First Light" photo!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/01/06 12:51 CST

Congratulations are due to the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) team on their lovely "First Light" image, unveiled at the 215th American Astronomical Society meeting.

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New Mercury Atlas

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/01/06 12:28 CST

The United States Geological Survey has just released a new atlas of Mercury, the first to be based upon the three flybys worth of image data gathered by the MESSENGER mission.

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Evaporating exoplanet

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/01/06 11:50 CST

CoRoT-7b was the first unambiguously rocky planet to be discovered and was quite small, at under five Earth masses. But a press release issued today suggests that its history probably has little to do with Earth's.

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What's up in the solar system in January 2010

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/01/04 01:29 CST

While we don't have Moon bases, we do have plenty of spacecraft. Before I get into my more detailed look at the activities of the 20-odd spacecraft wandering about the solar system, I thought I'd look ahead to 2010 more generally and see what the year has in store for us.

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Last Door in the Planetary Society Advent Calendar: Earth, again

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/01/01 10:37 CST

I know I already posted Earth once before. But I could not resist winding up the calendar with this view of a new Earth, for the new year.

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