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Blogs

Emily Lakdawalla's blogs from 2011

What is space exploration worth?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/30 04:06 CST | 1 comment

Investing in NASA makes us smarter, improves our lives, and increases our capability to overcome technological challenges. Even more important, though, are the intangible benefits of pride, respect from other nations, respect for our place in the universe, and hope for a future in which we can accomplish even greater things.

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What's up in the solar system in January 2012, and the rest of the year

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/29 05:57 CST

There will be no planetary launches in 2012, but there is still plenty of deep-space activity to look forward to over the coming year.

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Ringing in the New Year with two new arrivals to the Moon

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/28 05:21 CST

The twin GRAIL spacecraft are nearly at the end of their three-month cruises to the Moon. Currently being discussed is an extended mission for GRAIL that would begin after the June eclipse and last through most of December 2012.

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Lovely Lovejoy pictures

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/27 10:34 CST

Just a few of the amazing photos of Comet Lovejoy that have been taken from the southern hemisphere over the last few days. Comet Lovejoy is the first Kreutz sungrazer to have been discovered from the ground in 40 years, and after its surprising survival of its passage close to the Sun, it has been putting on a spectacular show in southern skies.

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Pretty pictures from Cassini's recent Dione flyby

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/22 11:52 CST

Cassini flew close by Dione on December 12 and, as usual, the close pass provided opportunities for lots of dramatic photos, not just of Dione, but of other moons wandering by in the background.

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More radar images of icy moons from Cassini: Iapetus, Enceladus, and Rhea

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/21 12:10 CST

When I posted about the really cool Cassini SAR images of Enceladus a few weeks ago, I initially wrote that this was the first-ever SAR image of an icy moon other than Titan. Several people (some readers and two members of the Cassini science team!) corrected that statement: Cassini has performed SAR imaging of other icy moons (including Enceladus) before.

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Separating fact from speculation about Kepler-20's Earth-sized planets

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/20 04:53 CST

A large team of researchers has announced in a Nature article the discovery of not one, but two, Earth-sized planets orbiting a star named Kepler-20. This article separates the observational facts from the quite-likely-to-be-true inferences from the downstream speculations.

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Do you have an iPhone? Do you like the Mars rovers? Check out the awesome my3D viewer.

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/19 06:57 CST

The Hasbro my3D viewer turns your phone into an electronic View-Master, making it easy to view color images in stereo.

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MalloMars Rover: Search for S'more Data

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/16 04:55 CST

Abigail Fraeman took third place in the Washington Post's 2011 Style Invitational edible-art contest with her entry, "MalloMars Rover: Search for S'more Data."

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What do we know about planetary rings? Quite a lot, actually!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/15 11:18 CST

A summary of a new article by Matt Tiscareno about planetary ring systems that reviews the known ring systems of the four giant planets and the prospects for ring systems yet to be discovered.

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Video: Comet Lovejoy entered SOHO's LASCO C3 field of view this morning!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/14 09:37 CST

An animation of comet Lovejoy entering the field of view of one of SOHO's Sun-monitoring cameras.

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Anahita's first eclipse

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/13 10:29 CST

Emily wakes up her 5-year-old daughter to experience her first lunar eclipse.

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Pretty picture: Mimas scuttles behind Dione

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/12 06:36 CST

Images from the Cassini spacecraft's flyby of Dione.

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Phobos-Grunt: all but over, a letter from IKI

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/09 07:14 CST

A letter sent by Lev Zelenyi, director of the Russian Space Research Institute (IKI) to participants in the Phobos-Soil project about the mission's failure.

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Mariner 9 approaching Mars: a movie!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/09 01:32 CST

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of Mariner 9's November 13, 1971 arrival at Mars, Daniel Macháček has produced a morphed animation of the images that Mars' first orbiter took while approaching the planet.

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Notes on Dawn at Vesta from the 2011 American Geophysical Union meeting

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/08 03:19 CST

A report on the press briefing and talks from the Fall 2011 American Geophyisical Union meeting about the data on Vesta collected so far by Dawn.

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Good news, everyone: We're getting as good at space weather forecasts as we are at Earth weather forecasts

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/06 02:39 CST

Emily reports from the Fall 2011 American Geophyisical Union meeting about advancements in space weather prediction.

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From the 2011 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU): Voyager 1 at the edge of the solar system

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/05 04:13 CST

A report on a press briefing about Voyager 1 at the Fall 2011 American Geophyisical Union meeting. The spacecraft has entered a new region between our solar system and interstellar space, which scientists are calling the stagnation region.

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Reviews of space-themed books for kids ages 7 and up

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/02 01:06 CST

OK, this is my last pile of book reviews for this year: a collection of good books for kids older than mine.

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ESA is ending ground station support for Phobos-Grunt

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/02 12:04 CST

After modifying two antennas and attempting to send commands to Phobos-Grunt for weeks without success, ESA has made the decision to stop tracking support.

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First-ever high-resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar image of Enceladus

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/01 07:22 CST

On the November 6, 2011 flyby of Enceladus -- the third such flyby in just a few weeks -- the Cassini mission elected to take a SAR swath instead of using the optical instruments for once. So here it is: the first-ever SAR swath on Enceladus. In fact, the only other places we've ever done SAR imaging are Earth, the Moon, Venus, Iapetus, and Titan.

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One-astronaut game of baseball in the International Space Station

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/01 07:18 CST

A fun video of Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa playing baseball aboard the ISS.

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At last, I've finished my scale solar system presentation slide/poster

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/12/01 01:22 CST

A presentation providing a correctly scaled, reasonably correctly colored view of the largest bodies in the solar system is made available for use by teachers, professors, and informal educators.

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Reviews of two modular toys: Modular Robotics Cubelets and Sifteo Cubes

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/30 06:08 CST

OK, these aren't strictly space-related. But they seemed so awesome I couldn't resist buying them, and I imagine they'll appeal to a lot of space geeks as they did to me.

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Reviews of space-themed books & products for young children

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/30 01:13 CST

As I do every year, I've collected a bunch of new (or relatively new) books and other products on space themes for children.

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What's up in the solar system in December 2011

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/29 03:57 CST

What's going on with our planetary explorers in December?

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Bye-bye, Curiosity

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/29 09:35 CST

A few fortunate (and forward-thinking) skywatchers looked upward in the hours after Curiosity's launch and were able to see the spacecraft leaving Earth.

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The 70-meter dishes of the Deep Space Network

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/28 05:06 CST

I was inspired by my recent trip to Goldstone to put together this poster showing all three of the great 70-meter dishes of the Deep Space Network. There's one at each of the three complexes, at Goldstone, at Robledo (near Madrid, Spain), and at Tidbinbilla (near Canberra, Australia).

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How did they make the nuclear power source for the Curiosity rover?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/28 03:07 CST

Maybe it's because I was a kid during the Cold War; I always assume that information about anything nuclear only comes out on that "need-to-know basis."

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Curiosity is on its way to Mars!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/26 09:09 CST

It was a textbook launch for the Atlas V 541 today at 15:02 UTC, and within an hour after liftoff, the Centaur second stage had sent Curiosity on its way for an 8.5-month journey to Mars.

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Mars Exploration Family Portrait

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/23 12:26 CST | 1 comment

Jason Davis put together this neat summary of the checkered history of Mars exploration.

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Brief contact made with Phobos-Grunt after two weeks of silence

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/23 11:29 CST

On Tuesday, November 22 at 20:25 UTC, a European Space Agency ground station in Perth, Australia, successfully made brief radio contact with Phobos-Grunt.

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Curiosity in context: Not exactly "Viking on wheels," but close

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/21 06:51 CST

As I was beginning my research for my two magazine articles on the Curiosity rover's upcoming mission to Mars, I needed to figure out for myself how exactly this gigantic, ungainly machine fit in to the context of past Martian missions.

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Book Review: Atlas of the Galilean Satellites, by Paul Schenk

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/18 12:59 CST

Not many subjects remain for which it is possible to assemble everything that we know about it in one book. Even for those subjects for which our knowledge is limited, knowledge seems always to be expanding exponentially. This is not true, however, for the Galilean satellites of Jupiter.

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Is Europa's ice thin or thick? At chaos terrain, it's both!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/17 04:32 CST | 6 comments

Among Europa scientists there are two warring factions: the thick-icers and the thin-icers. The question is how thick is the ice shell that overlies Europa's subsurface ocean (the existence of which pretty much everyone agrees on).

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Our friendly neighborhood asteroid, 2005 YU55 (an animation)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/16 02:58 CST

Last week JPL released two animations of asteroid 2005 YU55 made from the radar data acquired by Goldstone's 70-meter radio dish.

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Book Review: A More Perfect Heaven, by Dava Sobel

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/15 10:12 CST

As with her previous two books Longitude and Galileo's Daughter, Dava Sobel draws heavily on primary sources for her latest book, A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos.

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Phobos-Grunt status, launch plus six days

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/14 06:37 CST

I said I wasn't going to post again unless the spacecraft talked to us, but I changed my mind because finally there were official comments today about the status of the mission from Roskosmos head Vladimir Popovkin.

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A little fun with Deep Impact deep-sky data

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/14 05:44 CST

Last week, the team put all of the data from Deep Impact's deep-sky imaging session online, and challenged visitors to see what they could make from it. I made some photos of M51, but there were some challenges.

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How to move a shuttle across Los Angeles

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/14 04:48 CST

Ever since the space shuttle Endeavour was awarded to the California Science Center I've been curious about the question of how they will ever get a shuttle from Los Angeles International Airport across more than 10 miles of densely developed city land in the United States to Endeavour's eventual home in Exposition Park.

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Phobos-Grunt summary, three days after launch

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/11 02:51 CST

I can summarize the news about the last day's efforts to save Phobos-Grunt in three words: there is none. At least nothing official.

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Phobos-Grunt status, two days after launch

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/10 12:07 CST

When I last left Phobos-Grunt, Roscosmos had not yet commented on the results of a planned attempt to communicate with the wayward spacecraft at 19:00 UT on November 9.

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Goldstone: Desert outpost performs radio imaging of close-passing asteroid 2005 YU55

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/09 06:52 CST

Anticipating the close flyby of asteroid 2005 YU55 yesterday, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory invited media to tour Goldstone, one of three facilities that make up NASA's Deep Space Network. I've always wanted to see these massive radio dishes up close, so I jumped at the chance!

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Phobos-Grunt, the morning after

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/09 09:04 CST

I repeatedly rewrote yesterday's post on the problem suffered by Phobos-Grunt after its apparently perfect Zenit launch and thought it was time to begin fresh.

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A serious problem on Phobos-Grunt

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/08 05:29 CST

It looks like something has gone wrong with Phobos-Grunt.

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Live feeds on asteroid 2005 YU55 as it passes Earth

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/08 03:45 CST

Unless you've been living under a rock you've probably heard that there is a relatively large (400-meter) asteroid passing closer to Earth than the orbit of the Moon today -- in just a few minutes, as a matter of fact.

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Phobos-Grunt and Phobos LIFE, with Yinghuo-1, have launched!

Posted by Bruce Betts on 2011/11/08 02:12 CST

I am ecstatic to report that at 20:16 UTC, millions of passengers on board the Planetary Society's Phobos LIFE biomodule launched into space inside the Phobos Sample Return (also known as Phobos Grunt or Phobos Soil) spacecraft.

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How radio telescopes get "images" of asteroids

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/08 10:52 CST

This is a repost of an article I wrote in April 2010; I thought it'd be useful reading for those of you interested in today's near-Earth flyby of asteroid 2005 YU55.

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Phobos-Grunt and Yinghuo-1 poised for liftoff

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/08 08:00 CST

Russia's Phobos-Grunt sample return spacecraft, carrying the Planetary Society's Phobos LIFE experiment, plus China's Yinghuo-1 Mars minisatellite, are poised for launch at Baikonur! The launch window opens in less than six hours, at 20:16 UTC.

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Phobos-Grunt and Yinghuo-1 now encapsulated in their fairing (lots of photos)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/04 03:24 CDT

About a week after Curiosity passed through the same milestone, Phobos-Grunt and Yinghuo-1 -- still slated for a November 8 launch -- were encapsulated in their payload fairing in preparation for being stacked on their rocket. And, of course, our little Phobos LIFE capsule is inside there too!

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Curiosity stacked for launch, still waiting for plutonium power source installation

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/04 12:43 CDT

It's still three weeks until Curiosity's launch date, but the spacecraft has already been placed on top of its rocket. The Kennedy Space Center's Curiosity photo album now has lots of pictures of the spacecraft being enclosed inside the payload fairing (the rocket's "nose cone") and hoisted to the top of the Atlas V.

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Print publications galore!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/03 05:27 CDT

November has already been a very good month for me in the print publication realm. I've had published not one, but two, feature articles on Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory rover.

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Deep Impact goes for the deep sky

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/02 04:59 CDT

I love it when old spacecraft get pushed to perform feats that weren't part of their original missions.

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Book Reviews: Otherworldly skies, real and imagined

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/02 02:12 CDT

Today I'm reviewing -- and recommending -- two art-laden books. Michael Carroll's Drifting on Alien Winds is nonfiction, while the IAAA's The Beauty of Space is an art book, but both books are about describing our understanding of the alien-yet-familiar worlds across our solar system, and what they'd look like if we could stand on them.

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What do Dawn's color ratio images of Vesta mean?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/01 07:58 CDT

The Dawn mission to Vesta continues to release an image every day, and recently they have been releasing lots of color images. I like color pictures for aesthetic reasons, but color is actually a very important property of planetary surfaces.

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Scale solar system presentation slide, version 2

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/31 01:14 CDT

Last month I posted a preliminary version of a slide I was working on for use in my public presentations, a slide that contains everything in the solar system bigger than 400 kilometers across, and invited comment. I've listened to all of your comments and corrections and come up with a second version.

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NPP Earth observatory launched successfully, and I was there!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/28 06:17 CDT

Well, that was awesome. The NPP Earth observation satellite launched successfully an hour or so ago, and I was with a chilled but thrilled crowd of a few hundred people to watch it at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

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NPP Tweetup schedule and launch timeline

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/26 04:39 CDT

This evening I'll be headed up to Lompoc, California, to participate in my first Tweetup along with 25 other Tweeters.

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What's up in the solar system in November 2011

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/25 04:26 CDT

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.

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Mars Climate Sounder confirms a Martian weather prediction

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/25 01:30 CDT

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.

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Science from Vesta at the Geological Society of America meeting

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/24 05:55 CDT

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.

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

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/21 05:39 CDT

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.

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

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/20 12:35 CDT

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.

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

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/19 02:10 CDT

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

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A new trick for IKAROS: Spinning the other way

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/19 01:49 CDT

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.

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Book Reviews: Two books that deliver knowledge in little chunks

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/18 07:55 CDT

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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Phobos-Grunt unpacked! With Yinghuo-1 and LIFE!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/18 02:01 CDT | 1 comment

I know I just posted about Phobos-Grunt on Friday, but there are lots of new pictures from Baikonur Cosmodrome (Russia's main launch facility in Kazakhstan) showing Phobos-Grunt being removed from its shipping crate and tipped upright in preparation for its launch in early November.

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Heads up! ROSAT is coming down this week

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/17 07:44 CDT

It should give you a feeling of déjà vu: a defunct satellite's orbit is decaying, and because that orbit is circular it's going to be impossible to predict where and when along its ground track it's going to happen.

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Phobos-Grunt update; lots of new images and video!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/14 05:39 CDT

Фобос-Грунт is getting ready for launch!

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Eris and embargoes (or: don't fear Ingelfinger!)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/12 04:49 CDT | 2 comments

Last Tuesday at the Division of Planetary Sciences meeting Bruno Sicardy presented the results of his research group's observations of a stellar occultation by Eris.

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Lovely pic of a recent crater on Vesta

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/11 08:28 CDT

With little fanfare, the Dawn mission continues releasing a new picture from Vesta every day. This one is definitely my favorite among their recent releases, a closeup on one of Vesta's strange streaky bright craters.

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Photos: Preparations for Curiosity's launch proceeding (don't show these to Blofeld!)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/11 11:27 CDT

Kennedy Space Center has recently created a photo album collecting their photos from the clean rooms where technicians are working madly to prepare the Curiosity Mars rover for launch.

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Saturnlit moon, sunlit fountains

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/07 06:00 CDT

It's been a week of very heavy science on this blog, so I thought it'd be nice to go into the weekend with a post in which a breathtaking picture speaks for itself, without needing my thousands of words.

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Notes from Day 5 of the EPSC/DPS meeting: Saturn's storm, Phobos, and Lutetia

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/07 07:09 CDT

Today was (is) the last day of the Division of Planetary Sciences / European Planetary Science Congress meeting in Nantes, France.

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Notes from EPSC/DPS NASA Night

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/07 03:53 CDT

It's already the last day of the DPS/EPSC meeting in Nantes, France, and I've fallen seriously behind on writing up my notes. I thought I'd get some less pleasant notes out of the way before I returned to science.

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Notes from Day 3 of the EPSC/DPS meeting (all about MESSENGER)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/05 11:04 CDT

Today I largely spent in the MESSENGER sessions. They have a lot of data to talk about.

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Brief notes from Day 2 of the DPS-EPSC meeting

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/04 11:18 CDT

It's been a very full day at the DPS-EPSC 2011 joint meeting. My day was less full than it might have been, because I overslept and missed most of the morning's session. I really needed the rest though so I think it was probably for the best!

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Some first impressions of EPSC-DPS meeting

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/03 11:55 CDT

Today they turned on the scientific fire hose at the Division of Planetary Sciences / European Planetary Science Congress meeting happening here in Nantes, France. My brain already feels full and I still have four more days!

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Off to France! DPS-EPSC 2011 (a big planetary meeting)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/30 11:40 CDT

I'm leaving shortly for Nantes, France to attend the 2011 joint meeting of the Division of Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society and the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC). You may be saying, wait, why is the American Astronomical Society having a meeting in France?

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What's up in the solar system in October 2011

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/29 12:12 CDT

Without a doubt the most exciting events in space in October are Cassini's two, count them, two extremely close flybys of Enceladus, spaced only eighteen days apart, on October 1 and 19 (and followed by a third one on November 6).

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Pretty pictures: Dancing moons

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/28 12:28 CDT

Since Cassini currently orbits Saturn within the plane of Saturn's rings, it has lots of chances to catch two or more moons in the same photo. One such "mutual event" happened on September 17, featuring four moons: Titan, Dione, Pan, and Pandora.

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Sagan and Snooki

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/28 12:50 CDT

This image has been making the rounds of Google+ and Facebook today.

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Finally, an official statement on UARS' exact reentry time and location

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/27 12:25 CDT

The world watched on Friday as the derelict spacecraft named UARS made its final few orbits around Earth. And then we waited for final word of its reentry location. And waited. And waited.

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MAVEN's baby picture

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/26 01:57 CDT

A new Mars mission, MAVEN, has finally leapt the hurdle separating its existence as an idea from its material existence. Here's MAVEN's baby picture: the just-completed "primary structure" of the spacecraft.

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Readers: Help me identify "greatest hit" blog entries?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/26 12:03 CDT

If you are reading this and happen to recall an entry that struck you as particularly educational or having a particularly beautiful picture or whatever, I'd very much appreciate it if you could note that in the comments (or by email or Twitter, if you prefer).

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The latest HiRISE view of Opportunity, on Endeavour's rim

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/24 10:19 CDT

In a now-routine act of obtaining detailed photographs of robots from Earth sitting on the surface of another planet, the HiRISE camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has captured a view of Opportunity sitting on the rim of Endeavour crater.

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Tethys and Dione don't seem to be active after all

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/23 01:09 CDT

About four years ago I wrote a blog entry about an ESA press release about paper published in Nature that suggested that Saturn's moons Tethys and Dione might have volcanic activity, like Enceladus. A new paper published in Icarus casts doubt on that conclusion.

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Professor Michael Drake, Ph.D. (1946-2011)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/21 06:25 CDT

All of us at the Planetary Society are deeply saddened by the passing of planetary scientist Michael Drake. He has been a pillar of the planetary science community for four decades.

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Keeping track of UARS' reentry

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/21 01:40 CDT

Unless you've been living under a rock you've probably heard that a very large Earth-orbiting satellite is going to be reentering Earth's atmosphere soon, and there's a small but nonzero chance of debris coming down where somebody might actually find it.

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Reading Itokawa's life history from microscopic samples

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/20 01:58 CDT

When Hayabusa's sample return capsule was first opened and found to be very clean-looking inside, I doubted that there could be enough material for laboratory analysis. JAXA announced later that they scraped about 1500 dust grains from the inside with a teflon spatula, and these likely came from Itokawa.

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Video: Soaring over Earth

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/19 12:46 CDT

This amazing video has already been posted by basically every other space blogger but I can't resist featuring it too, especially because I just realized that it was not made by NASA but instead by a member of the public digging into public NASA archives of image data -- yay for amateurs!

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Students Design Human Asteroid Mission in Caltech Space Challenge

Posted by Louis D. Friedman on 2011/09/19 11:55 CDT

I spent much of the past week attending the Caltech Space Challenge, a student-organized international competition to design a human mission to a Near-Earth asteroid. It was a great week, and one of the most positive, upbeat and hopeful programs I have participated in concerning the future of space exploration.

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Video: Zooming around Vesta

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/16 08:44 CDT

The Dawn team released today a nice little video that flies around a shape model of Vesta produced by DLR, the German Aerospace Corporation, who built and operate Dawn's camera.

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Scale solar system presentation slide, a provisional version for you to review

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/15 02:18 CDT

I'm preparing a talk for the Pacific Astronomy and Telescope Show here in Pasadena on Sunday afternoon at 1:45. I have spent the morning putting together a slide that I have long wanted to have for presentations.

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Dawn's cryptic image release titles

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/14 04:44 CDT

Every day's image release from the Dawn spacecraft shows something on Vesta that is weird and cool and difficult to explain. The images come out with very little information describing what is going on to make those weird landscapes.

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New Horizons Day 2: Liquids on Pluto's surface?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/13 01:27 CDT

Jeff Moore's presentation was cool because of the discussion it stimulated. He considered what exogenic processes might be operating on Pluto's surface. What's an exogenic process? It's something that modifies the shape of the surface from the outside, and doesn't require the body to be geologically active inside.

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Pretty picture: Talking to GRAIL

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/12 07:47 CDT

Here's a lovely picture from the Canberra DSN this morning, showing two of the workhorse 34-meter antennas communicating with the nearby GRAIL spacecraft. In the distance, the huge DSS-43 talks to the solar observatory STEREO-B.

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GRAIL A and B are on their way to the Moon!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/10 09:55 CDT

After some exasperating delays due to pesky and changeable high-level winds, the twin GRAIL spacecraft launched this morning on their trip to the Moon.

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Here we go again: GRAIL set to launch today

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/10 07:02 CDT

GRAIL is trying for launch today at 8:29 PDT / 12:29 UT or 9:08 PDT / 6:08 UT., and here I am at 5:00 am my time ready to watch. As before, I'm watching the feed through Spaceflight Now's GRAIL mission status center.

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Weekend watching: 3D Movie from Mars

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/09 07:07 CDT

There's one Mars landed mission for which there is a long 3D film, and that's Viking. Grab your 3D glasses, and be prepared to be transported to Mars.

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