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What's up in the solar system in November 2011

Emily Lakdawalla • October 25, 2011

For a few weeks over November and December, a rare launch window to Mars opens, and then slams shut agin. Mars launch windows only happen once each 26 months, so if you miss the window, you have to wait more than two years for the next one.

Mars Climate Sounder confirms a Martian weather prediction

Emily Lakdawalla • October 25, 2011

The Mars Climate Sounder team has recently confirmed a prediction of a weather phenomenon on Mars that we haven't been able to observe before.

Nighttime Water Ice Clouds Predicted by Models are Confirmed by MCS Observations

Jim Shirley • October 25, 2011

The Mars Climate Sounder instrument provides routine nightside observations of atmospheric temperature and opacity that document the presence of rapidly evolving water ice cloud layers in the Martian tropics during the northern summer season.

Science from Vesta at the Geological Society of America meeting

Emily Lakdawalla • October 24, 2011

I'm nearly two weeks late getting to this news but better late than never, right? There was a press briefing from the Dawn mission at the Geological Society of America (GSA) meeting on October 12.

NPP's launching next week, and I'll be there to see it! (Hopefully.)

Emily Lakdawalla • October 21, 2011

I'm (hopefully) headed to the launch of a Delta II (the last currently scheduled Delta II!) at Vandenberg Air Force Base, as one of only 20 people selected to participate out of more than 600 who registered.

The fish that sent us to the moon

Jason Davis • October 20, 2011

The tale of NASA's Super Guppy aircraft, which ferried parts of America's space program to their launch pads.

Pretty pictures & movies: Eye candy from two recent Cassini Enceladus flybys

Emily Lakdawalla • October 20, 2011

Cassini has completed two very close flybys of Enceladus in less than three weeks, one of them just this morning, and the images from that encounter have already arrived on Earth.

NOVA: Finding Life Beyond Earth airs tonight, with lots of planetary stars

Emily Lakdawalla • October 19, 2011

Programming note: tonight, public television stations will be airing a new, two-hour NOVA documentary, "Finding Life Beyond Earth."

A new trick for IKAROS: Spinning the other way

Emily Lakdawalla • October 19, 2011

JAXA's solar sail demonstration craft IKAROS is still puttering along, 17 months after it launched, and its controllers back on Earth keep coming up with new things to try with it. I'm pretty amazed by the most recent trick: reversing its spin direction. This may not sound like a big deal, but it is, especially for IKAROS.

Book Reviews: Two books that deliver knowledge in little chunks

Emily Lakdawalla • October 18, 2011

I consider October and November to be book review season. We're well out of the mental coasting of summer and have gotten into the groove of school and work in fall, and are in the relative quiet before the insanity of the season that stretches from Thanksgiving to the New Year, when much of the Western world will be scrambling to shop for presents for friends and family.

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