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Guest blogs from 2014

Planetary Society Canada Update

Kate Howells • May 28, 2014

Canadian National Coordinator Kate Howells provides an update on the state of the Society's Canadian initiative.

A GRB in M31...or not

Philip Evans • May 28, 2014

The Twittersphere has been alive with speculation about a Gamma Ray Burst in the nearby galaxy M31. The problem is, there was never a claim of such an event, and it turns out that the tentative result that triggered this story was overstated.

Will we find signs of tectonics on Pluto? And what would that mean?

Joseph O'Rourke • May 26, 2014

Joseph O’Rourke summarizes a recently submitted paper on tectonic activity on Pluto after the Charon-forming impact.

The value of a Guest Investigator program for Dawn

Anne Verbiscer • May 23, 2014

NASA selected 21 Participating Scientists to join the Dawn team in 2010, prior to Dawn's arrival at Vesta in 2011. Since that time, Dawn Participating Scientists have made enormous contributions to the mission, as they do for most other NASA missions. But the status of a Participating Scientist program for Dawn at Ceres has been in doubt.

A Reluctant Dance Towards Europa

Van Kane • May 14, 2014

For the last two years, NASA has been the shy partner refusing to get on the dance floor, and Congress has been the aggressive partner insisting on a dance now. The dance is the continuing attempt by Congress to have NASA commit to a mission to explore Europa, and NASA’s attempts to delay a mission well into the 2020s.

The Case of the 5-Millisecond Cosmic Radio Burst

Katherine Mack • May 14, 2014

Everyone loves a good mystery. In astronomy, there is nothing more exciting than an unexplained signal.

What’s Seeping on Mars? Recurring Slope Lineae

Matthew Chojnacki • May 13, 2014

HiRISE team member Matt Chojnacki tells us about the discovery and formation of these mysterious features forming on Mars in the present day.

Field Report From Mars: Sol 3650 – May 2, 2014

Larry Crumpler • May 12, 2014

Opportunity is closing in on the next important outcrop area on the rim of Endeavour crater.

Another Day in the Solar System

Bill Dunford • May 12, 2014

One day, five worlds.

New Horizons: Updates From the April 2014 Science Team Meeting

Simon Porter • May 07, 2014

New Horizons team member Simon Porter reports on the state of the mission and Pluto system science from the recent science team meeting at the Applied Physics Laboratory.

Dawn Journal: Explaining Orbit Insertion

Marc Rayman • May 06, 2014

Less than a year from its rendezvous with dwarf planet Ceres, Dawn is continuing to make excellent progress on its ambitious interplanetary adventure. But once it gets to Ceres, just how will it go into orbit? Marc Rayman explains.

How Weird Is Our Solar System?

Jaime Green • May 05, 2014

Earth and its solar system compatriots all have nearly circular orbits, but many exoplanets orbit their stars on wildly eccentric paths. Is our home system strange? Or is our sense of the data skewed?

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Roves to Next Clay Mine

A.J.S. Rayl • May 02, 2014

The Mars Exploration Rovers mission cruised toward the Martian spring, Opportunity is powered-up and cleaner than it has been since its first winter on Mars.

Highlights From OSIRIS-REx Science Team Meeting #6

Dante Lauretta • April 30, 2014

The OSIRIS-REx Science Team gathered at the University of Arizona from April 22–24, 2014 for their sixth meeting. Principal Investigator Dante Lauretta discusses a few of the highlights.

Another Pale Blue Dot — Uranus Spied By Cassini

Val Klavans and Ian Regan • April 30, 2014

The Cassini mission has already returned an array of images of other solar system members from Saturn orbit: Earth (and the Moon), Venus, Mars, and Jupiter. It’s time to add another world to that list!

Green Bank Telescope Helps Out an Old Friend

Tania Burchell • April 28, 2014

The Green Bank Telescope has been called into emergency service to play radar ping-pong on a close-by asteroid with Arecibo Observatory’s 100-meter William E. Gordon radio telescope.

Spitzer Space Telescope Observations of Bennu

Dante Lauretta • April 24, 2014

What can studying the thermal emission of Bennu with the Spitzer Space Telescope tell us about its physical properties?

Forensic Ballistics: How Apollo 12 Helped Solve the Skydiver Meteorite Mystery

Philip Metzger • April 21, 2014

What can a 45-year-old mission to the Moon tell us about a "meteorite" flying past a skydiver on Earth?

The Birth of the Wanderers

Augusto Carballido • April 16, 2014

How did planets originate? This is a question that has puzzled scientists for centuries, but one which they have been able to tackle directly only in the last few decades, thanks to two major developments: breakthroughs in telescope technology and ever-increasing computing power.

Interview with a Mars Explorer

Bill Dunford • April 14, 2014

A conversation with Dr. Sarah Milkovich, HiRISE Investigation Scientist.

Will We Finally Rove Mawrth Vallis?

J. Brian Balta • April 10, 2014

Mawrth Vallis was axed as a landing site for Curiosity, but will we get a chance to explore it with ESA's ExoMars rover?

Yutu Update

Phil Stooke • April 10, 2014

We don’t hear a lot at the moment about Chang’E 3 and Yutu, the Chinese lander and rover which were all over the news a few months ago. But Phil Stooke has been collecting news online and in person last month at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference and now tries to put it all together and address the current state of the mission.

Come Rock the Planet with Yuri’s Night!!

Loretta Hidalgo • April 09, 2014

First launched on April 12, 2001, Yuri’s Night celebrates two amazing accomplishments of humankind: Yuri Gagarin’s becoming the first human to orbit the earth in 1961 and the first launch of the U.S. Space Shuttle, twenty years later to the day. It is also a global celebration of humanity’s future in space and how we can use space to bring us closer together.

Arecibo Observatory operational after repairs to fix earthquake damage

Alessondra Springmann • April 09, 2014

Early in the morning on January 13, 2014, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck beneath the Atlantic Ocean north of Puerto Rico, damaging Arecibo Observatory, the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope. The telescope is now operational after repairs and scientists have resumed observations. However, the future of Arecibo Observatory remains unclear due to funding uncertainties in the federal budget.

The Spring Equinox 2014 issue of The Planetary Report is here!

Donna Stevens • April 08, 2014

Wind-sculpted sand—that is how I think of dunes. In our main feature, “The Dune Whispers,” Ralph D. Lorenz describes the formation, and varieties, of these fascinating and beautiful works of planetary art.

Opposition time for Mars, and several months of dancing with the stars

ESA Mars Express Team • April 08, 2014

The Mars Express team showcases some of the best viewing opportunities of Mars in 2014, including how to spot Comet Siding Spring when it flies past Mars this October.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Powers Up in Cook Haven and in Fans' Minds

A.J.S. Rayl • April 07, 2014

At the Solander Point section of the rim of Endeavour Crater, Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity spent the month of March just off Murray Ridge working on its final targets in Cook Haven and dusting itself in the winds of winter, while MER mission officials on Earth were roving toward what may be the robot's current greatest potential threat – being cut from NASA's planetary science budget.

My Own Corner of Mars

Bill Dunford • April 07, 2014

How I took a high-res photo of an intriguing spot on the Red Planet--and how you can, too.

Field Report From Mars: Sol 3623 – April 3, 2014

Larry Crumpler • April 06, 2014

Larry Crumpler gives an update on Opportunity's current location, next long-term target, and excitingly increasing power levels.

Fireworks in the Earth's Sky Sent from the Moon: Reflections from LPSC 2014

Deepak Dhingra • April 03, 2014

Deepak Dhingra reports on presentations from this year's Lunar and Planetary Science Conference focusing on how impacts on the Moon have affected Earth.

Discovery Missions for an Icy Moon with Active Plumes

Van Kane • April 02, 2014

In December, scientists announced the discovery of possible plumes of water being ejected from Jupiters’s moon Europa. If confirmed, Europa would be the second moon with confirmed plumes after Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Two Discovery mission proposals for Enceladus suggest the types of missions that may be proposed for Europa.

Dawn Journal: Orbital Trajectories

Marc Rayman • April 01, 2014

Marc Rayman updates us on Dawn's status and explains how the spacecraft is actually getting closer to Earth at the moment as it moves deeper into the asteroid belt.

LPSC 2014: The Curious Case of Active Volcanism on Venus

Constantine Tsang • April 01, 2014

She’s alive! She’s alive! Or is she? A little more than a week ago, at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 2014, evidence was presented that Venus was geologically active, not in the recent past, like 100,000 years ago, but right now.

Comet Siding Spring Mars encounter: Cosmic bully spotted by ESA and NASA

ESA Mars Express Team • March 31, 2014

Hubble has taken some great new images of our 'friend,' Comet Siding Spring, due to pass by Mars at less than 136,000 km on October 19 – less than half the distance between Earth and our moon.

Returning Explorers

Achim Vollhardt • March 28, 2014

ICE has been on a journey for over 30 years around our sun. While the owner has decided not to bring the ship back to its home port, a group of radio amateurs tries to find out how ICE is doing.

A Centaur’s shadow reveals bright rings

Alex Parker • March 27, 2014

Yesterday, a team of astronomers announced that they discovered a set of planet-like rings around Chariklo, an asteroid-like body that currently resides in the unstable region between the orbits of Saturn and Uranus.

Detecting Spacetime Distortions

Katherine Mack • March 25, 2014

Katie Mack explains why the BICEP2 detection of primordial gravitational waves has left astrophysicists at a loss for words.

Dancing With Saturn

Bill Dunford • March 24, 2014

Cassini images in motion.

Comet Siding Spring Mars encounter: Ya gotta have a little ‘tude

ESA Mars Express Team • March 24, 2014

In the latest update on how the Mars Express flight control team is planning to deal with Comet Siding Spring is all about attitude -- and hiding behind the biggest guy in the fight.

Further Analysis of NASA's FY15 Budget Proposal: Steady As She Goes?

Van Kane • March 22, 2014

The President’s proposed Fiscal Year 2015 budget details were released last week. For the next several years, the budget proposes a steady as she goes plan, but with two “what are they thinking?” surprises.

Calling Congress Is Easy

Kirby Runyon • March 21, 2014

Calling your senators and representatives about NASA's budget isn't that bad. In fact, I just took 15 minutes out of my day to do it! If you're not sure what to say to support planetary exploration, I hope you'll be inspired by what I've transcribed from my phone call this afternoon.

Moonwalking

Bill Dunford • March 18, 2014

Get an astronaut's view into several lunar craters.

Postcards from Pluto

Amanda Zangari • March 12, 2014

Amanda Zangari shares what it's like to be a scientist on New Horizons, and explains some of the day-to-day workings of the mission behind the scenes.

Comet Siding Spring Mars encounter: How to determine the orbit of a comet?

ESA Mars Express Team • March 12, 2014

In the quest to track Comet Siding Spring, the Mars Express team tells us how computing the orbit of a comet isn't as straightforward as science fiction would have us believe.

Why Cosmos should matter, especially to Hollywood

Taryn O'Neill • March 07, 2014

For a town dependent on Stars, there are far too few people here who look up at the sky. But come this Sunday, March 9, the epic series of science, space and humanity will return: Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. Why does it matter for Hollywood, specifically? I'll tell you why it will. And then why it should.

Hypervelocity Cratering and Riding Out the Risk

ESA Mars Express Team • March 06, 2014

Today's update from the Mars Express team contains the realisation that, for some of the risks associated with October's Siding Spring flyby, there may not be much the team can do.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Cruises Through Winter Solstice, Into Year 11

A.J.S. Rayl • March 05, 2014

The Mars Exploration Rover mission put its 10th anniversary in the rear view mirror in February and roved on into its 11th year of surface operations at Endeavour Crater.

Space is really, really big – except sometimes it isn’t

ESA Mars Express Team • March 04, 2014

Here's the next installment in the continuing story of how the Mars Express team is preparing for Comet Siding Spring flyby, 19 October 2014. This week: introducing the spacecraft's subsystems and structure – and wondering how we can absorb impacts.

Eyes and stopwatch are all that are needed to help measure an invisible asteroid

Ted Blank • March 03, 2014

Would you like to be part of one of the largest citizen-science efforts in the history of astronomy? The International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA) invites you to join in the campaign to observe and time the best and brightest asteroid occultation ever predicted to occur over a populated area – and no telescope is required!

Dawn Journal: Maneuvering Around Ceres

Marc Rayman • March 03, 2014

Continuing its daring mission to explore some of the last uncharted worlds in the inner solar system, Dawn remains on course and on schedule for its rendezvous with dwarf planet Ceres next year.

Comet Siding Spring Mars encounter: Why orienting Mars Express is the heart of the challenge

ESA Mars Express Team • February 28, 2014

Today's post continues where we started last week with an update from the Mars Express Flight Control Team at ESOC on their preparations for the 19 October Comet Siding Springs flyby. Today: defining the challenge!

Reflecting on NASA's Global Precipitation Measurement mission, launching today

J. Marshall Shepherd • February 27, 2014

Former deputy project scientist and current science team member J. Marshall Shepherd tells us why missions like NASA's Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) are vital to our way of life.

Mars Express team readies for Siding Spring

ESA Mars Express Team • February 26, 2014

On Sunday, 19 October 2014, at around 18:30 UTC, comet C/2013 A1 – known widely as 'Siding Spring' after the Australian observatory where it was discovered in January 2013 – will make a close fly-by of Mars.

Field Report From Mars: Sol 3572 – February 10, 2014

Larry Crumpler • February 25, 2014

Opportunity is still exploring an outcrop high up on Murray Ridge as the winter solstice on Mars approaches. At this location the tilts are good, so Opportunity is getting excellent solar input on its solar panels.

Field Report From Mars: Sol 3556 – January 24, 2014

Larry Crumpler • February 25, 2014

Today is the tenth anniversary of Opportunity's landing on Mars. Here at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, we just opened a tenth anniversary exhibit.

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.

A Spin Through the Inner Solar System

Bill Dunford • February 24, 2014

Animated maps of the planets show the spheres in motion.

Sand Waves in the Desert

Lori Fenton • February 21, 2014

I have a pet peeve: the words dune and ripple are often used interchangeably, although they are quite distinct from one another. So what’s the difference between aeolian dunes and ripples? And why should anybody care?

Mission to a Metallic World: A Discovery Proposal to Fly to the Asteroid Psyche

Van Kane • February 19, 2014

Imagine flying deep within the asteroid belt to study the most unreachable location in the solar system: the deep core of a terrestrial world.

Missions to a Star

Bill Dunford • February 17, 2014

Upcoming deep space missions will venture right to the heart of the Solar System.

The Two Faces of Phoebe

Daniel Macháček • February 13, 2014

Cassini flew past Phoebe on June 11, 2004, on its way to entering Saturn orbit. The flyby was almost perfect but overexposure of some images have prevented color mosaics from being produced. Even though Phoebe's body is gray and dull in color, the absence of color images always provoked me. By using VIMS data, I have now produced color mosaics.

What is NASA for?

Craig Hardgrove • February 12, 2014

Planetary scientist Craig Hardgrove takes a look at what NASA really does for humanity.

Behind-the-scenes story of Yutu: Promoting space exploration in China

Quanzhi Ye • February 11, 2014

Promoting the story of Yutu to the Chinese public through social media: a successful case of science outreach.

New Hills, Old Secrets

Bill Dunford • February 10, 2014

Exploring a set of newly named hills on Mars reveals tantalizing clues to the planet's story.

Discovery Next

Van Kane • February 08, 2014

To paraphrase Forrest Gump, the Discovery program is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get. The creativity of the scientific community has given us a wide assortment of missions in the past and is likely to surprise and delight us again.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Finds Mystery Rock, Mission Celebrates 10 Years

A.J.S. Rayl • February 07, 2014

In the storied history of the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) mission, January 2014 will likely be remembered as one of the most memorable months of all.

Curiosity update, sols 521-533: Assessing Dingo Gap

Ken Herkenhoff • February 04, 2014

While continuing to perform regular wheel health assessments, Curiosity took a sharp right turn and headed for Dingo Gap. On sol 533, they performed a "toe dip" that parked the rover atop the dune with a good view down into the valley.

The Faces of Mars

Bill Dunford • February 03, 2014

Portraits of a planet.

Dawn Journal: Onward to Ceres

Marc Rayman • February 01, 2014

The majority of Dawn's time in the Ceres approach phase will be devoted to continuing ion-powered flight. Let’s take another look at how this remarkable technology is used to deliver the adventurer to the desired orbit around Ceres.

A new comet observing campaign for C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring)

Karl Battams • January 27, 2014

You thought you were rid of us...but we're back! Following the spectacular and, quite frankly unprecedented, success of the Comet ISON Observing Campaign, we are launching a similar venture for another unique cometary encounter that's happening this year. In October 2014, comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) will pass extremely close to Mars.

The Giant Spider of Mercury

Bill Dunford • January 27, 2014

Striking terrain discovered by the MESSENGER probe.

New Horizons: Updates From the January 2014 Science Team Meeting, Part 2

Ted Stryk • January 24, 2014

Ted Stryk reports on the status of the New Horizons mission from the mission's latest Science Team Meeting. Updates include the status of the Kuiper Belt target search and the use of ALMA to refine Pluto's ephemeris.

New Horizons: Updates From the Science Team Meeting, Part 1

Ted Stryk • January 23, 2014

Ted Stryk reports on the status of the New Horizons mission from the mission's latest Science Team Meeting.

Russia's Ambitious Planetary Exploration Goals

Van Kane • January 22, 2014

Roscosmos has ambitious planetary exploration plans in the coming decades, including a series of solo lunar missions and joint missions to Mars with the European Space Agency.

Curiosity update, sols 488-520: Steady driving while watching the wheels

Ken Herkenhoff • January 22, 2014

In the last month, Curiosity put 222 meters on the odometer in 12 short drives, while regularly assessing the wheels for damage. The rover performed touch-and-go analyses of rocks including Oneida and Kodak, and also took some ChemCam RMI mosaics of rocks near the base of Mount Sharp.

Rosetta update from mission control

Daniel Scuka • January 21, 2014

We spoke with (a slightly tired but hugely happy) Rosetta Spacecraft Operations Manager Andrea Accomazzo earlier this afternoon and he reports the spacecraft is doing fine!

New Views of Martian Weather

Bill Dunford • January 20, 2014

The latest postcards from Mars Express feature cloudy skies.

Dry Ice Snowfall at the Poles of Mars

Paul Hayne • January 16, 2014

Paul Hayne takes a look at the mysterious polar caps of Mars, and what it would be like to ski there.

Do you want to learn more about the Universe?

Matthew Francis • January 15, 2014

CosmoAcademy — a project from the CosmoQuest educational and citizen-science group — is offering three new online classes: Introduction to Dark Matter, Introduction to Astronomy via Color Imaging, and Life Beyond Earth: Introduction to Astrobiology.

Through a Glass, Darkly

Bill Dunford • January 13, 2014

When sent from deep space, even imperfect images can inform and amaze.

Europa New Frontiers Mission? (Or why I like the Europa Clipper concept even more now)

Van Kane • January 07, 2014

Europa remains a top priority for a future mission to explore whether it could host life. While the Europa Clipper mission, remains the current front runner, a senior NASA manager has suggested that the agency may look at still lower cost options. Van Kane looks at what those options might be.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Mission Nears 10-Year Milestone, Oppy Roves On, We Look Back on 2013

A.J.S. Rayl • January 07, 2014

Opportunity wrapped a landmark year in December, sending home more evidence of ancient habitable environments at Endeavour Crater as the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) mission geared up to celebrate an historic milestone – the completion of 10 years of surface operations on the Red Planet.

The Last Flight of the Original Space Ranger

Bill Dunford • January 06, 2014

Remembering the Moon's first extreme close-up.

Dawn Journal: Planning for the Ceres Approach Phase

Marc Rayman • January 01, 2014

Now more than halfway through its journey from protoplanet Vesta to dwarf planet Ceres, Dawn is continuing to use its advanced ion propulsion system to reshape its orbit around the sun. Now that the ship is closer to the uncharted shores ahead than the lands it unveiled astern, we will begin looking at the plans for exploring another alien world.

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