Guest blogs from 2013
Posted by Larry Crumpler on 2014/02/25 11:55 CST
Opportunity arrived at the location that has been the target of all this climbing since late last (Earth) summer. We will settle in for some detailed work on the outcrop here since this appears to be something different from the impact breccias that we have been seeing along the ridge crest.
Posted by Franck Marchis on 2013/12/26 11:48 CST
The International Astronomical Union has chosen the names Aegis and Gorgoneion for the two moons of the asteroid (93) Minerva. We decided to crowd-source the names, catching the attention of the public. Over the following year, I received a lot of emails with suggestions
Lots of people ask questions about how the Curiosity mission, and future missions, will forge ahead to begin with looking for evidence of past life on Mars. There is nothing simple or straightforward about looking for life.
If there's one thing I've learned after decades of studying the first human voyages to another world, it's that there is always more to discover about Apollo. Case in point: The Apollo 8 Earthrise photo that became one of the iconic images of the 20th century.
Posted by Ken Herkenhoff on 2013/12/19 01:39 CST
Curiosity activities over sols 465 to 487 included monitoring the condition of the wheels; a flight software upgrade; and dumping the Cumberland drill sample. Curiosity put approximately 200 meters on the odometer during this period.
It's time to reassess Europa exploration, past, present and future. The Destination Europa! session at AGU, inspired by the eponymous website and movement, didn't take exactly that message as its theme, but it's what I got from the presentations. What an ELECTRIFYING meeting this has been for Europa exploration!
Posted by Mark Hilverda on 2013/12/12 07:39 CST
A close look at two international planetary science poster presentations from the 2013 AGU Fall Meeting featuring sediment experiments to better understand Martian geomorphology and Juno's plans for exploring Jupiter's ring system.
In 1971 I was being trained to work with the airbrush by the map artists at the U.S. Geological Survey's Branch of Astrogeologic Studies in Flagstaff. However, the project I ended up spending about a quarter of a man-year on was a hand-painted map globe of Mars.
After impressing us yesterday, comet ISON faded dramatically overnight, and left us with a comet with no apparent nucleus in the SOHO/LASCO C2 images. As the comet plunged through the solar atmosphere, and failed to put on a show in the SDO images, we understandably concluded that ISON had succumbed to its passage and died a fiery death. Except it didn't. Well, maybe...
An electrical problem frustrated progress on the Curiosity mission this week, but the problem is now understood and the rover back to work.
On sol 3485 Opportunity pulled up next to a large outcrop here on the rim of Endeavour crater. The outcrop appears to be impact breccias like those we saw a few sols ago lower down on the ridge. But the texture of the rocks is somewhat different.
Bright and early this morning, we NASA Social folks met at the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex for a tour of the space shuttle Atlantis. This is the first shuttle I've seen in person, and it was a stunning sight to see.
Posted by Tanya Harrison on 2013/11/17 09:00 CST
I am at the MAVEN launch at Kennedy Space Center for a "NASA Social" event. These events are geared towards space enthusiasts of all backgrounds who are active on social media to increase public awareness and excitement about NASA.
Posted by Ken Herkenhoff on 2013/11/14 01:56 CST
Having racked up several kilometers in the drive to Mount Sharp, Curiosity paused for a second science stop at an outcrop called "Cooperstown." While there, the rover performed a software upgrade and then lost a few days to a software anomaly. The rover has now resumed normal science operations.
Can features on Neptune be observed by amateur astronomers? For years, the Hubble Space Telescope and some professional terrestrial observatories have been revealing incomplete belts and spots on the surface of Neptune. Now, spots have been imaged by amateurs.
Posted by Vitaliy Egorov on 2013/11/05 11:35 CST
On Sunday, the shadow of the Moon passed across Africa and the Atlantic Ocean. This was the last solar eclipse of the year. The Elektro-L satellite was able to observe the eclipse, and we can see the darkness of the lunar shadow covering Africa.
Creating Life on a Gas Giant
On "Hunters, Floaters, Sinkers" from Cosmos
Adolf Schaller, an artist on the original Cosmos series, shares his experience of creating the painting, "Hunters, Floaters, and Sinkers" from Episode 2, which speculates about the possible life living in the turbulent atmosphere of a gas-giant planet.
Posted by Matthew Knight on 2013/10/29 12:23 CDT
You may have noticed that Comet ISON appears to have a green halo in some recent images, but in other images acquired at about the same time, it doesn’t. Thanks to the beautiful new spectrum posted earlier today by Christian Buil, it’s relatively easy to understand why.
On sol 3451 Opportunity began its climb of Solander Point. This is the highest “mountain” that Opportunity has tried to climb yet.
The Planetary Society’s work beyond the United States is still not nearly as extensive as it is in the Society’s home country. But we are making some huge steps towards changing that, starting with Canada – America’s neighbor, NASA’s partner, and the home of almost eighteen hundred Planetary Society members.
The Autumn Equinox 2013 issue of The Planetary Report is hot off the presses and is in the mail.
After a brief science stop at Darwin (formerly known as Waypoint 1), Curiosity has driven hundreds of meters toward Mount Sharp. Autumn has come to Curiosity's southern hemisphere location, bringing lower temperatures. That means more power is required to heat rover actuators, leaving less power for science along the drive.
It’s been a long time since anyone paid Uranus a visit. The Uranus system is, however, fascinating, as evidenced by the wealth of topics covered by the diverse group of planetary scientists who gathered to discuss it last week at the Paris Observatory.
Today I received my furlough notice from NASA. Since my job isn’t considered “excepted,” in other words, since no one will be injured or die if I don’t report for work, then I am to remain at home until recalled to work after the Congress passes and the President signs some sort of budget or continuing resolution to keep the government running.
Women Rock Science is working with the Knowledge Observatory to create an interactive display of women in astronomy from all over the world for an upcoming science festival.
With the recent announcement by NASA that the 36 year-old spacecraft Voyager 1 has officially entered interstellar space at a distance from the sun about four times further than Neptune's orbit, and with Voyager 2 not far behind, it seems worthwhile to explore how humans managed to fling objects so far into space.
On sol 3425 Opportunity "waded ashore" at Solander Point after crossing a sea of sand between here and Cape York. Cape York was an "island" remnant of the rim of Endeavour crater that Opportunity left back in May. Since then it has been driving south to the next largest and mountainous remnant of the crater rim, Solander Point.
Posted by Fran Bagenal on 2013/09/18 10:53 CDT
From October 6 to 11, two divisions of the American Astronomical Society - Planetary Science and History - are meeting together for a combined annual conference. There will be several opportunities for the public to participate: a free public talk, several webcast lectures, a special online event for the Juno flyby of Earth, and a pro-am workshop on how amateur astronomers can contribute to planetary science.
Posted by Ken Herkenhoff on 2013/09/05 02:49 CDT
From sols 373 to 383 (August 23 to September 3, 2013), Curiosity traveled about 250 meters toward Mount Sharp over five drives, trying out her new AutoNav capability.
It was announced this morning that Bill will be appearing as a contestant on the American hit show, “Dancing with the Stars”. I am so excited. "How will Bill fare?" you may ask. Consider the following...
An interview with Bruce Murray from 2001 about his perspectives on Mars science and exploration: past, present, and future.
One of the most remarkable minds of 20th century exploration was stilled this morning, August 29, 2013, when Bruce C. Murray died of Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 81. The Planetary Society owes its existence to Bruce.
By now I hope that everyone has seen some of the spectacular images of the Saturn system (and especially Titan!) from the Cassini-Huygens mission. However, the measurements that often make my heart race are taken by instruments that reveal Titan in ways that our eyes cannot see.
New Horizons has just completed a summer of intensive activities and entered hibernation on Aug. 20. The routine parts of the activities included thorough checkouts of all our backup systems (result: they work fine!) and of all our scientific instruments (they work fine too!).
United States Geological Survey scientist Ken Herkenhoff posts regular updates on the Curiosity science team's plans for the rover on Mars.
Björn Jónsson produces beautiful color and 3D global mosaics of Vesta from Dawn's archival data.
Opportunity arrived at the base of the next segment of the Endeavour crater rim and is now investigating the contact.
For several weeks now, ground-based observers have been blind to Comet ISON as our local star was sitting directly between us and the comet. I am delighted to share two pieces of good news: first, that ISON is still alive and well, and secondly that it has been recovered.
Posted by Daniel Fischer on 2013/08/09 02:15 CDT
Space blogger Daniel Fischer provides a preview of the exciting interplanetary observing campaign that has recently begun to study comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) from vantage points across the solar system.
Six months ago, I wrote about the Russian weather satellite Elektro-L, which has more than two years of successful experience in the geostationary orbit. Then I promised that I would be here to share the materials that we collected. I think it's time to deliver on the promise.
Posted by Larry Crumpler on 2013/08/06 06:54 CDT
This week Opportunity finished up a quick investigation of the strange rocky terrain out here in the plains where it is approaching the next mountain rim segment of Endeavour crater, Solander Point.
Posted by Larry Crumpler on 2013/07/26 12:32 CDT
We are now only about 180 meters from the new mountain, Solander Point. We slowed down this week so that we could check out the rocks here where there is a strange hydration signature from orbital remote sensing.
The House recently passed a NASA Authorization Bill that called for "American astronauts launching from American rockets on American soil". If we depend on international collaboration, should these policies still drive NASA policy?
Posted by Ralph Lorenz on 2013/07/17 01:13 CDT
The fictional world Tatooine, scene of action in the Star Wars movies, is named after a town in Tunisia, where parts of the movies were filmed. The desert backdrops against which the movies were filmed are real terrestrial landscapes, which prove to be perhaps unexpectedly dynamic.
I’m happy to tell you that the Summer Solstice 2013 issue of The Planetary Report is hot off the presses and Is in the mail.
Posted by Larry Crumpler on 2013/07/08 06:04 CDT
By Sol 3325 Opportunity has driven up onto the next "island" of rock, "Sutherland Point" and "Nobbys Head." On this sol Opportunity is only about 700 m from the goal, the mountains to the south.
Arecibo Observatory is known for its 1000-foot diameter telescope and its appearances in Goldeneye and Contact. Aside from battling Bond villains and driving red diesel Jeeps around the telescope (grousing at the site director about the funding status of projects is optional), several hundred hours a year of telescope time at Arecibo go toward radar studies of asteroids.
I'm absolutely floored when I stop to think that our beautiful blue ocean is only one of perhaps a half dozen or more oceans on other worlds in our solar system, and only one of probably millions (or more) oceans on other Earth-like planets in our galaxy. Oceans abound!
Partnering with our friends from The Planetary Society, the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC), whose members hail from all over the globe, is bringing you an update on our activities and something you can join in on—at least if you are a student or young professional aged 18–35.
This week Jon Lomberg is attending the Starship Century conference, which brings together scientists, writers, and futurists to imagine the future of interstellar travel. Here he reports on presentations by Freeman Dyson, Peter Schwartz, Robert Zubrin, Geoff Landis, Neal Stephenson, and Patti Grace Smith.
This week Jon Lomberg is attending the Starship Century conference, which brings together scientists, writers, and futurists to imagine the future of interstellar travel. The organizers are Greg and Jim Benford, and among the attendees are: David Brin, Neal Stephenson, Vernor Vinge, Joe Haldeman, Alan Steele, Geoffrey Landis, Freeman Dyson, Jill Tarter, Paul Davies, Nalaka Gunawardene, and Daniel Richter.
Back in 2005 and 2006, when Pluto’s second and third moons (Nix and Hydra) were discovered, searches by astronomers for still more moons didn’t reveal any. So the accidental discovery of Pluto’s fourth moon by the Hubble Space Telescope in mid-2011 raised the possibility that the hazards in the Pluto system might be greater than previously anticipated.
Caleph Wilson provides examples and guidance to scientists wishing to mentor students in science, technology, engineering, and math outreach programs.
This month my latest paper made it to print in the Astronomical Journal. It's a short piece that describes a serendipitous discovery that my collaborators and I made while searching for a distant Kuiper Belt Object for the New Horizons spacecraft to visit after its 2015 Pluto flyby.
Lars Perkins, Chairman of NAC's Education Committee, writes a defense of NASA's Education and Outreach efforts, currently facing a major cut and restructuring in 2014.
On April 9, the current Australian government announced the first formal Australian space policy. Astronomy graduate student Michele Bannister explains what this means for the country.
Виталий Егоров (Vitaliy Egorov) is a Russian space enthusiast who enlisted help of fellow enthusiasts to search for -- and maybe find -- the Russian Mars 3 hardware on the Martian surface. Here he explains how he did it.
The case for water ice hidden in permanently shadowed regions at the north pole of the planet Mercury received another boost recently. On Wednesday March 20, 2013 at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, Nancy Chabot presented the very first visible-light images of what is in the shadows of these polar craters.
Posted by Larry Crumpler on 2013/03/29 11:27 CDT
Flash memory or computer problems oddly occurred on both Curiosity and Opportunity around Feb 27. One possibility is that a large solar flare resulted in radiation at Mars sufficient to temporarily corrupt the memory on both rovers.
I’m happy to tell you that the March Equinox 2013 issue of The Planetary Report is hot off the presses and will begin mailing next week.
Ever wonder what it would taste like if you could lick the icy surface of Jupiter’s Europa? The answer may be that it would taste a lot like that last mouthful of water that you accidentally drank when you were swimming at the beach on your last vacation.
Posted by Larry Crumpler on 2013/03/01 10:27 CST
Opportunity completed the observations of the outcrop noted in the previous report and has now moved back down slope.
Mostly the Universe stays unchanged for hundreds, thousands or even millions of years. There are some cases however when some things change really rapidly. Recently I observed one of these rapidly changing, transient phenomena, as asteroid called 2012 DA14. I work for Las Cumbres Observatory and we have been trying to observe this asteroid since 5 February.
What We Know About the Russian Meteor Event [UPDATED]
We have the technology to provide warning about these potential disasters
Preliminary estimates show that the meteoroid was 15 meters wide and weighed roughly 8000 tons. The resulting airburst would have the equivalent yield of about a 1/2 megaton explosion.
Damien Bouic received some well-deserved recognition from the Chemcam team for his great Curiosity image processing work.
Posted by Larry Crumpler on 2013/02/13 10:27 CST
We have been seeing lots of small light-colored veins crossing through the outcrops here on Matijevic Hill, and we have tried to get a handle on the composition of these veins by doing multiple offsets with the APXS. It appears that the small veins are calcium sulfate, as best we can determine.
The Mars I study is really active; the surface constantly changes. We have collected a lot of image data about changing seasonal features near the south pole. There is so much that we can't analyze all of it on our own. We need your help, through a new Zooniverse project named PlanetFour.
Posted by Björn Jónsson on 2013/01/22 06:04 CST
What is the highest resolution global Jupiter mosaic that includes a satellite transit that can be assembled from Voyager images? Satellite transits are especially beautiful when the resolution is high enough for some details to be visible on the satellites so I decided to check this. And I was remarkably lucky.
Posted by Donna Stevens on 2013/01/18 05:03 CST
For those of you Planetary Society members who like your copy of The Planetary Report served up in pixels, the December Solstice 2012 issue is ready and waiting for you.
Posted by Larry Crumpler on 2013/01/11 10:27 CST
We finished up with examination of the big outcrop ("Copper Cliff") and moved to the next target over the weekend. With that drive Opportunity completed the loop around Matijevic Hill and is now back where it started on the big loop to examine the outcrops.
Another Mars imaging scientist answers the question: who is the "photographer" behind images returned from Mars?
An asteroid or comet headed for Earth is the only large-scale natural disaster we can prevent. Working together to fund our Shoemaker NEO Grants for astronomers, we can help save the world.