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Emily's Blog

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!

Emily Lakdawalla

Latest Blog Posts:

Favorite Astro Plots #2: Condensation of the solar system

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/10/14 01:34 CDT | 2 comments

Behold: the story of how our solar system began, in one chart. This is the second installment in a series of planetary scientists' favorite plots. Today's #FaveAstroPlot was suggested by spectroscopist Michael Bramble.

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Charon in 3D

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/10/13 06:40 CDT | 3 comments

Last week, the pile of New Horizons LORRI camera raw image releases included nine frames from a high-resolution mosaic on Charon. Together with the color MVIC view, they make a 3D global photo of Pluto's moon. Other recently released goodies include a global backlit color image of Pluto and the first image that resolves the tiny moon Styx.

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How do you pronounce "Ryugu?"

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/10/07 02:06 CDT | 2 comments

With some help from astronomer Elizabeth Tasker and a group of astronomy graduate students from the University of Hokkaido, I learn how.

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Mars Orbiter Mission update: A year at Mars

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/10/06 06:16 CDT | 2 comments

A couple of weeks ago, there was a flurry of rumor that ISRO was ready to announce some results from its Mars Orbiter Mission's methane sensor. The Indian space agency held a press event for the one-year-in-orbit anniversary of Mars Orbiter Mission and released a book containing mission photos, but did not unveil any new scientific results.

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Hayabusa2's target asteroid has a name!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/10/05 12:19 CDT | 2 comments

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.

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Finding new language for space missions that fly without humans

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/10/05 11:14 CDT | 88 comments

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.

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

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/10/02 06:05 CDT | 15 comments

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.

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Favorite Astro Plots #1: Asteroid orbital parameters

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/10/01 03:42 CDT | 3 comments

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.

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

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/09/30 10:00 CDT | 13 comments

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.

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

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/09/28 02:26 CDT | 25 comments

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?

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