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Snapshots from Space

by Emily Lakdawalla

Follow the thrilling adventures of planetary missions, past and present, and see the stunningly beautiful photos that they return from space!

Hayabusa2's target asteroid has a name!

Emily Lakdawalla • October 05, 2015 • 2

JAXA announced today the results of the naming contest for Hayabusa2. The target of the sample-return mission, formerly known as 1999 JU3 and still numbered 162173, is now named 162173 Ryugu.

Finding new language for space missions that fly without humans

Emily Lakdawalla • October 05, 2015 • 88

Historically, human spaceflight was described using the words "manned" and "unmanned," but NASA has shifted to using gender-neutral words to describe human space exploration, even though the Associated Press has not. A recent discussion on Twitter among science writers and scientists highlighted some alternatives.

New Horizons releases new color pictures of Charon, high-resolution lookback photo of Pluto

Emily Lakdawalla • October 02, 2015 • 15

Now that New Horizons is regularly sending back data, the mission is settling into a routine of releasing a set of captioned images on Thursdays, followed by raw LORRI images on Friday. The Thursday releases give us the opportunity to see lovely color data from the spacecraft's Ralph MVIC instrument. This week, the newly available color data set covered Charon.

Favorite Astro Plots #1: Asteroid orbital parameters

Emily Lakdawalla • October 01, 2015 • 3

This is the first in a series of posts in which scientists share favorite planetary science plots. For my #FaveAstroPlot, I explain what you can see when you look at how asteroid orbit eccentricity and inclination vary with distance from the Sun.

The solar system at 1 kilometer per pixel: Can you identify these worlds? The answers

Emily Lakdawalla • September 30, 2015 • 13

Last Friday I posted an image containing 18 samples of terrain, all shown at the same scale. Were you able to figure out which square was which? Here are the answers.

NASA's Mars Announcement: Present-day transient flows of briny water on steep slopes

Emily Lakdawalla • September 28, 2015 • 25

NASA held a press briefing today to publicize a cool incremental result in the story of present-day liquid water on Mars. How big a deal is this story? Was all the pre-announcement hype justified? Is this just NASA discovering water on Mars for the zillionth time? What does this mean for things many space fans care about: life on Mars or future human exploration?

The solar system at 1 kilometer per pixel: Can you identify these worlds?

Emily Lakdawalla • September 25, 2015 • 13

A look at the surfaces of 18 worlds in our solar system, all at the same scale.

Lose yourself in this high-resolution portrait of Pluto

Emily Lakdawalla • September 24, 2015 • 13

Enlarge this image to its full 8000-pixel-square glory and lose yourself in it.

Checking in on Uranus and Neptune, September 2015 edition

Emily Lakdawalla • September 22, 2015 • 5

There are no spacecraft at Uranus or Neptune, and there haven't been for 30 and 25 years, respectively. So we depend on Earth-based astronomers to monitor them, including Damian Peach.

Curiosity update, sols 1073-1107: Driving toward dunes, distracted by haloes

Emily Lakdawalla • September 18, 2015 • 1

Since I last checked in with Curiosity, the rover has been steadily driving southward, heading directly toward the Bagnold dune field. They are looking for a place to drill into the Stimson sandstone unit, but have been distracted by intriguing pale haloes around frock fractures. Despite a rough road, the wheels are not showing significant increase in damage.

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Emily Lakdwalla
The Planetary Fund

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