Emily Lakdawalla's blogs from 2009
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/31 11:06 CST
Did you think I was going to skip Uranus? How could I?
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/31 10:57 CST
I just got a press release from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that made my heart sink; the extrication effort for Spirit is not going at all well. I did not want to keep sounding a knell of bad news. But once in a while, I do have to report bad news.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/30 08:26 CST
Looking over the list of planets, moons, and smaller bodies I posted so far, I realized I didn't have an image of a comet yet.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/29 11:00 CST
Rhea? You might be asking. Rhea? When Saturn has so many more interesting moons? Hear me out.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/28 12:28 CST
Here's yet another of the moons of Uranus for you: Ariel, a near-twin in diameter to Umbriel, but apparently with more interesting geology.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/27 03:24 CST
This one is fresh from the spacecraft! The data were captured yesterday, December 26, by Cassini during its best yet imaging encounter with the small ringmoon Prometheus, and showed up on the Cassini raw images website today.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/26 11:28 CST
Titan is a weird alternate-universe Earth, surprisingly similar to our own planet in some ways, but not at all like our planet in others.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/24 11:32 CST
To those of you who celebrate the holiday, merry Christmas! I hope Santa was good to you.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/24 08:51 CST
I think if you polled most space fans about their favorite moons of Jupiter, Ganymede would come in a consistent third behind Europa and Io. It's just not fair.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/23 01:04 CST
I love posting animations of Cassini images that I compose from frames grabbed from the mission's raw images website, but they are shoddy compared to the versions that eventually come out from the mission's imaging team.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/23 12:29 CST
Mars' moon Deimos never gets as much love as Phobos.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/23 12:21 CST
The Planetary Society is hosting a luncheon on January 23, 2010 that will celebrate the achievements of two renowned heroes of space exploration, physicist Stephen Hawking and Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/22 12:13 CST
Venus is such a beautiful, brilliant light in the sky. (When it's up; just now Venus is actually near solar conjunction, so we'll have to wait a bit for it to grace the heavens.)
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/21 04:09 CST
Miranda is the one moon of Uranus for which we have very good images from Voyager 2, and that was a stroke of luck, because low-resolution shots of all of Uranus' moons would have told us that it was, geologically speaking, the most dramatic of the five biggest ones.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/20 02:48 CST
Iapetus! I'm always interested in Cassini images, but five years ago this month I was refreshing the Cassini raw images website several times a day, eagerly anticipating the mission's first good encounter with Iapetus.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/19 05:43 CST
Not quite ten years ago, the Near Earth Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft arrived at the near-Earth asteroid Eros. NEAR accomplished many firsts.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/18 02:19 CST
Here's Neptune, but not quite like you've ever seen it before.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/17 04:28 CST
The Cassini mission announced today the first observation of a specular reflection off of a lake on Titan. A specular reflection is a mirror-like flash, and you only get one when you have a mirror-like surface -- very, very smooth.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/17 12:57 CST
Proteus is a weird name for this world. It's the second-largest moon of Neptune, and so it's named (as are all of Neptune's moons) for deities associated with the sea.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/17 07:49 CST
Hayabusa is still 100 million kilometers from the Earth, less than an astronomical unit away but still with months to travel. But according to an update posted to their websitethis morning by project manager Junichiro Kawaguchi, Hayabusa is on the home stretch.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/16 03:28 CST
Mimas is the anti-Enceladus.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/16 01:01 CST
There are two cool stories circulating today on the theme of discovering new places in the cosmos.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/16 10:21 CST
Here's the information on how to watch the class on how to work with Mars Express VMC images, which I conducted to a small audience this morning.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/15 03:05 CST
Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that I've been fiddling with images from the Mars Webcam, more officially known as the Mars Express Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC), for the last couple of weeks.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/15 12:40 CST
We have three orbiters and two rovers currently exploring Mars, each of which returns breathtaking photos on a daily basis.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/15 11:25 CST
I've gotten this question about once a week since Spirit got stuck, but yesterday, two different readers asked the same question within an hour of each other, so I figured it was time for a blog entry.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/14 01:12 CST
The ever-vigilant Doug Ellison just posted this animation, which really actually does show a teeny tiny bit of motion in the right front wheel. If you don't notice any motion, look closer.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/14 11:09 CST
The Moon is the most familiar of the objects in the heavens.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/14 10:22 CST
It was worth my while to get up at 5:15 my time this morning -- I saw a flawless launch of a Delta II from Vandenberg Air Force Base, carrying the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) into orbit.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/13 04:35 CST
If you don't think Pluto gets enough respect, just imagine what it's like to be a satellite of an asteroid.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/12 03:17 CST
Cassini's amazing cameras have set a new standard for the quality, sharpness, resolution, beautiful color, and all-around spectacularness of images returned from the outer solar system.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/11 02:54 CST
This is a special post for all of my readers who are lighting the first candle on their menorot this evening.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/11 11:24 CST
My inbox was exploding this morning with messages about a tremendously cool animation released this morning by ESA's Mars Express team. It shows Phobos crossing Deimos, in what's known as a "mutual event."
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/10 11:42 CST
Welcome to the tenth post in my "Advent Calendar" -- I am opening a door each day on a different world in the solar system, and I'll be continuing to do so until New Year's Day.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/09 01:55 CST
Here's another weird-looking one, though it's less weird from this particular, polar point of view than it is when viewed from the side.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/09 01:46 CST
I wrote a few weeks ago about a new Send Your Name to Venus campaign conducted by the Akatsuki mission. Now The Planetary Society has arranged with JAXA to collect names and messages on our website.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/08 12:50 CST
I love this asteroid. It's just so weird-looking.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/07 03:11 CST
Jupiter has been high overhead at sunset for several months, a brilliant light that's easy to spot even when the sky is still bright at dusk; but it's now moving quickly to the west as Earth speeds ahead of Jupiter's more stately march around the Sun.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/07 10:43 CST
Galileo, the scientist, discovered the Galilean satellites of Jupiter four hundred years ago next month, while Galileo, the mission, arrived at Jupiter to study those moons in situ fourteen years ago Sunday.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/06 08:00 CST
Umbriel is the darkest moon in a pretty dark place in the solar system, the Uranus system.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/05 09:17 CST
Epimetheus is one of the many small moons of Saturn that are referred to by the Cassini mission team as "rocks" though they are probably mostly made of ice, not rock.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/04 02:41 CST
Mercury is the smallest of the eight planets and, like Uranus and Neptune, has so far been studied only during flyby encounters.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/03 04:20 CST
From a distance, Jupiter's fourth largest moon Europa is the smoothest object in the solar system; its outline traces out a perfect circle.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/02 04:42 CST
253 Mathilde is the largest asteroid that has ever been visited by a spacecraft. It's held that distinction for more than twelve years, but next year it'll be upstaged by the considerably larger 21 Lutetia, which Rosetta will fly by on July 10.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/02 01:34 CST
Members of The Planetary Society, you should now be receiving your November/December issue of The Planetary Report in the mail.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/01 04:08 CST
I've always loved advent calendars and the way they both managed and heightened my anticipation of the gift-opening frenzy of Christmas morning.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/11/30 02:32 CST
The two big things happening this month are the launch of the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), from Vandenberg Air Force Base no earlier than December 9 at 06:09 PST (15:09 UTC), and the December meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) from the 14th through the 18th.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/11/22 05:54 CST
I'm getting to be a broken record here, but I can't stop looking at these photos from the Enceladus flyby.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/11/21 10:26 CST
Wow, just wow. I didn't know what to expect from the second flyby of Saturn's geyser moon Enceladus in November, which happened yesterday.
I probably crammed too much into today's class: an hour-and-a-half whirlwind tour through the cameras on the rovers and Cassini, how to access their raw images on the Internet, and some basic processing that you can do with each of them.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/11/19 11:16 CST
Trouble has come time and again to JAXA's little Hayabusa asteroid sample return mission, yet the mission's engineers always come up with new and creative ways to solve problems.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/11/18 04:58 CST
Since tomorrow's class is going to be on playing with raw images from the rovers and Cassini, I've been playing with recent raw images from the rovers and Cassini! I just thought I'd share a couple of the fun items I've been working with.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/11/17 03:20 CST
Even though all of us rover fans know that Spirit is really, really stuck, I think I'm not the only one who was secretly hoping that today's images downlinked from Spirit would show that the rover had magically popped out of the ground overnight. Of course, she didn't.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/11/16 02:48 CST
I finally prevailed in hosting the first in my series of classes on processing space images for amateurs this morning, while most people who were not working were probably watching the flawless launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/11/12 04:45 CST
Via the USGS I learned that Jupiter has passed a milestone of sorts, and now has fifty named satellites.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/11/12 02:26 CST
The topic of the first class is: "Images Are Data." I'll go through how images actually represent scientific data, some very basic image processing stuff like histogram adjustment and what that does to the data, and what RGB color images are and how to compose them.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/11/12 01:49 CST
Since A. J. S. Rayl was also listening in on today's press briefing about the efforts to extricate Spirit from her predicament at Troy, I'll just hit the high points and send you over to her story when she has posted it.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/11/11 11:19 CST
JAXA issued a press release (in Japanese) on November 9 stating that one of Hayabusa's ion thrusters, thruster D, had stopped operating. Hayabusa launched with four ion thrusters, but D was one of only two that are still functioning. So the failure of thruster D is a serious problem.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/11/09 03:53 CST
The Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has been studying a lot of meteorites. That made me wonder, why study meteorites on Mars when we can study them in hand on Earth? How are Mars meteorites interesting?
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/11/09 03:27 CST
The Planetary Society announced today that an anonymous donor has put up one million dollars to help us get a solar sail in flight.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/11/08 04:39 CST
It's been an awful long time since we've seen one of these from Spirit: an animation of four Navcam frames documenting motion!
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/11/05 09:32 CST
While I was on maternity leave I suddenly decided to see what books were out there that could help me teach my daughters (one's three years, and the other six months old) about the science and the thrill of space exploration.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/11/05 08:00 CST
As MESSENGER zoomed toward Mercury for its third flyby, it was commanded to rotate in a maneuver that would help it test a surprising result from the second flyby.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/11/04 04:02 CST
On Planetary Radio's "Questions and Answers" I answered this question: "I read that Uranus got its tilt when it was hit by another object. What does it mean for a ball of gas to be hit -- wouldn't another object just pass through it?"
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/11/03 03:46 CST
Yesterday, the Japanese space agency announced the public release of the data from the primary mission of the Kaguya (a.k.a. SELENE) lunar orbiter.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/11/03 12:21 CST
This image goodie was produced from the raw images from Cassini's close encounter with Saturn's geyser moon Enceladus yesterday by Gordan Ugarkovic.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/11/02 11:10 CST
Raw images from Cassini's close pass by Enceladus today started appearing on the JPL raw images website, and some less-compressed versions of a few of them showed up on the CICLOPS website.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/10/28 03:51 CDT
The LROC team posted today a new image of the Apollo 17 landing site, captured after Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter had gotten in to its 50-kilometer mapping orbit, so this is much more detailed than the previous view.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/10/28 03:30 CDT
These Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter HiRISE images of the defunct Phoenix lander in the early dawn light of northern spring have been out for some time, but no one had accomplished the difficult task of locating the Phoenix hardware in them until this week.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/10/28 01:53 CDT
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been in safe mode for nine weeks, since August 26, the date of the fourth in a series of safing events.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/10/27 04:42 CDT
I am toying with the idea of running a series of classes via Ustream on the basics of space image processing.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/10/27 01:42 CDT
As is probably obvious by now, I love playing with spacecraft image data. I am always looking for excuses to dive into space image archives to unearth images of stuff in space that haven't really been seen by very many people before.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/10/26 01:51 CDT
The 126th Space Carnival is live over at Jason Perry's always-excellent (if rather narrowly focused) Io blog The Gish Bar Times.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/10/23 12:31 CDT
The Japanese space agency's science missions have an abundance of names. They start out with a programmatic name, like MUSES-A, PLANET-A, etc. -- which might be like calling NEAR "Discovery-A" and Mars Pathfinder "Discovery-B" and so on.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/10/22 02:44 CDT
We are preparing to have a brand new online store with new and different merchandise; to that end, we are clearing out EVERY LAST BIT of our old store inventory.
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.