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Emily Lakdawalla's blogs from 2011

Memo to early risers: Look up!

Emily Lakdawalla • May 02, 2011

There is a traffic jam of planets on the eastern horizon in the early morning right now and for the next several weeks, a prize for those of you who have to rise before dawn.

The scale of our solar system

Emily Lakdawalla • May 02, 2011

Space.com has taken advantage of the infinitely scrollable nature of Web pages to produce a really cool infographic on the scales of orbital distances in the solar system.

Shuttle LIFE is go for launch with Endeavour!

Bruce Betts • April 29, 2011

The Planetary Society's Shuttle LIFE experiment is now go for launch on Endeavour's STS-134 mission. I came down to Florida for the loading of our tiny sample tubes into the CREST-1 (Commercial Reusable Experiments for Science & Technology) payload block.

What's up in the solar system in May 2011

Emily Lakdawalla • April 28, 2011

Time again for my monthly look at what's going on with the robots exploring the solar system! The highlight of this month will, I think, be Dawn's first optical navigation images of its first target, Vesta.

Watch Saturn's storms spin with VIMS

Emily Lakdawalla • April 28, 2011

A lot of attention has been paid recently to a storm in Saturn's northern hemisphere that is large and bright enough to be visible from Earth, but Saturn's atmosphere actually features lots more swirling storms. They can be hard to see, at least in visible wavelengths.

The Moon is a KREEPy place

Emily Lakdawalla • April 27, 2011

If you go to a conference about lunar geology, sooner or later you'll hear the term "KREEP" bandied about. (And almost as soon as KREEP is mentioned, a bad pun will be made. It's inevitable.) Context will tell you it has something to do with a special kind of lunar rock, but that'll only get you so far. What is KREEP, and why is it important on the Moon?

Place names on Lutetia

Emily Lakdawalla • April 26, 2011

Whenever we explore someplace new -- a new island, a new continent, a new cave, a new world -- there's a necessary activity that explorers must perform before they can sensibly tell the world about their discoveries: name things.

India's launch site as seen by Japan's Daichi orbiter, now lost

Emily Lakdawalla • April 25, 2011

I wrote the following blog entry about an image from Japan's Daichi Earth-observing orbiter last week as one to keep in my back pocket for a day when I was too busy to write, not anticipating that there'd soon be a more pressing reason to write about Daichi. On April 21, after just over five years of orbital operations, Daichi unexpectedly fell silent, and is probably lost forever.

Pluto's atmosphere changes really fast!

Emily Lakdawalla • April 21, 2011

Pluto's atmosphere has been a subject of fascination for planetary astronomers since -- well, since astronomers first discovered that it had an atmosphere in the early '90s. The interest is partly because it's fascinating that such a distant and cold world is capable of supporting an atmosphere, and partly because the presence of the atmosphere confounds all attempts to measure Pluto's size precisely.

Historical PDF: "The Voyager Flights to Jupiter and Saturn"

Emily Lakdawalla • April 20, 2011

A while ago I posted all 99 issues of the Voyager Mission Status Bulletins in PDF format, and now I have another cool item to add to that collection: NASA EP-191, "The Voyager Flights to Jupiter and Saturn."

Outside scientists being invited in to Cassini mission

Emily Lakdawalla • April 20, 2011

NASA announced last week the start of a Participating Scientist program for Cassini, which is big news, for outer planets scientists anyway. Lots and lots of other missions have participating scientist programs, from big missions like Mars Science Laboratory to little ones like Dawn; but this is the first time for Cassini, which is kind of surprising given that it's been almost seven years since it arrived at Saturn.

Nearly behind Saturn

Emily Lakdawalla • April 19, 2011

Some recent photos that Cassini took from a position nearly in Saturn's shadow caught my eye, and I made a quick color composite. What an amazing view this would be if you were riding on the spacecraft!

Mercury's Weird Terrain

Emily Lakdawalla • April 19, 2011

When Mariner 10 flew past Mercury, it caught an immense impact basin lying half in and half out of sunlight, which they named Caloris. Even with only half the basin visible, scientists knew it was one of the largest in the solar system. Geologists had to wait more than 25 years to see the rest of Caloris, and when they did it turned out to be even bigger than they had thought. But the fact that Caloris was only half in sunlight was fortuitous in one sense, because it meant that the spot on Mercury that was exactly opposite the area of the Caloris impact was also partially in sunlight. That spot looks weird.

Lovely crater turns up in MoonZoo; 2 million images classified, lots more Moon left

Emily Lakdawalla • April 18, 2011

Here's a very pretty picture to start off the week: a really gorgeous fresh crater on the lunar farside. There's nothing particularly unusual about this crater; it's just recent and fresh so there's a mesmerizing amount of detail in the feathery patterns of the ejecta that fans outward from it.

Memo to Australians: Tell your government if space exploration benefits your community

Emily Lakdawalla • April 17, 2011

Australia's Space Policy Unit is conducting a survey of people in the commercial space industry, state and local governments, and education and research sectors as part of an effort to assess the economic value of civil space to the country.

Please join us to send off Lou Friedman in style!

Emily Lakdawalla • April 15, 2011

We're going to celebrate Lou Friedman's 30 years of service to the Planetary Society by mercilessly making fun of him at a gala "Roast and Toast" event in downtown Los Angeles on April 30. (We will probably say some very nice things about him too.)

So far, no moons found at Ceres or Vesta

Emily Lakdawalla • April 15, 2011

Since the Galileo mission discovered tiny Dactyl circling Ida in 1993, quite a lot of asteroid systems have been found to be binary; there are even a few triples. So it's quite reasonable to guess that two of the biggest asteroids, Ceres and Vesta, might also have satellites.

Are there more Titans than Earths in the Milky Way?

Emily Lakdawalla • April 14, 2011

Might there be many Titan-like planets and moons, with atmospheres and liquid methane rain, rivers, and lakes, across the galaxy? It's an important question if you think that liquid methane environments could support alien life, because it turns out that Titan-like planets might be more common than Earth-like planets.

Lots of great stuff in the latest Cassini data release

Emily Lakdawalla • April 13, 2011

I've got some lovely pictures from Saturn to show you! Every three months, the Cassini mission dumps gigabytes worth of precious Saturn data into the Planetary Data System, and the latest gift came on April 1. This particular pile of data, which was taken between April 1 and June 30, 2010, contains a lot of really terrific moon observations.

Congratulations to the California Science Center on getting Space Shuttle Endeavour!

Emily Lakdawalla • April 13, 2011

Space exploration is an international endeavor and I usually try to speak as a citizen of Earth rather than one of my nation, state, or city, but I'm going to ask you to indulge me in a little local boosterism today.

Happy 50th birthday of human spaceflight

Emily Lakdawalla • April 12, 2011

On April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human to see firsthand the blackness of space above our home planet's thin atmosphere. Since there's lots of thoughtful reporting and commentary being posted on this anniversary, I thought it'd be more useful to link to some particularly interesting posts than to add in my comments.

Comparing Clementine and Chandrayaan-1 spectra from the Moon

Emily Lakdawalla • April 11, 2011

In a paper recently published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, Georgiana Kramer and several coauthors performed a careful comparison of two data sets that seem like they're measuring the same things, so you'd think that the measurements they took would match between the two instruments. But they don't quite match.

Having some fun with Curiosity's pretty face (plus, a conversation about Curiosity with a 4-year-old)

Emily Lakdawalla • April 08, 2011

The photo I took of Curiosity's "face" and posted on Monday seems to have tickled a lot of people. I understand it's the subject of a "Photoshop this Mars rover" challenge at Fark, and a couple of the guys over at unmannedspaceflight.com have been having a field day with it.

Juno is being shipped to Cape Canaveral today

Emily Lakdawalla • April 08, 2011

Spaceflight Now is following along as the next Jupiter orbiter, Juno, is journeying from its birthplace at Lockheed Martin in Denver to Cape Canaveral. As of this moment it has been packed up and loaded onto a flatbed trailer, which is driving through Denver with police escort, en route to the Denver airport, where it'll board a C-17 for the trip to Florida.

365 Days of Astronomy Podcast: What's up in the second quarter of 2011

Emily Lakdawalla • April 07, 2011

Regular readers of this blog will find the content of today's 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast familiar, because it's an update on what the solar system exploration spacecraft are up to, based on my monthly "what's up" updates.

Spotting Jupiter's Moons...with a Solar Telescope!?

Emily Lakdawalla • April 06, 2011

I was astounded to learn this morning that SOHO can not only see Jupiter, it can actually resolve Jupiter's moons (at least its two outer ones) as points of light separate from their planet!

Chang'E 2 update: primary mission successful

Emily Lakdawalla • April 05, 2011

For months I've had no information about China's Chang'e 2 lunar orbiter for my monthly "What's Up" updates, and that's finally changed.

Welcome to Carnival of Space #191

Emily Lakdawalla • April 05, 2011

Welcome, everyone, to the Planetary Society Blog for the 191st Carnival of Space! Every week, a different webmaster or blogger hosts the Carnival, showcasing articles written on the topic of space.

Face-to-face with Curiosity

Emily Lakdawalla • April 04, 2011

I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity today for a face-to-face visit with one of the biggest celebrities in my world: Curiosity, the next Mars rover. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory gave members of the media a chance to suit up in the white coveralls known as "bunny suits" and enter the Spacecraft Assembly Facility, the clean room in which Curiosity is being assembled and prepared for launch.

Lovely giant full Moon photo

Emily Lakdawalla • April 01, 2011

Here's a photo worthy of hanging on the wall: a gorgeous, 4000-pixel-square portrait of the full Moon captured by Rolf Hempel from Germany on the night of the "Supermoon."

What's up in the solar system in April 2011

Emily Lakdawalla • March 31, 2011

April 2011 will see MESSENGER begin the science phase of its orbital mission at Mercury, and should, I think, also see the start of Dawn's approach observations of Vesta. At Mars, Opportunity is back on the road again, rolling inexorably toward Endeavour. At Saturn, Cassini will continue its focus on Saturn and Titan science.

Images and data now pouring in from MESSENGER at Mercury

Emily Lakdawalla • March 30, 2011

Today the MESSENGER mission held a press briefing to show off some of the first images and other data that are streaming in from the spacecraft, now that it has entered Mercury orbit.

MESSENGER delivers its first image from Mercury

Emily Lakdawalla • March 29, 2011

This is MESSENGER's very first photo from Mercury orbit, a wide-angle view that reaches right to Mercury's south pole, exposing a very tiny sliver of territory not previously seen by spacecraft.

LPSC 2011: Lunar Layers

Mike Malaska • March 29, 2011

Some recent high-resolution images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) have revealed large blocks on the lunar surface that show evidence of layers. The layered blocks were seen near the crater Aristarchus, which is a bright crater in the northeast quadrant of the nearside Moon.

Saturn's storm: A quick turnaround from Hubble

Emily Lakdawalla • March 28, 2011

Saturn's raging northern storm has been watched since it began by amateur astronomers, and now Cassini is getting in to the act too. Presumably once astronomers realized the magnitude of what was going on, some of Earth's great observatories were also occasionally pointed at the ringed planet to watch the storm grow.

A radio show on Mercury and a space carnival

Emily Lakdawalla • March 28, 2011

Today's Planetary Radio features Sean Solomon on the successful arrival of MESSENGER at Mercury. After checking that out, wander over to the 190th Carnival of Space, hosted this week by Paul Gilster over at Centauri Dreams.

Phobos LIFE gets a ride on Endeavour as Shuttle LIFE!

Emily Lakdawalla • March 25, 2011

The Planetary Society is contributing this thing called the Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment (LIFE) to Russia's Phobos sample return mission -- it's basically a sealed puck with dormant microbes inside that'll fly to Mars and back in the return capsule, and biologists will take a look to see what damage the little bugs suffered during their space journey.

Checking in on Jupiter: the belt is coming back

Emily Lakdawalla • March 25, 2011

Since it's been several months since I last took a look at Jupiter, I thought it was time to see what's up with the South Equatorial Belt.

The end of Stardust

Emily Lakdawalla • March 25, 2011

So, it's over. Stardust's last transmission to Earth was yesterday, March 24, 2011 at 23:33 UTC. Its final act was to burn up all of its last remaining fuel, a move intended to help engineers validate their guesses for how much fuel actually remained in the tanks.

In honor of Stardust: The Annefrank encounter

Emily Lakdawalla • March 24, 2011

Since Stardust is being decommissioned today I thought it'd be fitting to take a look back at one of its data sets. I hadn't fiddled with the Annefrank data set before, and it was small and easy to deal with.

Tomorrow is Stardust's very last day

Emily Lakdawalla • March 23, 2011

What's that in my eye? Must be a piece of stardust that's making my eyes water as I read that Stardust will be given its very last command tomorrow, a command that'll end its long life, but give its builders one more piece of valuable data in the process.

A zoomable MastCam is not going to make it to Mars

Emily Lakdawalla • March 23, 2011

I hate being the bearer of bad news, but here it is. Amid all the building excitement for Curiosity -- the successes in testing, the delivery of the instruments, the fun of tuning in to Curiosity Cam to peek in on engineers doing their work in preparing the next rover for launch -- I've learned that a much-anticipated (but not required) feature is not going to make it on to the rover.

LPSC 2011: Sponge-moon Hyperion

Mike Malaska • March 23, 2011

Saturn's moon Hyperion has a bizarre sponge-like appearance that is in dramatic contrast to other heavily cratered bodies in the solar system.

Evidence for rain on Titan

Emily Lakdawalla • March 22, 2011

Last week, Zibi Turtle and Jason Perry and a dozen other coauthors published a paper in Science discussing evidence for rain on Titan.

Encouragement from space for Japan

Emily Lakdawalla • March 22, 2011

I saw this posted by @Akatsuki_JAXA (the Akatsuki Venus mission's official Twitter identity) and thought it was cute so I'm sharing it here.

Dawn's instruments are being roused for Vesta approach

Emily Lakdawalla • March 21, 2011

Today the Dawn imaging team released a photo from the main camera, the Framing Camera, symbolizing that they're preparing to start Dawn approach science; the other two science instruments, a spectrometer and a neutron detector, are also being turned on and checked out.

Neat video of Curiosity drive testing (plus a code-cracking challenge)

Emily Lakdawalla • March 21, 2011

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory has posted a short video showing some recent testing of an engineering model of the Mars Science Laboratory in their outdoor Mars Yard; they're testing the performance of the rover's driving capability over slopes of varying steepness and covered with bedrock, compacted sand, and very loose sand.

MESSENGER successfully entered orbit at Mercury!

Emily Lakdawalla • March 17, 2011

Just a brief post to announce that at 01:00 UTC MESSENGER completed a 15-minute burn of its main engines to enter orbit at Mercury!

Mercury: a moon-scale body

Emily Lakdawalla • March 17, 2011

As I wait for the MESSENGER Mercury Orbit Insertion webcast to start, I thought I'd fiddle with some images to point out that Mercury is a bridge between the scales of planets and the scales of moons.

How to follow MESSENGER's orbit insertion today

Emily Lakdawalla • March 17, 2011

The day is finally here! In only five and a half hours, at 00:45 on March 18 (according to the spacecraft's clock), MESSENGER must ignite its main engine and run though a third of its fuel in only 15 minutes in order to enter its planned orbit around Mercury.

LPSC 2011: Day 4: Ted Stryk on icy moons and The Moon

Ted Stryk • March 17, 2011

Here are Ted Stryk's notes from the sessions he attended in the afternoon of Thursday, March 10, at the 42nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.

Nick Schneider: Notes on an earthquake

Nick Schneider • March 16, 2011

I was heading south to Tokyo with Seiko and Ishi, two students from the conference. We were planning a dinner together, maybe catching the nighttime skyline from the top of Tokyo Tower. I dozed off as the train flew silently through the countryside. Next thing I knew, Seiko was shaking me awake saying "Earthquake! Earthquake."

Stardust: Decommissioning planned for March 24

Emily Lakdawalla • March 16, 2011

Stardust (probably) has only a week remaining in its operational lifetime, according to a status report just posted to the mission website.

LPSC 2011: Analysis of the grains returned by Hayabusa

Emily Lakdawalla • March 16, 2011

I'd been despairing of finding a good source for a writeup of the presentations in the Hayabusa session at last week's Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, but am happy to report that I've finally found an excellent one.

Two days from MESSENGER's Mercury arrival

Emily Lakdawalla • March 15, 2011

Today the MESSENGER team briefed the press on the impending arrival of their spacecraft at Mercury.

LPSC 2011: Kirby Runyon on Mars, the Moon, Hartley 2, and Ganymede

Kirby Runyon • March 15, 2011

Kirby Runyon, a second-year grad student at Temple University, offered to send me some writeups of selected presentations from last week's Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, and I enthusiastically agreed.

The curse of living on a geologically active planet

Emily Lakdawalla • March 14, 2011

As the disaster of the magnitude 8.9 Sendai quake of Friday, March 11, at 05:46:23 UTC continues to unfold in Japan, I have been unable to tear my attention away.

365 Days of Astronomy Podcast: A MESSENGER to Mercury

Emily Lakdawalla • March 14, 2011

I've got another 365 Days of Astronomy podcast airing today, this one an overview of the MESSENGER mission with particular attention to what's been learned in the three Mercury flybys, and what's going to happen when it enters orbit only a little more than three days from now!

LPSC 2011: Wanted: Pioneer 10 & 11 digital data

Emily Lakdawalla • March 11, 2011

This is both a Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) update and a public service announcement. Ted Stryk has been working for years to locate the original Pioneer 10 and 11 image data from the Jupiter and Saturn encounters.

LPSC 2011: Day 3: Deep Impact at Hartley 2

Emily Lakdawalla • March 10, 2011

Wednesday's sessions at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) on the Deep Impact flyby of Hartley 2 were one of two that I was most looking forward to, the other being this morning's talks on Hayabusa's samples from Itokawa, about which I don't yet have any notes. I am again grateful to Franck Marchis and Andy Rivkin for sending me their notes on Hartley 2.

LPSC 2011: Day 3: Moon, Mars, and Venus

Ted Stryk • March 10, 2011

Wednesday morning included some interesting conversations. Notably, I spoke with Pamela Gay, who is responsible for the MoonZoo citizen science program and who is presently working on developing a site through which the public will be able to help search for potential Kuiper belt objects for the New Horizons mission to encounter after the Pluto flyby.

Martian timekeeping

Emily Lakdawalla • March 09, 2011

While scanning through the talks scheduled for this week's Lunar and Planetary Science Conference I came across the following talk title: "Interannual and Seasonal Variability in the North Polar Region of Mars: Observations in Mars Years 29 and 30 by MARCI, CTX, and CRISM." My first thought was "hey, cool research spanning a long time period and across data sets." But my second was "Mars years 29 and 30? What does that mean?"

Pretty picture: Viking 1 across Mars

Emily Lakdawalla • March 09, 2011

Image magician Daniel Macháček has been turning his energies to Viking Orbiter views of Mars lately, with some stunning results, like the one below. I'm not sure how he makes images that look so sharp and clean and with such rich color out of the Viking Orbiter data.

LPSC 2011: Day 1: Small bodies

Emily Lakdawalla • March 08, 2011

Here are some of the noteworthy items from the morning's session on "Small Bodies: A Traverse from NEOs to TNOs" and the afternoon's session on "Asteroid Geophysics and Processes: Surfaces and Interiors."

Pretty picture: Saturn storm

Emily Lakdawalla • March 08, 2011

To relieve this week's text-heavy LPSC posts, here's a brief one on an incredible panorama across Saturn's northern storm, taken on February 26 by Cassini and assembled by unmannedspaceflight.com member "Astro0."

The 42nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC)

Emily Lakdawalla • March 07, 2011

Science is all about asking questions, coming up with ideas that might explain the answers, and then poking at those ideas to see if they work. Scientists spend much of their time in solitary research working out those ideas. But they also devote big chunks of time to meetings where they pitch their ideas and see what their peers think of them.

Public service announcement: How to use Wget to grab the 2011 LPSC abstracts

Emily Lakdawalla • March 03, 2011

The Lunar and Planetary Science Conference is happening next week. The sessions and abstracts are all in PDF format, so it's tiresome to access them online; I much prefer to download them all to my computer and browse them locally.

What does decommissioning a spacecraft entail?

Emily Lakdawalla • March 03, 2011

In my last couple of posts about the Stardust spacecraft, which is now basically out of fuel after a remarkably successful extended mission to comet Tempel 1, I've mentioned that it's soon to be decommissioned. A reader asked me: what does it mean to decommission a spacecraft?

Endeavour on Opportunity's horizon: Are we there yet?

Emily Lakdawalla • March 02, 2011

Last week the Mars Exploration Rover team dumped another 90 sols' worth of data from Mars into NASA's Planetary Data System, the national repository for space mission data. As I did once before, I dove into this fresh pile of data to pull out Opportunity's color views of the distant rim of Endeavour crater.

Explore the Moon in 3D through the Chandrayaan-1 TMC image data set

Emily Lakdawalla • March 01, 2011

Data from two of the cameras aboard Chandrayaan-1 are now available through the ISRO Science Data Archive (ISDA), a new(?) site that is being established to host the data from ISRO's deep-space missions.

Map the world's light pollution by participating in GLOBE at Night

Emily Lakdawalla • March 01, 2011

Now in its sixth year, GLOBE at Night is a citizen science program that marshals the eyes of thousands of people around the world once a year to assess the degree to which light pollution diminishes our views of starry skies.

What's up in the solar system in March 2011

Emily Lakdawalla • February 28, 2011

I don't think there's any question what the big event of this month will be: MESSENGER is finally, finally entering orbit at Mercury on March 18 at 00:45 UTC (March 17 at 16:45 for me).

Announcing the winners of the "Are We There Yet?" contest

Emily Lakdawalla • February 28, 2011

I'm pleased to announce the winners of the Planetary Society's "Are We There Yet?" Stardust contest!

365 Days of Astronomy Podcast: Stardust at Tempel 1

Emily Lakdawalla • February 28, 2011

Yesterday the 365 Days of Astronomy podcast aired my contribution, Stardust at Tempel 1: The First Second Trip to a Comet.

Stardust update: last image taken today

Emily Lakdawalla • February 24, 2011

According to the Stardust website, the spacecraft has continued taking navigational camera images of Tempel 1 since last Monday's flyby. But "This will end with a Navcam calibration that will take place [today]. This will be the end of the official Tempel 1 encounter activities. Planning is under way for the decommissioning of the spacecraft."

New website full of color versions of Opportunity rover's microscopic images

Emily Lakdawalla • February 24, 2011

There is a fascinating new page on the Mars Exploration Rover Pancam science team's website, full of color versions of Opportunity's microscopic images. The Microscopic Imager is one of the tools on the end of the robotic arm, and serves as a hand lens for the robot geologist to explore the rocks and sands of Mars in great detail.

A dog-bone-shaped asteroid's two moons: Kleopatra, Cleoselene, and Alexhelios

Emily Lakdawalla • February 23, 2011

Asteroid (216) Kleopatra has been interesting to astronomers for a long time because its brightness is highly variable, but it seems to get more interesting every time somebody looks at it with a new instrument. This week a paper was published in Icarus revealed that it's 30 to 50% empty space.

Rosetta Update: 98% of rendezvous burn achieved, more detail on the safing event

Emily Lakdawalla • February 22, 2011

ESA's Rosetta comet chaser has achieved 98% of the velocity change that it needed to accomplish in order to set itself up for the final leg of its cruise to comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The original plan was to perform this velocity change in a series of five rocket burns at the end of January, but the plans were interrupted by a scary event: the spacecraft went into safe mode during the second burn, on January 18.

The Solar System from the Inside Out - and the Outside In

Emily Lakdawalla • February 18, 2011

Space probes grant us perspective, the ability to see our place within the vastness of the solar system. But opportunities to see all of the solar system's planets in one observation are rare. In fact, there's only been one opportunity on one mission to see the whole solar system at once, until now.

Sounds of Stardust, and a cool morphed Tempel 1 video

Emily Lakdawalla • February 18, 2011

Here's two more items from Tuesday's flyby of comet Tempel 1 by the Stardust spacecraft to add to my previous roundup of Tempel 1 data. The first represents data from a dust counting instrument, portrayed as sound, and the second is a terrific morph animation of the flyby produced by Daniel Macháček.

Conjunction season is over, and Opportunity is back to work

Emily Lakdawalla • February 17, 2011

It's always a relief when conjunction passes. Opportunity has gotten right back to work, sending down data acquired just before the moratorium, which spanned from January 27 to February 11.

Some early scientific impressions of Stardust's Tempel 1 flyby

Emily Lakdawalla • February 16, 2011

I've spent a day with the Stardust images from Tempel 1, and had a chat with co-investigator Jessica Sunshine, so here are a bunch of images with some preliminary scientific commentary.

All Stardust data is now on Earth

Emily Lakdawalla • February 15, 2011

A status update from Stardust posted this afternoon contained welcome news.

Highlights from today's Stardust Tempel 1 press briefing

Emily Lakdawalla • February 15, 2011

It was a very happy science team at this afternoon's press briefing following the Stardust encounter with Tempel 1.

Quick-and-dirty animation of Stardust Tempel 1 images through closest approach

Emily Lakdawalla • February 15, 2011

Here's a quick-and-dirty animated GIF of the 39 images of Tempel 1 that have arrived on Earth so far from Stardust. I've put a big watermark on this animation because it's not a final product.

High-res images of Tempel 1 from Stardust now arriving

Emily Lakdawalla • February 15, 2011

I really didn't expect these images to look so good! I'd prepared myself for blurry images and a lot of squinting to try to match up features in pictures between Deep Impact and Stardust views of Tempel 1, but in fact the resemblance is obvious and you can clearly see that they successfully imaged the area in which Deep Impact's Impactor craft collided with the comet.

First image from Stardust! ...but a delay for the close-approach ones

Emily Lakdawalla • February 15, 2011

Here it is, the first image from Stardust of Tempel 1 during the close-approach phase!

Stardust update: Things seem to have gone well with Tempel 1 flyby

Emily Lakdawalla • February 14, 2011

Just a brief update on the Stardust flyby of Tempel 1, which happened about half an hour ago: the spacecraft seems to have executed the flyby as commanded and has 72 science images on board.

Stardust flies by Tempel 1 in 5 hours, and I'll be watching!

Emily Lakdawalla • February 14, 2011

Stardust is very close to the last major act of its mission: the flyby of Tempel 1, which will take place at 20:40 PST (04:40 UTC). Here's a summary of the recent and current status of the mission, and how to follow the events over the next 24 hours.

Happy Valentine's Day from Mars

Emily Lakdawalla • February 14, 2011

I dug around and found something unique: this cool heart-shaped feature on Mars -- my Valentine to you all!

Snapshots from Space: Voyager views of the Great Red Spot, Björn Jönsson

Emily Lakdawalla • February 10, 2011

I've got a new column in the Planetary Society's member magazine, The Planetary Report, called "Snapshots from Space," highlighting really cool amateur-processed images. I'm excited to have the opportunity to help these people get their work published!

Stardust update: Almost to Tempel 1

Emily Lakdawalla • February 10, 2011

We're coming up on the final days of Stardust's approach to Tempel 1. The flyby takes place on February 15 at 04:56 UTC (February 14 at 20:56 PST).

Google Mars base maps available for Opportunity's future traverse

Emily Lakdawalla • February 09, 2011

Thanks to the work of several amateurs, Google Mars is a great tool for following the past and future peregrinations of the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity.

Close approach to Earth turns Apollo into Aten

Emily Lakdawalla • February 08, 2011

Last week we got buzzed by a very small asteroid, something that happens fairly often. But there were several details that made the close approach of asteroid 2011 CQ1 worthy of note.

Some recent pictures of Saturn's northern storm

Emily Lakdawalla • February 07, 2011

There is a huge storm that's spreading across so much of Saturn that it's been readily visible even from Earth-based telescopes. Over the past couple of days a couple of new images of Saturn have appeared that show just how enormous the storm is today.

How much is Vesta's geology controlled by its one huge impact feature?

Emily Lakdawalla • February 07, 2011

Here's a neat paper just published in Geophysical Research Letters: "Mega-ejecta on asteroid Vesta." In it, Martin Jutzi and Erik Asphaug consider Vesta's shape -- which appears to be dominated by a very large impact crater centered at its south pole -- and ask how much of the great big asteroid Vesta's global appearance is likely to be dominated by the effects of that one large impact.

More on Kepler exoplanet discoveries

Emily Lakdawalla • February 04, 2011

Here's some links to some good followup stories on Wednesday's Kepler press briefing.

Mars conjunction today: Cool SOHO/SDO video

Emily Lakdawalla • February 04, 2011

Today Mars made its closest approach to the Sun -- as seen from Earth, that is. Why is this important?

Rosetta update: Scary safe mode, but all's well now

Emily Lakdawalla • February 04, 2011

The Rosetta blog has been strangely quiet of late, after they had been quite actively posting updates on the status of Rosetta during a critical series of orbit adjustment burns, which I wrote about two weeks ago.

What's up in the solar system in February 2011

Emily Lakdawalla • February 03, 2011

Welcome to my monthly roundup of what's happening with our deep-space explorers across the solar system. I apologize for its lateness; two sick kids have drastically affected my productivity this week, but they're better and now I'm getting back to work.

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astronaut on Phobos
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