A press release from the Cassini VIMS team today is titled "NASA Confirms Liquid Lake on Saturn Moon." This may be making some of you ask: but wait, haven't they already proven there's liquid lakes on Titan?
I'm finally back home from a long trip visiting family, so it's time for me to get back in the swing of things by checking up on the current activities of the twenty spacecraft exploring the solar system.
I was delighted to receive an email from Morten Bo Madsen, who I knew from the Mars Exploration Rover mission as "that Danish magnet guy," the fellow responsible for the magnet experiments on nearly every American Mars mission. The magnets were originally designed to study the properties of airborne Martian dust, which would help determine its composition.
I have posted several times about the amazing photo captured by HiRISE of Phoenix under its parachute as it descended. There have been two common questions I've received about the photo: was there any color data taken, and what more can I tell you about how hard it was to take the photo? I've got answers to both questions for you today.
One of my favorite amateur image magicians, Gordan Ugarkovic continues to play around with the amazing data recently released by the Cassini mission, covering the Iapetus encounter of last September. Here's a lovely mosaic he just put together of the Voyager Mountains.
The Phoenix mission confirmed it this morning: the disappearing act pulled by those chunks of bright material in the Dodo trench pretty much nails the identification of the bright material as ice, which is great news for the mission. Ice is what Phoenix went all the way to Mars to study; it's what the team has been aiming for all these years.
One of the ways that planetary scientists try to understand the origin and evolution of landforms on other planets is by studying similar kinds of landforms or "analogs" here on the Earth. For the past few days I've been working with a group of colleagues doing just that--specifically, studying dunes in the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in order to try to better understand the nature of sand dunes on Mars.
JAXA has posted a note on their website on the status of Hayabusa, which apparently reached aphelion in late May. Hayabusa is Japan's amazing ion-powered mission to asteroid Itokawa, which touched down on Itokawa to grab a sample in mid-November 2005, but suffered an injury that has left in doubt its ability to return the sample capsule to Earth.