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Emily Lakdawalla's blogs from 2012

Venus' very pretty craters

Emily Lakdawalla • March 05, 2012

Each Magellan images of Venus seems to be a work of abstract art.

Pretty pictures: Voyager 2 at Jupiter

Emily Lakdawalla • March 02, 2012

Here are two perfect examples of Voyager 2's amazing untapped treasures.

BepiColombo's launch date has slipped to August 2015

Emily Lakdawalla • February 29, 2012

ESA announced this morning that the launch of their BepiColombo mission, a cooperative effort with JAXA, has been delayed from its originally planned July 2014 to the backup launch window in August 2015.

This is how far human radio broadcasts have reached into the galaxy

Emily Lakdawalla • February 24, 2012

There is an ever-expanding bubble announcing Humanity's presence to anyone listening in the Milky Way.

Iapetus' peerless equatorial ridge

Emily Lakdawalla • February 22, 2012

A new paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research - Planets by Dombard, Cheng, McKinnon, and KayI claims to explain how Iapetus' equatorial ridge formed. Cool!

Pretty picture: A sunset postcard and a special shadow from Opportunity

Emily Lakdawalla • February 21, 2012

It took Don Davis many hours of meticulous labor to assemble this beautiful postcard from Mars.

More Dawn Vesta approach images: First color views

Emily Lakdawalla • February 17, 2012

On June 30, Dawn stopped thrusting for a full Vestian day -- five hours and 20 minutes -- and just watched the asteroid rotate. But unlike the previous observations, they used all of Dawn's color filters to acquire the best-ever color photos of the lumpy world.

Discouraging the search for Mars Polar Lander

Emily Lakdawalla • February 17, 2012

I'm not encouraging people to search individual images for the Mars Polar Lander anymore, for three reasons.

The Scale of the Universe, by Cary and Michael Huang

Emily Lakdawalla • February 16, 2012

Cary and Michael Huang present a basic "powers of ten" visualization starting at human scale from which you can scrub downward smaller than quarks or upward to the scale of the entire universe.

Where are the big Kuiper belt objects?

Emily Lakdawalla • February 16, 2012

Earlier today I wrote a post about how to calculate the position of a body in space from its orbital elements. I'm trying to get a big-picture view of what's going on in trans-Neptunian space.

Figuring out orbital positions from orbital elements

Emily Lakdawalla • February 16, 2012

A few times a year I find myself confronting a table full of numbers describing the orbits of things in the solar system, and cursing at myself because I've forgotten, again, what all these numbers mean and how to manipulate them to get the particular numbers I want.

Dawn images of Vesta! Released!! For everyone!!!

Emily Lakdawalla • February 14, 2012

Some time in the last few days, the Dawn team made public the first preliminary version of the first release of their data from the Vesta phase of their mission.

Infographic: Viewing our universe's colors

Emily Lakdawalla • February 14, 2012

An infographic explains in what "colors" of electromagnetic radiation we been able to observe our universe, over the length of the space age.

Checking up on Jupiter and Saturn

Emily Lakdawalla • February 10, 2012

It's amateur astronomers, not professionals, who are shouldering the burden of constant monitoring of the weather on Jupiter and Saturn. What's going on these days in the outer solar system?

Photos and video: Bill Nye at the 2012 White House Science Fair

Emily Lakdawalla • February 09, 2012

On Tuesday, Bill Nye was privileged to attend the second White House Science Fair. Here are some photos and video of the event.

Put New Horizons on a stamp

Emily Lakdawalla • February 09, 2012

A week ago, the New Horizons team announced an effort to gather signatures in support of a petition to the U.S. Postal Service to commemorate the historic flyby of Pluto on a stamp.

In memory of Susan Niebur

Emily Lakdawalla • February 08, 2012

Planetary scientist Susan Niebur passed away on February 6, 2012, of inflammatory breast cancer. While I did not know Susan very well personally, I knew her professionally as a staunch supporter of and passionate organizer for young people, women, and families in planetary science.

Has Mars Express MARSIS data proved that Mars once had a northern ocean?

Emily Lakdawalla • February 07, 2012

There's been a bit of buzz on the Web this week regarding an ESA press release titled "ESA's Mars Express radar gives strong evidence for former Mars ocean." I don't ordinarily write about press-released science papers, but am making an exception for this one.

Pretty picture: Enceladus, in lovely color

Emily Lakdawalla • February 06, 2012

Here's an awesome picture to start off the week. The data came from Cassini's flyby of Enceladus on January 31, 2011; it was part of Cassini's January 2012 data release.

SpaceUp unconference in San Diego on Saturday

Emily Lakdawalla • February 02, 2012

This weekend is SpaceUp unconference in San Diego, and I'll be attending on Saturday. You can still register if you want to attend, but if you can't, some part of the unconference will be webcast on Spacevidcast.

Yay for Juno! First major course correction complete

Emily Lakdawalla • February 02, 2012

JPL issued a news note today that the Jupiter-bound Juno spacecraft has successfully completed the first of twelve trajectory correction maneuvers it'll perform between launch last year and Jupiter arrival in 2016. Its next maneuver will take place in August of this year. Go Juno!

Watch the video from this week's Google+ Space Hangout

Emily Lakdawalla • February 02, 2012

This week's lineup included him and me as well as Pamela Gay, Nicole Gugliucci, Alan Boyle, and Ian O'Neill.

GRAIL MoonKAM's first (released) video of the Moon

Emily Lakdawalla • February 01, 2012

Here's the first release from MoonKAM, tiny cameras included on both GRAIL spacecraft whose only purpose is public outreach. Classrooms can sign up for opportunities to propose sites to image.

Post for Sandra Boynton: An apology for, and explanation of, my crescent-Moon pedantry

Emily Lakdawalla • February 01, 2012

A recent tweet by Al Yankovic tipped me to the fact that the children's book author, songwriter, and illustrator Sandra Boynton recently established a presence on Twitter. As I'm a huge fan of her oeuvre, I immediately followed her.

What's Up in the Solar System in February 2012

Emily Lakdawalla • January 31, 2012

I think the word for the month of February is: "routine." The 21 missions that I'm tracking (amounting to 24 spacecraft) are nearly all in routine science operations or cruise behavior, gathering data from across the solar system or journeying to new destinations.

Akatsuki to try for Venus orbit in June 2016

Emily Lakdawalla • January 31, 2012

Japan's Venus climate orbiter Akatsuki failed to enter orbit in December 2010 when a clogged valve caused catastrophic damage to its main engine. Since then, JAXA's engineers and navigators have determined that although the main engine is a total loss, there is the possibility of achieving Venus orbit on a future encounter, using only the attitude control rockets.

A shooting star is not a star at all

Emily Lakdawalla • January 29, 2012

They Might Be Giants present "What Is a Shooting Star?"

Parallel planetary processes create semantic headaches

Emily Lakdawalla • January 26, 2012

I ran into a semantic problem today: what to call the science of studying liquids on Titan?

Geek craft: GRAIL twins Ebb and Flow in plastic canvas

Emily Lakdawalla • January 25, 2012

Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that after beginning with Dawn last week, I've kept my fingers busy, stitching more spacecraft from plastic canvas. I now have prototypes for GRAIL, New Horizons, and MESSENGER.

At last: Rosetta's Mars flyby photos have been released!

Emily Lakdawalla • January 24, 2012

On February 24, 2007, the Rosetta spacecraft passed by Mars, the second of four planetary gravity-assist flybys on its long route to a 2014 rendezvous with comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. At the time, they released two photos from the main science camera, OSIRIS.

Dusty girl

Emily Lakdawalla • January 23, 2012

Today Opportunity sent back to Earth the last few frames of the "deck pan" self-portrait she took during the waning days of 2011. Her solar panels are very dusty, which isn't helpful. It's near winter solstice in her southern location on Mars, so the angled Sun is not providing as much power as it would in a different season.

Is there life on Venus? Not in reprocessed Venera-13 images.

Emily Lakdawalla • January 23, 2012

At the end of last week, a rather sensational article appeared in both the Russian- and English-language sites of the Russian news agency, RIA Novosti. "Life Spotted on Venus - Russian Scientist," ran the English headline; a Google translation of the Russian one goes: "The Soviet probes may have photographed creatures on Venus."

Blast from the past: The Galileo Messenger

Emily Lakdawalla • January 20, 2012

From 1981 to 1997, the Galileo mission published an approximately quarterly newsletter called the Galileo Messenger. It eventually ran to 45 issues, until the end of the Prime Mission. The first 20 were published before Galileo ever got off the ground. That period is the subject of this post.

Watch this week's Google+ Space Hangout

Emily Lakdawalla • January 19, 2012

This week's lineup is a largely astronomical crowd so most of the conversation concerned dark matter and boiling exoplanets and imaging the black hole at the center of our galaxy.

Weekly Google+ Hangout Starting Shortly

Emily Lakdawalla • January 19, 2012

Tune in soon (in 10 minutes, as I post this) to Fraser Cain's Google+ page for the weekly Space Hangout.

The Dawn spacecraft, modeled in an unlikely medium

Emily Lakdawalla • January 17, 2012

Last week when I joined the new weekly Space Hangout (a webcast video conference call of sorts), I realized I would need a 3D model of Dawn in order to explain what's going on with the mission right now.

Phobos-Grunt is no more

Emily Lakdawalla • January 16, 2012

Phobos-Grunt has returned to Earth, a lot sooner than it should have. Yesterday, at approximately 17:45 UT, the Russian spacecraft and its passengers, including a Chinese orbiter and the Planetary Society's LIFE experiment, descended into Earth's atmosphere.

News brief: Phobos-Grunt has fallen to ground

Emily Lakdawalla • January 15, 2012

The Russian military is stating that at 17:45 UT, Phobos-Grunt fell into the Pacific Ocean.

NASA is an Investment in the Future

Emily Lakdawalla • January 13, 2012

The Planetary Society continues our strong political advocacy for space science and exploration. The following is an excerpt from a letter we sent to Jacob Lew of the Office of Management and Budget and the President's Chief of Staff.

Phobos-Grunt's upcoming demise: What we know and what we don't

Emily Lakdawalla • January 13, 2012

I'm not looking forward to spending the weekend sitting deathwatch on Phobos-Grunt. It's not science, and it's a sad event, so my instincts would lead me to other subjects. But it contains the Planetary Society's Phobos LIFE experiment.

Evaporites on Titan

Emily Lakdawalla • January 12, 2012

Evaporites form on planetary surfaces when dissolved chemical solids precipitate out of saturated solution as their liquid solvent evaporates and, until recently, were known to exist only on Earth and Mars. This article from the IAG Planetary Geomorphology Working Group describes the third planetary instance of evaporite, discovered on Saturn's moon Titan.

Watch today's Google+ Space Hangout

Emily Lakdawalla • January 12, 2012

Fraser Cain at Universe Today has organized a weekly Space Hangout that happens at 1800 UTC on Thursdays. This week's conversation focuses on news on exoplanets and dark matter coming out of the American Astronomical Society meeting happening this week in Austin, as well as a Dawn update.

Steno's principles and planetary geology

Emily Lakdawalla • January 11, 2012

The Google Doodle for January 11, 2012 celebrates Nicholas Steno, one of the founding fathers of modern geology, on the occasion of his 374th birthday. This article describes Steno's set of rules that guide geologists in reading rocks to tell the story of how a place came to be and how the rules are currently used in geology.

Happy LPSC Deadline Day, especially to composers of abstract haiku

Emily Lakdawalla • January 10, 2012

January 10, 2012 was a high-stress day for many in the world of planetary geology: the deadline for submission of abstracts for the 2012 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC). One creative coping mechanism for the stress of completing the LPSC abstract submission process is the tradition of capturing the essence of one's work in the seventeen syllables of the Haiku form.

Pretty picture: Saturn, a big moon, and a teeny one

Emily Lakdawalla • January 09, 2012

A recent view from Cassini of Saturn with its largest moon (Titan) and one of its small ringmoons, Prometheus.

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