Yesterday, the Curiosity mission released the video whose potential I got so excited about a couple of weeks ago: the view, from Curiosity, of Phobos transiting Deimos in the Martian sky. In this post, Mark Lemmon answers a bunch of my questions about why they photograph Phobos and Deimos from rovers.
The world's great telescopes capture stunning photographs of stars, nebulae, and other sky phenomena. In Europe to the Stars, authors Govert Schilling and Lars Lindberg Christensen share many such photos. But the real stars of this book are the great telescopes of the European Southern Observatory.
Yesterday I enjoyed my second-ever opportunity to suit up and enter the clean room of the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. On display were SMAP, an Earth orbiting radar mission, and ISS-RapidScat, which will perform a different radar experiment from the Space Station.
Yesterday was the first anniversary of Curiosity's landing on Mars, and there was much rejoicing. It's been fun to look back at that exciting day, and it's been an opportunity to reflect on what Curiosity has accomplished in her first year. What science do we have to show for it?
It seems like my attention wandered for just a moment, and all of a sudden Curiosity is really on the road. She's racked up drive after drive, methodically eating up the terrain between here and her goal: the ancient rocks at the foot of Mount Sharp.
They're too far apart to have a party, but today Curiosity and Opportunity could have rung in the New Mars Year. Today Mars reached a solar longitude of zero degrees and the Sun crossed Mars' equator, heralding the arrival of spring in the northern hemisphere and autumn in the southern hemisphere.
The 2013 launch window for Mars is fast approaching. November represents the next chance to send spacecraft to the Red Planet; the next window doesn't open until early 2016. So NASA and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) are working hard to prepare their respective Mars missions for launch.
Here it is: the view from Saturn of our Earthly home, one and a half billion kilometers away. We see Earth and the Moon through a thin veil of faintly blue ice crystals, the outskirts of Saturn's E ring. Earth is just a bright dot -- a bit brighter than the other stars in the image, but no brighter than any planet (like Saturn!) in our own sky.
If you take hundreds of photos of every single spacecraft launch you can get to, you will eventually get lucky shots like this one. It was taken by Ben Cooper at today's launch of the U.S. Navy satellite MUOS-2 and features a very surprised turkey vulture in a striking pose in front of the American flag.
The International Association of Geomorphologists' "planetary geomorphology image of the month," contributed by Joe Levy, features water tracks on Earth and compares them to recurring slope lineae on Mars.
It had never occurred to me to think about geostationary satellites in Mars orbit before reading a new paper by Juan Silva and Pilar Romero. The paper shows that it takes a lot more work to maintain a stationary orbit at an arbitrary longitude at Mars than it does at Earth.
A few weeks ago, a press release from the Opportunity mission celebrated Opportunity's surpassing of the previous NASA off-world driving record. That record was set in December 1972 by the Apollo 17 astronauts aboard their Lunar Roving Vehicle. They seem very close to Lunokhod 2's stated 37-kilometer driving record, but hold your horses -- we now know Lunokhod went longer than we thought.
ESA celebrated the tenth anniversary of Mars Express' launch with a several-day science meeting during which they issued lots of press releases and numerous spectacular photos. My favorite of them all is this enormous image of Kasei Valles on Mars.
For this evening's Planetary Radio Live event, Mat Kaplan asked me to do a presentation of some favorite space images. I told him that picking favorite space images is like picking favorite children; it's not possible because they're all my favorite. To narrow things down, I decided to explore a theme: "Many Worlds."
This is extremely good news: after more than a year of analysis, the New Horizons mission and NASA have concluded and agreed that New Horizons' originally-planned trajectory past Pluto is likely safe from dust.
There was a Curiosity telephone conference this morning to make an exciting announcement: they're (almost) done at Glenelg and are preparing for the drive south to Mount Sharp. Allow me an editorial comment: finally!
A fan-funded space telescope, usable by the public? It's an awesome idea, and it appears that a wide swath of the public agrees. Planetary Resources, headed by president and chief engineer Chris Lewicki, announced a Kickstarter project yesterday, with the goal of raising $1 million toward one of their ARKYD space telescopes.
A large asteroid is passing reasonably close to Earth in a few hours, and astronomers at the great radio telescopes at Goldstone and Arecibo are zapping it. The latest discovery: QE2, like many asteroids, is a binary.
This week's "lizard" or "rat" on Mars is just the latest of a never-ending stream of so-called discoveries of animate and inanimate objects in images returned from the Red Planet. I challenge you readers to find more such objects in one Curiosity panorama.
A girl named Hope Johnson performing an homage to Tom Lehrer's "The Elements" in song and ukelele, except instead of the elements, she's singing the names of all the named moons in the solar system. Check it out!
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.