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Guest blogs from 2013

Field Report From Mars: Sol 3519 - December 18, 2013

Larry Crumpler • February 25, 2014

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.

The Mercury Transit You Probably Missed

Karl Battams • December 30, 2013

Planetary transits of the Sun by Mercury and Venus don't come along very often, and when they do we make a big deal of it because, well, it's really cool!

Snow balls in space

Mike Brown • December 29, 2013

I don’t get much snow in southern California, but I do spend a lot of my time thinking about college snowball experiences and about the snowball fights that have made the objects of the outer solar system.

Asteroid Minerva finds its magical weapons in the sky

Franck Marchis • December 26, 2013

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

Habitability, Taphonomy, and Curiosity's Hunt for Organic Carbon

John Grotzinger • December 21, 2013

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.

NASA re-creates the Apollo 8 Earthrise using Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter data

Andrew Chaikin • December 20, 2013

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.

Curiosity update, sols 465-487: Wheel inspection, software upgrade, Cumberland dump

Ken Herkenhoff • December 19, 2013

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.

Destination: Europa!

Steve Vance • December 16, 2013

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!

A Tale of Two Posters: Sediment on Mars and Searching Jupiter's Rings

Mark Hilverda • December 12, 2013

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.

The Plumes of Europa

Leigh Fletcher • December 12, 2013

2013 has been a rather exciting year for Europa scientists. Today's exciting news: the Hubble Space Telescope discovery of water vapor plumes from the south pole of this icy moon.

The Mariner Mars Globe

Don Davis • November 29, 2013

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.

Schrödinger's Comet

Karl Battams • November 28, 2013

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...

Comet ISON: Your Half-time Report

Karl Battams • November 26, 2013

I am heading out to Kitt Peak to join my fellow CIOC-ers Matthew and Casey for perihelion observations of Comet ISON, and I find myself having an early moment of reflection.

Curiosity update, sols 453-464: Electrical problem causes delays; rover back to work

Ken Herkenhoff • November 25, 2013

An electrical problem frustrated progress on the Curiosity mission this week, but the problem is now understood and the rover back to work.

Field Report From Mars: Sol 3494 - November 21, 2013

Larry Crumpler • November 22, 2013

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.

Call Your Representatives, Save Our Science

Andrew Rivkin • November 22, 2013

I called one of my Senators earlier today. Before that I called my representative. It was pretty easy.

ISON, Encke, Mercury, and Home

Karl Battams • November 22, 2013

Comet ISON has entered the field of view of the STEREO HI-1A camera, and, in an awesome animation, it joins a large cast of characters already present there.

Comet ISON Enters the Final Countdown

Karl Battams • November 19, 2013

We're now less than two weeks away from comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) reaching perihelion and, if we’re honest, we are still none the wiser as to how the situation might play out!

MAVEN Launches!

Tanya Harrison • November 18, 2013

MAVEN launched flawlessly and pretty much exactly on schedule. Congratulations to NASA, the MAVEN team, and United Launch Alliance for a picture perfect launch!

MAVEN NASA Social: Day 2

Tanya Harrison • November 18, 2013

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.

MAVEN NASA Social: Day 1

Tanya Harrison • November 17, 2013

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.

Curiosity Update: A stop at Cooperstown and a warm reset, sols 433-451

Ken Herkenhoff • November 14, 2013

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.

ARTEMIS Mission Update

Jasper S. Halekas • November 14, 2013

ARTEMIS is a mission that retasked two probes from the 5-spacecraft Heliophysics constellation THEMIS to study the interaction of the Moon with the space plasma environment.

Neptune: The new amateur boundary?

Christophe Pellier • November 07, 2013

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.

The solar eclipse in Africa seen from space

Vitaliy Egorov • November 05, 2013

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

Adolf Schaller • November 02, 2013

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.

Why does ISON look green?

Matthew Knight • October 29, 2013

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.

Field Report From Mars: Sol 3467 - October 24, 2013

Larry Crumpler • October 28, 2013

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 takes on Canada

Kate Howells • October 28, 2013

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 out!

Donna Stevens • October 25, 2013

The Autumn Equinox 2013 issue of The Planetary Report is hot off the presses and is in the mail.

Curiosity update: Roving through the shutdown toward Waypoint 2, sols 388-432

Ken Herkenhoff • October 23, 2013

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.

How I Gave My Preschool Class Mars Fever

Emily Cotman • October 18, 2013

It all started when we read a book called, There's Nothing to Do on Mars, by Chris Gall. And then something wonderful happened.

Uranus Awaits

Geraint Jones • October 18, 2013

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.

On space kindness and the Chelyabinsk meteor

Vitaliy Egorov • October 04, 2013

Through an act of kindness, we now have images of the Chelyabinsk meteor trail from Russia's Elektro-L satellite.

I cannot volunteer my time to work on NASA business during the furlough

Les Johnson • October 03, 2013

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