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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.