Emily Lakdawalla's blogs from 2013
A couple of articles on India's Mars Orbiter Mission were published on the news website The Week yesterday, and they're much more in-depth and insightful than the norm.
For most of April, while Mars scuttled behind the Sun as seen from Earth, both Mars rovers were pretty inactive. Now that conjunction has ended, both are doing what rovers should be doing: roving and exploring. As of sol 3312 Opportunity had moved more than 300 meters southward toward Solander Point, while on her sol 279 Curiosity drilled at a second site, Cumberland.
Next week I'm traveling to speak at two events. Registration is still open for both, so I hope some of you can come. I also have some commentary on women being invited to speak at public events.
A look at an older paper describing Galileo's possible sighting of individual ring particles orbiting Jupiter as companions to its inner moon Amalthea.
Two weeks ago I wrote about Kiera Wilmot, a teen girl who was expelled from her school and charged with two felonies for unsupervised messing around with a chemical reaction on school grounds. Yesterday the Orlando Sentinel reported that no charges are being filed against her, which removes the greatest threat to her future.
I've been out of town for a couple of days and am overwhelmed with work and an overflowing email box. So what do I do about that? I ignore what I'm supposed to be doing and play with Cassini raw image data, of course. Here is a "mutual event" of Mimas (the bigger moon) and Pandora (the outer shepherd of the F ring).
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/05/08 11:23 CDT
You can watch via webcam as the next Deep Space Network radio antenna -- DSS 35, in Tidbinbilla, Australia -- gets its dish.
Please bear with me -- this blog entry has nothing to do with planets but a lot to do with society. For the last two days, my Twitter feed has been roiling with outrage about the story of Kiera Wilmot.
Note the special time! In this week's Planetary Society hangout at 5pm PDT / midnight UTC, I'll talk with MESSENGER deputy principal investigator Larry Nittler about what MESSENGER has accomplished in its prime and extended missions at Mercury, and what it stands to do if awarded a mission extension.
New Horizons might see a Pluto with a northern polar cap, a southern polar cap, or both caps, according to work by Leslie Young.
In this week's Hangout, Emily Lakdawalla hosted Mike Puzio and Dante Lauretta in a discussion about the naming of OSIRIS-REx' asteroid target.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/05/01 09:37 CDT
We received more than 8000 entries from all over the world in the Name That Asteroid contest, and we can finally announce the winner. The asteroid formerly known as 1999 RQ36 is now formally named (101955) Bennu, for a heron associated with the Egyptian god Osiris.
Last month, I formally entered a new phase of my career: I signed my first book contract. I'll be writing a book about the Curiosity mission through its prime mission, for Springer-Praxis.
Check out this absolutely wonderful infographic, produced by Olaf Frohn, that summarizes the entire history of solar system exploration.
An easy image processing trick -- using lower-resolution color data to colorize a black-and-white photo -- is relied upon by many space missions to keep data volumes low. Here's how to do it.
A recently published paper proposes that much of the sedimentary rock on Mars formed during rare, brief periods of very slight wetness under melting snow.
My guest this was Planetary Society Board vice president Heidi Hammel. We discussed two planets near and dear to our hearts, Neptune and Uranus. What's new on these icy worlds since Voyager 2 passed by, and what are the prospects for their future exploration?
Doug Ellison shared this lovely panorama via Twitter over the weekend. It's from the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, taken back in 2004. The drunken path in the foreground is a visual record of just how exciting it was for Spirit to have finally made it to the Columbia Hills, and to rocks that were not fragments of basalt.
I've been to a lot of conferences and seen a lot of talks and it's amazing to me how a bad presentation can get in the way of really exciting science. Here are my recommendations for how to approach a talk, and tips and tricks to make your talk better.
This very accessible textbook begins at the beginning, explaining how all the things in the solar system were made from star stuff.
India's Mars Orbiter Mission has been much in the news in Asian media over the last week as a result of the release of ISRO's Annual Report 2012-2013. Also, ISRO and NASA issued a joint statement from Washington a week ago endorsing interagency cooperation in the space sciences
Curiosity is back to science operations, though the activities are limited in scope by the fact that conjunction is fast approaching. Here's a couple of neat images from sol 227.
On Thursday at noon PDT / 1900 UTC I'll report on some of my favorite findings from LPSC, and answer your questions about the latest planetary science.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/03/27 11:52 CDT
Reports from the March 19 session at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference covering eight icy moons in the outer solar system: Ganymede, Europa, Dione, Rhea, Mimas, Tethys, Enceladus, and Miranda.
Really cool movies from Jim Richardson propose to explain how the same physics of impact cratering can produce such differently-appearing surfaces as those of the Moon, large asteroids like Eros, and teeny ones like Itokawa.
Before yesterday, my answer to this question would be "no." Now my answer is "probably." But it's not clear if we know which of the meteorites in our collections is from the innermost planet.
A mind-boggling quantity of information is being presented at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. In my first report from the meeting, I try to make sense of the Curiosity and Opportunity sessions.
I depart tomorrow for Houston and the annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC). Here's a look at how to follow the meeting on social media, and where to find me if you're also attending.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/03/14 02:00 CDT
This week I'll be talking with NEOWISE principal investigator Amy Mainzer about moving objects that the WISE mission has spotted both inside and outside our solar system.
The news from the Curiosity mission today is this: Curiosity has found, at the site called John Klein, a rock that contains evidence for a past environment that would have been suitable for Earth-like microorganisms.
I use a variety of social networking tools to perform my job, but there's one that's more important and valuable to me than all the rest combined: Twitter. Yesterday afternoon there was a discussion on Twitter that exemplifies its value and fun: are there visible meteors on Titan?
JPL's Solar System Dynamics group shows that there is still a possibility that C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) could hit Mars. But the uncertainty in its position at that time is large -- the closest approach could happen an hour earlier, or an hour later -- so we're a long way from knowing yet whether it will or (more likely) won't impact.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/03/05 01:29 CST
Last week the Curiosity mission made its first data delivery to the Planetary Data System. The bad news: none of the science camera image data is there yet. The good news: there are lots and lots of other goodies to explore.
Over the last few days the mission has been working its way through its first major (not life-threatening, just really inconvenient) anomaly: a memory problem in its main computer.
Emily Lakdawalla's guest this week was Applied Physics Laboratory asteroid astronomer Andy Rivkin. We talked about the menagerie of rocks in the asteroid belt, how many of them travel in pairs and triples, how some of them are surprisingly wet, and how much you can learn about asteroids using Earth-based telescopes.
While writing up the cruise-phase issues of the Galileo Messenger a couple of weeks ago, I came across a fuzzy montage of images of Ida that I had not seen before. So I decided to spend some time digging into the Planetary Data System to see if there were more images to be found. I found lots and lots pictures that I'd never seen before!
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/02/20 06:36 CST
There was a press briefing today to announce that Curiosity has completed her last major first-time activity: powder drilled from inside a rock at John Klein successfully made its way into the CHIMRA sample handling mechanism in the turret. Sol 193, then, marks the day that Curiosity is finally ready to start the science mission.
A frequently-asked question last week was: if asteroid 2012 DA14 is coming so close to Earth, why hasn't anyone taken any pictures of it? Now that 2012 DA14 has whizzed past us, we do finally have some radar pictures of it, but they still may not satisfy everyone.
Last week, I posted an explainer on why Hubble's images of galaxies show so much more detail than its images of Pluto. Then I set you all a homework problem: when will New Horizons be able to see Pluto better than Hubble does? Here's the answer.
A large meteor streaked through the skies above Russia on the morning of Feb 15th, causing a deafening sonic boom that shattered windows and injured hundreds.
Emily Lakdawalla and Courtney Dressing talked about just how common Earth-sized exoplanets may be in our neighborhood. Watch the replay here.
How come Hubble's pictures of galaxies billions of light years away are so beautifully detailed, yet the pictures of Pluto, which is so much closer, are just little blobs? I get asked this question, or variations of it, a lot. Here's an explainer.
With the Landsat Data Continuity Mission scheduled to launch on Monday, there's been a lot of Tweeting about Landsat, and through one such Tweet I learned about a resource that I hadn't known existed before: the LandsatLook Viewer. This is a graphical interface to more than a decade worth of Landsat data, a tremendous resource for anyone interested in Earth's changing surface, natural or manmade.
Deep Impact has made the first space-based observations of comet ISON.
It's taken me a year to face the emotionally draining task of reading and writing about Galileo's cruise phase as chronicled in the mission's newsletters.
Curiosity is inching her way through her first use of the drill on a Martian rock. She paused in the proceedings to capture a second Martian "selfie."
A conversation on Twitter today reminded me of this photo, which is one of my all-time favorite space images: the view from Rosetta during its Mars flyby.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/01/31 02:00 CST
We welcomed Sarah Noble to our weekly Google+ Hangout. Sarah is a lunar geologist and a civil servant working in the Research & Analysis program at NASA Headquarters, and has recently been named Program Scientist for the LADEE lunar mission.
Time for my quarterly foray into the Cassini archival science data! The very first image I downloaded from the January 1, 2013 data release presented an interesting challenge to my image processing skill. I'll show you the pretty picture of Enceladus and then explain how I processed it.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/01/30 01:20 CST
Hey planetary scientists! Many of you know that the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) is a great meeting in a venue that is perfect except for one thing: Internet access is positively lousy. So I'm really excited that a solution that I advocated to conference organizers is being adopted.
I had one of those "A-ha" moments last week where I suddenly realized that I had run afoul of a common problem in science communication: when the words I'm using mean something different to me than they do to almost everyone I'm talking to. The confusing word of the week: "sand."
My solar system chauvinism is well-established, but I am as much a sucker for beautiful astrophotos as the rest of you. Once in a while I get a media advisory from the European Southern Observatory about a new pretty picture posted on their website, and then I inevitably lose an hour following links to one stunner after another.
Last week at a meeting of NASA's Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG), Han Li of the Chinese Academy of Sciences gave a lengthy presentation on Chang'E 2. Her presentation included a new sequence of photos from the December 13 Toutatis flyby.
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured a new view of Curiosity on Mars on January 2 (sol 145). Curiosity was in the same location as the one from which it shot the sol 137 panorama I posted earlier. You can see the rover's tracks leading all the way back to the landing site!
The Curiosity mission held a press briefing this morning for the first time since the American Geophysical Union meeting, and it was jam-packed with science. The biggest piece of news is this: it was worth it, scientifically, to go to Glenelg first, before heading to the mountain.
All of the information I could track down on China's planned Chang'e 3 lunar lander and rover, including videos and a brand-new artist's concept of the rover rolling across the Moon.
This year's American Astronomical Society meeting featured tons and tons of news on exoplanets. They're everywhere! And not just planets, but also asteroids, comets, and more....
Join me, Mike "Plutokiller" Brown, Mario Livio, Jason Kalirai, and others in a Space Fan Hangout broadcast from the American Astronomical Society meeting happening this week in Long Beach, California.
2013 is going to be a busy year in space exploration. Two missions launch to the Moon (LADEE and Chang'E 3), and another two to Mars (MAVEN and India's mission). Curiosity should drive to the Mountain, and Opportunity to the next site on Endeavour's rim. Cassini will be seeing rings and Titan. Others should continue routine operations, except maybe MESSENGER, whose fate after March is not yet decided.
Several news articles appeared in Indian media today about the upcoming launch of ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission. Five instruments have been selected, and their delivery is expected in March.
Join Emily Lakdawalla and Casey Dreier for a chat with Jim Bell, a scientist who wears many hats. He's the team lead for the Pancam color cameras on the Spirit and Opportunity rovers; he's a member of the Curiosity science team; and he's the esteemed President of the Planetary Society's Board of Directors. We'll talk about the great science being done by both Curiosity and Opportunity, and about what's in store for the future.
They are Watching the Skies for You!
Our researchers, worldwide, do absolutely critical work.
Asteroid 2012DA14 was a close one.
It missed us. But there are more out there.