Join Donate

Emily Lakdawalla's blogs from 2012

Pretty picture: Vesta's crater Aelia in high resolution

Emily Lakdawalla • August 13, 2012

I think my favorite features on Vesta are its streaky craters. Today's image release shows one of the streakiest: Aelia, a little crater on the flank of a larger one, near Vesta's equator.

Curiosity sol 3: First Mastcam color thumbnails down, everything "flawless," "nominal"

Emily Lakdawalla • August 09, 2012

Curiosity's third day on Mars has been completed flawlessly, and the first preliminary color view from her Mastcam is lovely.

Curiosity: Most of sol 2 Navcam panorama, plus 18 full-res Descent Imager frames available

Emily Lakdawalla • August 09, 2012

A look at the latest raw data dump from Curiosity: our first sharp view of the rover and immediate surroundings, plus 18 of the full-resolution descent imager frames are now available. Check out the gravel on Curiosity's deck!!

Grab your 3D glasses for this view of Curiosity's landscape on Mars

Emily Lakdawalla • August 08, 2012

Curiosity fired up her Navigational Cameras on Sol 2 and began to take a look around her. The first four full-resolution frames are enough for a small 3D panorama that shows a lovely landscape. I think we're going to like it here!

First full-resolution MARDI frame: Bye-bye, heat shield

Emily Lakdawalla • August 07, 2012

The thumbnail versions of the Mars Descent Imager images have shown up on the Curiosity raw images page, and hiding among them was a single full-resolution frame containing the heat shield.

Curiosity's MAHLI camera: Much more than a microscopic imager

Emily Lakdawalla • August 07, 2012

Today's press briefing featured the first image from MAHLI, the Mars Hand Lens Imager, so it's time for me to dive in to this camera's capabilities.

Curiosity sol 1 and planned activities for the next few sols

Emily Lakdawalla • August 07, 2012

A look at the current status of Curiosity at the beginning of sol 2, and what activities to look forward to over the next few sols.

Curiosity: Notes from the two day-after-landing press briefings

Emily Lakdawalla • August 06, 2012

Notes on Curiosity's physical state, future activities, landing site, and other stuff gleaned from the two press briefings conducted at JPL today.

First look at Curiosity MARDI's descent animation (WOW WOW)

Emily Lakdawalla • August 06, 2012

Even a preliminary, low-resolution, low-frame-rate version of Curiosity's descent imager animation of the arrival on Mars contains almost more awesome than I can stand.

A "long" view of the Curiosity Descending image

Emily Lakdawalla • August 06, 2012

A wider (well, longer) view of the amazing HiRISE image that shows Curiosity descending under parachute to Mars

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter HiRISE has done it again!!

Emily Lakdawalla • August 06, 2012

In 2008, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped an amazing photo of Phoenix descending to the surface of Mars under its parachute. Now it's repeated the feat, with Curiosity.

Getting the most out of those first images from Mars

Emily Lakdawalla • August 06, 2012

It's such a rare joy to be able to dive into the images returned from a brand-new mission. The very first images that come to Earth and get posted on the Web are usually of relatively poor quality compared to what comes later, and Curiosity's are no exception to that rule.

We are on Mars

Emily Lakdawalla • August 06, 2012

Somehow, it worked. Curiosity has landed on Mars, returning photos of her wheels and her shadow on a flat, pebbled plain.

Where I will be watching Curiosity's landing

Emily Lakdawalla • August 05, 2012

People have been asking how to tune in to the landing. Here's some information on how (and from where) I'll be watching tonight's events.

Curiosity: Landing minus 11 hours

Emily Lakdawalla • August 05, 2012

The Curiosity mission's final pre-landing press briefing wrapped up a short while ago. There wasn't much in the way of news, which is a good thing. Curiosity is healthy. Odyssey is healthy. There's not much left to do but wait.

Curiosity landing minus two days

Emily Lakdawalla • August 04, 2012

I just came out of a press briefing at JPL, on the morning of the day before Curiosity's landing. The panel seemed fairly calm -- anxious, certainly, but the happy kind of anxiety that precedes something that could be great.

Mars24 has been upgraded for Curiosity

Emily Lakdawalla • August 03, 2012

Robert Schmunk has released a new version of the Mars24 application to help us tell time at Curiosity's landing site.

Video: This is not the droid you're looking for

Emily Lakdawalla • August 02, 2012

Just to break the tension in advance of Curiosity's landing, a little humor from UnmannedSpaceflight.com's Astro0.

Videos: Where are Curiosity's science instruments and how do they work?

Emily Lakdawalla • August 01, 2012

Mat Kaplan and I recently recorded a couple of videos giving a tour of the science instruments on the Curiosity Mars rover.

Press briefing schedule for Curiosity (assuming a nominal landing)

Emily Lakdawalla • July 30, 2012

JPL has published a schedule for press briefings in the first week of Curiosity's mission on Mars.

Pretty Panoramas: Opportunity at Whim Creek

Emily Lakdawalla • July 30, 2012

I know it’s been all Curiosity, all the time on this blog for the last couple of weeks, and that’s not likely to change much for the next couple of weeks. But I don’t want people to forget that there’s another rover exploring Mars’ ancient geology. Opportunity has been taking spectacular photos of Whim Creek and Endeavour Crater this last week.

Celebrate Curiosity with a “Party on Mars!” Saturday night!

Emily Lakdawalla • July 30, 2012

Join me and Bill Nye to blow off some steam on Saturday night as we anticipate Curiosity’s landing! In the spirit of such nerdtacular gatherings as W00tstock and LeetUp, we’re having a big party at the Paseo Colorado here in Pasadena to celebrate Curiosity!

The Planetary Report, June 2012: Dark Skies?

Emily Lakdawalla • July 25, 2012

The June Solstice issue of our member magazine The Planetary Report is out! The feature article, by W. Scott Kardel of the International Dark-Sky Association, looks at the ecological, economic, and philosophical problem of light pollution. My inside-the-cover Snapshots from Space features image processing work by Gordan Ugarkovic. Bill Nye's Planetary Society Kids section shows you how to build your own MarsDial, and on its back page I share some weird and interesting facts about Mars' moons.

When will we see Curiosity's first images?

Emily Lakdawalla • July 23, 2012

Enough people have asked me when we'll see Curiosity's first images from the surface of Mars that I sought out an answer. The short version: it depends.

Curiosity's seventeenth camera: MARDI

Emily Lakdawalla • July 20, 2012

Curiosity is equipped with seventeen cameras. One of them, the Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) will capture a movie as the rover descends to the surface.

Got questions about Curiosity? I've got answers for you

Emily Lakdawalla • July 19, 2012

Whether you are a scientist or a layman, if you have ever asked yourself any question about Curiosity, I strongly suggest that you read the newly published press kit!

A plea to Mars Science Laboratory team members: write your experiences down

Emily Lakdawalla • July 17, 2012

In which I beg the people working on Curiosity to write about what happens in the coming weeks, even if you never share those writings publicly.

A fifth moon for Pluto, and a possible hazard for New Horizons

Emily Lakdawalla • July 16, 2012

Pluto is now known to have at least five moons (Charon, Nix, Hydra, P4, and the newly discovered P5), and its burgeoning population might pose a risk to New Horizons during its flyby, three years from now.

A blog that started out as a product review, but turned into something else entirely

Emily Lakdawalla • July 10, 2012

A review of the Aeromax "NASA Junior Astronaut Suit Child Costume," with bonus review of a backyard airplane teeter-totter. But the review took a turn that I was not prepared for.

How Curiosity Will Land on Mars, Part 3: Skycrane and Landing

Emily Lakdawalla • July 06, 2012

The final phase of Curiosity's landing on Mars involves the "skycrane maneuver" and will leave the rover on its wheels ready for its mission on Mars to begin.

Birth of a New Moon

Emily Lakdawalla • July 05, 2012

As astronaut Don Pettit prepared for his return to Earth, he tweeted several beautiful shots from the Space Station.

Programming note: I'm going on a pre-Mars landing vacation

Emily Lakdawalla • July 03, 2012

Just a note to let people know I'll be on vacation until July 16.

What's Up in the Solar System in July 2012

Emily Lakdawalla • July 02, 2012

Welcome to my monthly roundup of the activities of our intrepid robotic emissaries across the solar system! Curiosity is about to land; Opportunity has rolled through sol 3000; Odyssey is back online, having switched to a spare reaction wheel; Dawn is now in High-Altitude Mapping Orbit 2; and Cassini is taking advantage of its newly inclined orbit to get spectacular series of images of Saturn's rings.

How Curiosity Will Land on Mars, Part 2: Descent

Emily Lakdawalla • June 29, 2012

When people first hear about how Curiosity will land on Mars, their first question always is: are they nuts? This is the second in a multi-part series describing how -- and why -- Curiosity will land this way, in excruciating detail.

Virtual Star Parties

Emily Lakdawalla • June 28, 2012

Hang out with Fraser Cain and amateur astronomers all over the world in Cosmoquest's Virtual Star parties conducted over Google+. Here's how -- plus an inspiring video produced by Google to show just how cool this is.

Salacia: As big as Ceres, but much farther away

Emily Lakdawalla • June 26, 2012

A newly published paper shows trans-Neptunian object Salacia to be unexpectedly large; it's somewhere around the tenth largest known thing beyond Neptune. It has a companion one-third its size, making it appear similar to Orcus and Vanth.

A geochemist's Periodic Table of Elements

Emily Lakdawalla • June 25, 2012

The Periodic Table of Elements that hangs in chemistry classrooms doesn't include a lot of the information about elements that's most important to geologists. Here's one that does.

How Curiosity Will Land on Mars, Part 1: Entry

Emily Lakdawalla • June 22, 2012

When people first hear about how Curiosity will land on Mars, their first question always is: are they nuts? This is the first in a multi-part series describing how -- and why -- Curiosity will land this way, in excruciating detail.

Pretty picture: Meet Tethys

Emily Lakdawalla • June 20, 2012

Just a pretty global view of one of Saturn's flock of icy moons, newly processed from archival data by Gordan Ugarkovic.

Cosmoquest Science Hangout Wednesday June 20 2300 UTC: Ravi Prakash, Curiosity engineer

Emily Lakdawalla • June 18, 2012

This Cosmoquest Science Hangout featured Ravi Prakash, Curiosity Entry, Descent, and Landing Systems Engineer. He explained how Curiosity will land on Mars, and why they've changed things since Spirit and Opportunity landed.

Pretty picture: Halo on a halo?

Emily Lakdawalla • June 15, 2012

An interesting set of images of Titan that Cassini took recently shows a peculiar cap at Titan's south pole.

Update on yesterday's post about Chang'E 2 going to Toutatis

Emily Lakdawalla • June 15, 2012

I have a couple of updates on my post from yesterday: confirmation that Chang'E 2 is indeed gone from L2, and more specifics on encounter dates with Toutatis.

Chang'E 2 has departed Earth's neighborhood for...asteroid Toutatis!?

Emily Lakdawalla • June 14, 2012

According to a Chinese spaceflight forum, Chang'E program chief scientist Ouyang Ziyuan recently announced that Chang'E 2 has departed the Sun-Earth L2 point and is now en route to asteroid 4179 Toutatis!

Weekly Space Hangout

Emily Lakdawalla • June 14, 2012

This week's Cosmoquest Google+ Space Hangout, featured me, Fraser Cain, Amy Teitel, and Nicole Gigliucci. We talked about Curiosity's landing, exoplanets, the Fermi Paradox, and tropical lakes on Titan.

Yet more planet transits

Emily Lakdawalla • June 14, 2012

A reader comment on Jay Pasachoff's post last week about Venus transits viewed from other planets had me asking whether transits of other planets were also interesting to astronomers. Jay provided some answers!

Successful launch for NuSTAR on a Pegasus XL

Emily Lakdawalla • June 13, 2012

NuSTAR, the most sensitive X-ray telescope ever developed, launched successfully at 16:00 UT. This was a fun launch to watch, because the launch vehicle was a Pegasus XL air-launched rocket, dropped like a bomb from open bay doors of an L-1011 airplane.

Steins, a jewel in the asteroid belt

Emily Lakdawalla • June 13, 2012

A notice of some new names for features on asteroid 2867 Steins inspired me to dig up the data set from the September 5, 2008 Rosetta flyby and explore it to see what it contained.

Hold the Moon in Your Hands

Emily Lakdawalla • June 12, 2012

Sky & Telescope and Replogle Globes teamed up to take advantage of the fabulous new Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter image mosaic of the Moon to make an equally fabulous new Moon globe.

Curiosity's shrinking landing ellipse

Emily Lakdawalla • June 11, 2012

There was good news and bad news in this morning's press briefing about Curiosity rover's upcoming landing on Mars, just eight weeks from now. First, the good news: the landing ellipse has shrunk. The bad news: there's a contamination problem with the drill, and the Odyssey orbiter is in safe mode.

Build your own papercraft Curiosity rover

Emily Lakdawalla • June 08, 2012

Glen Nagle pointed me to two awesome papercraft models of the Curiosity rover that you can download and -- assuming you have a LOT of patience and a steady hand -- assemble.

Watch the recording of my Google+ Science Hour with guest Dan Durda

Emily Lakdawalla • June 07, 2012

On June 6 I hosted the Cosmoquest Weekly Science Hour. My guest was Dan Durda of the Southwest Research Institute. We talked asteroids, impact mitigation, searches for Vulcanoids, and suborbital experiments, and then he took us through how he creates his digital space art.

Seeking your stories about Ray Bradbury

Emily Lakdawalla • June 06, 2012

Ray Bradbury passed away last night, June 5, 2012, at the age of 91. He was a friend to the Planetary Society and an inspiration to its members. We'd like you members to share your recollections and stories of his singular influence in your lives.

Artist's views of a night sky transformed by a galaxy merger

Emily Lakdawalla • June 04, 2012

A measurement of the Andromeda galaxy's proper motion shows it's coming directly at us, and will collide with the Milky Way in 4 billion years. The event will transform the appearance of our night sky.

What's Up in the Solar System in June 2012

Emily Lakdawalla • May 31, 2012

This month, Opportunity is roving again, while Curiosity approaches Mars; Cassini's finally seeing rings, and will fly by Mimas, Titan, and Tethys; GRAIL has completed its primary mission and is journeying toward the second; Dawn is climbing to the HAMO2 orbit; and a rare transit of Venus is coming up on June 5/6.

In which I visit Mojave Spaceport and meet WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo

Emily Lakdawalla • May 29, 2012

It was just a coincidence, but a cool one, that I got a chance to visit the Mojave Spaceport so soon after the dramatic "New Space" success of the launch and Space Station docking of SpaceX's Falcon 9 and Dragon.

A solar eclipse - as viewed from the Moon

Emily Lakdawalla • May 28, 2012

A solar eclipse isn't just a spiffy sight to Earthlings; it looks pretty cool to lunar dwellers as well.

Video: Saturn makes its own drama (with a little help)

Emily Lakdawalla • May 22, 2012

The apparently simple device of running Cassini images together like a flipbook makes for a dramatic movie, especially with the help of well-timed musical cues.

Methone, an egg in Saturn orbit?

Emily Lakdawalla • May 21, 2012

Cassini obtained its first high-resolution images of Methone on May 20, 2012. Methone is one of the smallest regular moons of Saturn, having a diameter of only about 3 kilometers. It was the first moon that Cassini discovered, very early in Cassini's mission at Saturn, in 2004.

A stunning view of Mars from Argyre to Thaumasia

Emily Lakdawalla • May 18, 2012

Image magician Daniel Machacek has done it again, producing a jaw-dropping view of Mars from Viking Orbiter 1, featuring a frosty Argyre basin and stretching across to a series of faults called Thaumasia Fossae.

Making eclipse magic

Emily Lakdawalla • May 16, 2012

How to enjoy a solar eclipse with your kids, making shadow magic with a pinhole viewer.

Cool video: Jupiter, its moons, a comet, and...the Sun?

Emily Lakdawalla • May 16, 2012

Here's a neat video posted by SungrazerComets (the Twitter identity of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory's Sungrazing Comets website) this morning.

Rovers in the desert

Emily Lakdawalla • May 14, 2012

I took a field trip to watch scientists and engineers play in the sand with Mars rover models, and got a bonus tour of some evidence for the "Snowball Earth" hypothesis.

Space Hangout with Britney Schmidt

Emily Lakdawalla • May 09, 2012

Watch a conversation I had with planetary astronomer Britney Schmidt about Europa and the current state of outer planets exploration! Also, bonus video of an earlier hangout with Robbie Herrick.

In which I sit in a Soyuz capsule with a Real Live Astronaut

Emily Lakdawalla • May 09, 2012

Emily Lakdawalla is ready to launch to space with Shuttle astronaut Mike Massimino, who guest-starred (as an astronaut, of course) on the fifth season finale of the CBS comedy The Big Bang Theory.

Pretty pictures from Cassini's recent Dione flyby

Emily Lakdawalla • May 04, 2012

Cassini performed its last of three close encounters with Enceladus for 2012 two days ago, and followed the flyby with some spectacular images of Dione.

3D view of an unnamed lunar crater

Emily Lakdawalla • May 03, 2012

Grab your red-blue 3D glasses and dive in to this small but spectacular unnamed lunar crater as seen in a Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photo.

What's up in the solar system in May 2012

Emily Lakdawalla • May 01, 2012

Welcome to my monthly roundup of the activities of our intrepid robotic emissaries across the solar system! I count 16 spacecraft that are actively performing 13 scientific missions at Mercury, Venus, the Moon, Mars, Vesta, Saturn, and at the edge of the heliosphere. This month's highlight: Cassini's about to fly close past Enceladus and Dione.

Swirly lava patterns in beautiful HiRISE images

Emily Lakdawalla • April 26, 2012

In a channel near a pedestal crater on the plains of Cerberus Palus, Mars, there are wacky swirl patterns.

Welcome to the new planetary.org!

Emily Lakdawalla • April 25, 2012

Welcome to the Planetary Society's new website! What you're looking at right now is the result of months of continuous effort by the very small Web team here at the Society. Our goal was to create a new home for the Planetary Society on the Internet that reflects the way things have changed since our last redesign: changes in the Planetary Society, changes in space exploration, and changes in the way the Internet functions.

Cartoon: Voyager's ongoing adventures

Emily Lakdawalla • April 23, 2012

I'm not sure what to make of this YouTube cartoon about Voyager, except to say that it's simultaneously heart-wrenching, funny, and adorable.

Ski Helene?

Emily Lakdawalla • April 20, 2012

I enthused about these Helene images the first time they came down from Cassini, and then forgot about them, and then was thrilled anew a couple of weeks ago when Daniel Macháček posted his version, processed from data published by the Cassini imaging team on April 1.

Cheat sheets for Vesta's craters and Dawn's Vesta timeline

Emily Lakdawalla • April 19, 2012

I made myself a cheat sheet to many of Vesta's distinctive-looking craters, and also wrote down a list of the major dates in the timeline of Dawn's exploration of Vesta.

JUICE: Europe's next mission to Jupiter?

Emily Lakdawalla • April 18, 2012

The Twitterverse is buzzing this morning with news that the Science Programme Committee of the European Space Agency has recommended that the next large European mission be JUICE, a mission to explore the three icy Galilean satellites and eventually to orbit Ganymede.

MESSENGER Mission Update: First burn performed to lower extended mission altitude

Emily Lakdawalla • April 16, 2012

The MESSENGER mission just issued a press release announcing that they have completed the first step in the two-step process of lowering the spacecraft's orbit around Mercury.

Pretty pictures from Cassini's weekend flybys of Enceladus and Tethys

Emily Lakdawalla • April 16, 2012

Cassini flew past both Enceladus and Tethys on April 14. Here's a cool animation of its approach to Enceladus' plumes, and a pretty global picture of Tethys.

Pretty Pictures: Amazing Asteroid Lutetia

Emily Lakdawalla • April 10, 2012

A long-awaited data set is finally public (well, long-awaited by me, at least). The Rosetta team has now published their data from the July 10, 2010 flyby of asteroid (21) Lutetia. This data set is absolutely stunning, and my friends in the amateur image processing community wasted no time in creating art out of it.

A possible nine-planet system

Emily Lakdawalla • April 06, 2012

Someone on Twitter pointed me to a paper recently posted to ArXiv titled "Evidence for 9 planets in the HD 10180 system." If the (tentative) conclusion holds up, HD 10180 will be the first exoplanetary system known to have more planets than our own.

Pretty picture: Janus and Saturn

Emily Lakdawalla • April 04, 2012

In the last few days as it's rounded periapsis in its current orbit of Saturn, Cassini has taken a lot of great photos of Saturn's moons. One series of photos was taken from pretty close to Janus, a moon about a third the diameter of Enceladus that orbits between the F and G rings. And among those, several were taken with the moon sitting in front of Saturn.

Nichelle Nichols and the Nerd-in-chief

Emily Lakdawalla • April 03, 2012

I got this wonderful photo from Nichols' Twitter after Mike Okuda retweeted it.

What Saturn's moons can tell us about comets (Notes from LPSC 2012)

Emily Lakdawalla • April 03, 2012

My notes on a two-part presentation by collaborators Jim Richardson and David Minton about the sizes of things in the Kuiper belt, a story they told by looking at Saturn's moons. How does that work? What connects Saturn's moons to the Kuiper belt is craters.

An update on Opportunity, and a plea for some volunteer desktop publishing help

Emily Lakdawalla • April 03, 2012

A. J. S. Rayl has just posted her monthly update on the goings-on at Meridiani planum, noting that the update recaps the 99th month of the Mars Exploration Rover mission. There's a lot of detail on how the radio-tracking campaign is going. While she's not driving, Opportunity's acting like a lander, with radio antennas on Earth performing Doppler tracking to allow very fine measurement of Mars' orbital motion.

What's up in the solar system in April 2012

Emily Lakdawalla • March 30, 2012

Welcome to my monthly roundup of the activities of our intrepid robotic emissaries across the solar system! I count 16 spacecraft that are actively performing 13 scientific missions at Mercury, Venus, the Moon, Mars, Vesta, Saturn, and at the edge of the heliosphere.

Moon Mappers citizen science project now public, and statistics show it works!

Emily Lakdawalla • March 29, 2012

Last week, Pamela Gay of CosmoQuest announced that their Moon Mappers citizen science project is out of its beta phase and ready for prime time. Moon Mappers enlists the help of the public to perform the gargantuan task of mapping the sizes and positions of craters photographed on the Moon by Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Crater counting is the most powerful tool geologists have for figuring out how old planetary surfaces are. But when you have Terabytes of data, it's simply impossible for one scientist to count all the craters

Hey amateurs! ESA's running an image processing contest: "Hubble's Hidden Treasures!"

Emily Lakdawalla • March 27, 2012

Here's a newly announced contest that is right up my alley and, I hope, of interest to regular readers of this blog. ESA has just announced "Hubble's Hidden Treasures," a contest to encourage what I've been trying to get people to do for years: trawl through the Hubble archives to find unappreciated tresures of photos and make them pretty for public consumption. They have two categories, one for newbies (who can use image processing tools provided on ESA's website) and one for more serious amateurs (who can use other software).

What's up in the solar system in March 2012

Emily Lakdawalla • March 27, 2012

This month will see GRAIL begin its science mission measuring the Moon's gravity field. MESSENGER will complete its primary mission at Mercury, celebrating its one-Earth-year-in-orbit anniversary with a big data release, and immediately begin work on its one-year extended mission. Mars will pass its solstice, ushering in warmer days for Opportunity. Coincidentally, this month will see Jupiter's southern winter solstice, too, though there are no spacecraft there to notice it. Out at Saturn, Cassini will have two encounters with Enceladus this month, one of them distant, one of them at 74 kilometers altitude.

Notes from the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference: Making Cassini's radar images prettier

Emily Lakdawalla • March 26, 2012

One of the more exciting talks last week was given by Antoine Lucas about his work with Oded Aharonson "denoising" Cassini radar images of Titan. Cassini's radar images are superior to the camera photos in revealing fine details and topography on Titan's surface, but they do suffer from a random noise component that makes the pictures look snowy. Antoine and Oded have developed a method for removing much of this noise.

Notes from the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference: A little bit of Phobos and Deimos

Emily Lakdawalla • March 22, 2012

I just sat in the "small bodies" session at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, listening to three talks about Phobos. The first was by Abby Fraeman, who looked at data on Phobos and Deimos from the two imaging spectrometers in orbit at Mars. The next talk, by L. Chappaz, was motivated by Phobos-Grunt's mission. It asked: if you grabbed 200 grams of soil from the surface of Phobos, how much of that material would actually have originated on Mars? Then there was a particularly interesting talk that dealt with the question of how Phobos' grooves formed.

Notes from the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference: Is there ice at Mercury's poles?

Emily Lakdawalla • March 22, 2012

Water ice at Mercury's poles? That's crazy, right? Mercury is so close to the Sun that it seems inconceivable that you could have water ice there. But Mercury's rotational axis has virtually no tilt (MESSENGER has measured its tilt to be less than 1 degree), so there are areas at Mercury's poles, most often (but not always) within polar craters, where the Sun never rises above the horizon to heat the surface.

Notes from Titan talks at the 2012 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC)

Emily Lakdawalla • March 20, 2012

One of the topics I found most exciting yesterday was a series of talks on Titan's climate. Bob West showed how Titan's detached haze has shifted with time. Zibi Turtle presented about how Titan's weather has changed with these seasonal changes. Jason Barnes followed up Zibi's talk -- which was based on Cassini camera images -- with a study of the same regions using data from Cassini's imaging spectrometer, trying to figure out what was going on with that brightening. Ralph Lorenz talked about rainfall rates on Titan. Jeff Moore asked: what if Titan hasn't always had a thick atmosphere?

Ready for the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference?

Emily Lakdawalla • March 19, 2012

A post the night before the 2012 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference

Cool stuff brewing at Honeybee Robotics

Emily Lakdawalla • March 15, 2012

Yesterday I was treated to a little tour (little, because it's a little building) of Honeybee Robotics' office here in Pasadena. Honeybee is developing some great technology for future space missions for Earth, Mars, and beyond.

"False-tonal recording?" The sounds of a coronal mass ejection

Emily Lakdawalla • March 15, 2012

A new "sonification" of the recent solar storm by Robert Alexander (a University of Michigan graduate student), employing data from the MESSENGER and SOHO spacecraft.

New views of Lunokhod 1 and Luna 17 from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

Emily Lakdawalla • March 14, 2012

It is always thrilling to see relics of human exploration out there on other worlds. Today, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera team posted some new photos of two defunct spacecraft: the Luna 17 lander and the Lunokhod 1 rover. I've posted images of the two craft before, but the ones released today are much better.

Pretty Picture: A snapshot of Voyager 1's departure from Jupiter

Emily Lakdawalla • March 13, 2012

In this week's Snapshots from Space video, I talk about the Voyager 1 images of Jupiter -- how many there are (tens of thousands), and what a challenge they represent for image processors. But, I promise, the effort is worth it. Here's just one example: it's a color, crescent view of Jupiter, taken by Voyager 1 as it departed.

A theme song for IKAROS

Emily Lakdawalla • March 11, 2012

JAXA's solar sail mission IKAROS is still hibernating, and there's no way of knowing if the spacecraft will reawaken or not. They try to raise contact with the spacecraft once a month, with the last attempt being made on March 10; we can only wait to see if they'll succeed. What better time to release a theme song for the mission? IKAROS has always been even more full of personality even than other JAXA missions (which is saying a lot).

Venus Express star trackers recovered

Emily Lakdawalla • March 09, 2012

Just a quick note because I didn't want to let the weekend go by without telling people that Venus Express' star trackers are back online.

Good news, bad news: GRAIL science underway, Venus Express suffers storm damage

Emily Lakdawalla • March 08, 2012

Two brief mission updates. First, the good news: NASA announced yesterday that the twin GRAIL spacecraft have begun the science phase of the mission, transmitting precisely timed signals to each other in order to map the Moon's gravity field. The bad news: according to ESA, since the recent solar storm passed Venus, both of Venus Express' star trackers are suddenly unable to detect stars.

Pretty picture: A study in ringlight

Emily Lakdawalla • March 08, 2012

Clearly, this is Saturn, and its rings, and if you look closer you can see a tiny circle, on top of the rings, which is Mimas, and two stars in the background. It should look weird to you that while the rings are bright, Mimas is a black dot. What is happening here? Nearly everything in this picture is lit by light that has not arrived directly from the Sun.

Solar storm in progress

Emily Lakdawalla • March 07, 2012

Last night the Sun unleashed a large coronal mass ejection in our direction. Here is a compilation of images from SOHO's two LASCO cameras, plus a prediction from the new space weather prediction model that I learned about at the American Geophysical Union in December. The storm will arrive at Earth on March 8.

LeetUp Reconnaissance Report

Emily Lakdawalla • March 06, 2012

A recap of the "carnival of nerdly delights" that is LeetUp.

Items 101 - 200 of 245  Previous123Next
astronaut on Phobos
Let's Change the World

Become a member of The Planetary Society and together we will create the future of space exploration.

Join Today

Europa
The Planetary Fund

Help advance robotic and human space exploration, defend our planet, and search for life.

Donate

You are here: