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Blogs

Emily Lakdawalla's blogs from 2012

Pretty picture: Jupiter photo from an unusual source

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/12/26 01:02 CST | 4 comments

A recently launched Earth-observing satellite is using the stars to practice its pointing, and caught a neat animation of Jupiter.

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Planetary Society Weekly Hangout, Thu Dec 20 1200PT/2000UT: Making Titan in the laboratory with Sarah Hörst

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/12/19 10:06 CST | 3 comments

Join us for our weekly Google+ Hangout Thursday at noon PT / 2000 UT. This week, I'm excited to have as a guest Sarah Hörst. Sarah is a postdoc at the University of Colorado whose current line of research involves experimental work on the complex atmospheric chemistry of Titan. She is also applying to be an astronaut!

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Mars Express VMC resumes raw data posting

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/12/19 09:31 CST | 2 comments

ESA brought Mars Express' VMC back online in May, but hasn't been posting the images. This week, they launched a new process to release VMC images automatically to a Flickr page.

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My ever-popular asteroids-and-comets montage, now in color, with bonus Toutatis

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/12/18 04:26 CST | 9 comments

My collage of all the asteroids and comets visited by spacecraft is probably the single most popular image I have ever posted on this blog. I've now updated it to be in color and to include Toutatis.

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Chang'E 2 imaging of Toutatis succeeded beyond my expectations!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/12/14 05:59 CST | 19 comments

The Chang'E 2 mission flyby of Toutatis succeeded in acquiring images. Oh my goodness, did they succeed. These, in combination with the incredible radar images still being acquired from Goldstone and innumerable optical observations, make Toutatis one of the best-studied asteroids in the solar system.

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How GRAIL will meet its end

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/12/13 05:34 CST | 2 comments

The twin GRAIL spacecraft are nearly out of fuel, and are being directed to a controlled impact near the north pole on the near side of the Moon on December 17. Before the end, though, they did some cool things, including flying within 2000 meters of mountaintops, and catching video of Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in flight.

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More recommended nonfiction and activity space books for children

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/12/11 04:59 CST | 2 comments

My final set of reviews of children's books for 2012: five recommended nonfiction books for a range of ages.

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Isostasy, gravity, and the Moon: an explainer of the first results of the GRAIL mission

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/12/11 01:04 CST | 15 comments

Last week the GRAIL mission published their first scientific results, and what they have found will send many geophysicists back to the drawing board to explain how the Moon formed and why it looks the way it does now. To explain how, I'm going to have to back way up, and explain the basic science behind gravity data.

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Reviews of nonfiction book series for children

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/12/10 05:49 CST

Here are four recommended space nonfiction book series that would make excellent additions to any children's library.

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Blast from the past: Mariner 4's images of Mars

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/12/10 09:15 CST | 5 comments

While hunting for photos to use in a presentation, I came across a couple of different amateur takes on the Mariner 4 photo catalog.

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Asteroid 4179 Toutatis' upcoming encounters with Earth and Chang'E 2

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/12/06 12:19 CST | 6 comments

Near-Earth asteroid 4179 Toutatis will be passing within 7 million kilometers of Earth on December 12. Both radio telescopes and the Chang'E 2 spacecraft will be acquiring images.

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Curiosity update, sol 117: Progress report from AGU

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/12/05 07:58 CST | 4 comments

Monday was the big Curiosity day at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union. A morning press briefing was followed by an afternoon science session. I traveled to San Francisco briefly just to attend those two events. Here's my notes on the first science reports from the mission.

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Planetary Society Weekly Hangout: present and future rovers

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/12/05 06:56 CST | 3 comments

The Planetary Society has a new weekly Google+ Hangout time slot, Thursdays at noon PT / 1800 UT. This week, Casey Dreier and I talked about the Curiosity kerfuffle and NASA's future rover plans. Here's the archived recording.

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Rovers are awesome, but where's the science?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/12/05 03:55 CST | 17 comments

Now that Casey has explained the budget implications of yesterday's 2020 rover announcement, and The Planetary Society has issued a formal statement, I thought it was time for me to talk briefly about science.

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The Curiosity Kerfuffle: the big (and increasing) difference between data and discovery

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/12/03 03:12 CST | 17 comments

I'm in San Francisco, reporting from the American Geophysical Union meeting. This morning, there was a much-anticipated press briefing featuring the latest results from Curiosity.

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OSIRIS-REx "Name That Asteroid!" Contest Deadline Extended to December 31

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/11/30 03:32 CST

Good news, everyone! The OSIRIS-REx team wants to give as many kids as possible a chance to Name That Asteroid! The contest entry deadline has been extended to December 31.

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More than you probably wanted to know about Curiosity's SAM instrument

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/11/30 12:31 CST | 26 comments

With all the hoopla surrounding the unknown results of the first analysis of a soil sample by Curiosity's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument, I thought an explainer would be useful. What is SAM, what is it designed to measure, and what is the nature of its results? Here you go.

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SMBC on NASA announcements

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/11/29 11:56 CST

Zach Weiner of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal critiques NASA's announcement style.

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Water ice and organics at Mercury's poles

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/11/29 02:16 CST | 9 comments

Water ice at Mercury's poles? That's crazy, right? The MESSENGER team has made a very good case that radar-bright material seen by the Arecibo telescope is, in fact, water ice, covered in most places by a veneer of dark organic material.

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That amazing image of Saturn's north pole just got better: now, it moves!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/11/28 11:27 CST | 2 comments

Remember the amazing photo of Saturn's north pole that I posted yesterday? Now, thanks to an amateur image processor, it moves, and the motions of the individual clouds within the belts are mesmerizing.

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Staring into Saturn's baleful eye

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/11/27 11:12 CST | 12 comments

Amazing photos have just come back from Cassini, of swirling clouds surrounding Saturn's north pole.

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Pretty Picture: Curiosity on the edge of a geologist's paradise

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/11/26 03:11 CST | 1 comment

On Saturday, while parked for the Thanksgiving holiday at the edge of Glenelg, Curiosity took a lovely panorama pointed to the east and into Glenelg.

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Two beautiful space picture books by Michael Benson

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/11/26 12:03 CST | 1 comment

Michael Benson's Planetfall and a children's edition of his earlier book Beyond put the gorgeous pictures returned from space front and center.

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Free access to Springer journal PDFs through November 30!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/11/23 11:52 CST | 10 comments

Springer has made online access to PDF copies of several of their journals free through November 30. One of them, Space Science Reviews, is the one that publishes the canonical papers on most spacecraft instruments. It's a bonanza!

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Cosmoquest Science Hour, Wednesday: Curiosity update with Emily and Fraser

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/11/21 05:30 CST | 6 comments

This week's Cosmoquest Astronomy Hour Google+ Hangout at 1600 PST / midnight UTC on Wednesday will feature me and Fraser Cain talking about what Curiosity's been up to, and answering your questions.

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Nifty animation: Dust in the air for Curiosity

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/11/21 11:21 CST

An animation of Curiosity photos shows changes in the weather.

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Curiosity news that's not news (or maybe it is), and some thoughts on art and science

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/11/20 12:24 CST | 5 comments

This morning while driving to work I heard a terrific story about Curiosity on National Public Radio from Joe Palca, NPR's science correspondent. It was a great story despite the fact that it contained virtually no news. The nugget of non-news is that SAM's analysis of Mars soil has yielded some unspecified, exciting, but not-yet-confirmed result. But that's not really what Palca's story is about.

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Curiosity sol 102 update: Eppur si muove

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/11/19 06:36 CST | 2 comments

Curiosity is a rover again at last! She was parked at the dune named Rocknest for 40 sols, from sol 60 through 99. On sol 100, she drove right on top of the dune, obliterating her five scoop marks. Then on sol 102 she took a good long, 35-meter drive so that she's now right on the edge of the "high thermal inertia unit" that attracted her to the spot the team has named Glenelg.

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Dawn Vesta Data is publicly available (for real this time!)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/11/16 07:08 CST | 2 comments

After a false start earlier this year, the first chunk of Dawn Framing Camera data from Vesta has finally made it to the Planetary Data System. As a first step to understanding the data set, I've built some index pages to these cool images.

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A spectacular calendar for 2013

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/11/13 09:02 CST | 2 comments

Steve Cariddi's Year in Space wall calendar crams an incredible variety of information into a beautiful, large wall calendar that is great for grownups, kids, or classrooms.

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Carl Sagan: "If membership is restricted to men, the loss will be ours."

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/11/13 01:06 CST | 6 comments

When Casey invited me to participate in last Friday's "Sagan Slam," I wasn't sure what I would read, but I found a great letter of his explaining why women, as well as men, should be considered among the world's great explorers.

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Up Goer Five

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/11/12 10:57 CST

In a stroke of pure genius, Randall Munroe of the web comic XKCD describes "Up Goer Five" with the ten hundred most commonly used words in the English language.

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Beautiful butterfly crater on Mars (another HiWish granted!)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/11/08 07:16 CST | 6 comments

I asked Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to take a photo, and it turned out better than I had imagined: an incredibly fresh, well-preserved, dramatically rayed oblique impact crater.

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Cosmoquest Science Hour, Wednesday: Take a taste of Mars with Pamela Conrad, Curiosity SAM Instrument Deputy PI

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/11/07 05:30 CST | 6 comments

This week's Cosmoquest Astronomy Hour Google+ Hangout at 1600 PDT / 2300 UTC on Wednesday will feature Pamela Conrad, the deputy principal investigator for Curiosity's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument. Tune in to learn more about how this experiment will change our view of Mars, and to ask your questions!

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Watching the slow shift of seasons on Titan

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/11/06 02:45 CST | 1 comment

A sharp-eyed amateur noticed two images of Titan taken 20 months apart from nearly exactly the same perspective, and they illustrate how the shifting of Saturn's seasons has brought change to Titan's atmosphere.

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Soliciting input for an idea on slides

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/11/05 07:09 CST | 19 comments

I'm directing a question at professional and amateur space scientists and educators: could I make slide sets that would help you educate the public about what's going on in planetary exploration?

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Making an ugly rock beautiful

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/11/02 08:03 CDT | 1 comment

Today I stumbled upon the Lunar and Planetary Institute's Lunar Sample Atlas, and was reminded of how much I love petrographic thin sections. They can make unassuming, cruddy looking rocks beautiful.

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Huge self-portrait of Curiosity on Mars

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/11/01 07:27 CDT | 9 comments

Curiosity used MAHLI, the scientific camera at the end of the robotic arm, to shoot a huge color portrait of herself sitting on Mars, with Gale's central mountain in the background.

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Getting up to speed with Curiosity as of sol 84, and two awesome mosaics

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/31 07:39 CDT | 6 comments

Curiosity has already spent more than three weeks at Rocknest, working through the very slow process of commissioning the sample handling systems. While parked, she's taken a couple of amazing photo mosaics.

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Reviews of space-themed story books for children

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/29 11:20 CDT

In an annual tradition, I review eight children's story books with planetary and astronomy themes. Favorites include Pieces of Another World by Mara Rockliff and Solar System Forecast by Kelly Kizer Whitt.

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Hurricane Sandy: Thanks for lives saved already

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/29 11:32 CDT

Today hurricane Sandy is a major threat to life and property across the west coast of the northern Atlantic ocean. I just want to give thanks in advance to all the people who have devoted their careers to making sure that Americans have sufficient warning of devastating, unstoppable weather events like this one.

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DPS 2012: Double occultation by Pluto and Charon

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/26 03:12 CDT | 5 comments

A few talks at last week's Division for Planetary Sciences meeting discussed observations of a double occultation -- both Pluto and Charon passing in front of the same star.

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DPS 2012: Who were you wearing?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/24 04:32 CDT | 2 comments

Scientific conferences have become more fun since it suddenly became cool to be a geek. I thoroughly enjoy the "geek uniform" of witty T-shirt and jeans, and did my best to wardrobe myself in relevant geekwear each day of the meeting. This post is for all the people at DPS who asked where my clothes came from.

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DPS 2012: Future impact risks

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/24 01:14 CDT | 7 comments

Continuing my writeup of notes from last week's Division for Planetary Sciences meeting: presentations on the risks of future asteroid impacts. How much risk do we face, and what are the appropriate actions to take in the face of that risk?

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Oct. 24 Cosmoquest Astronomy Hour: Special DPS update

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/23 10:15 CDT

Join me and Fraser Cain for a brief update on Curiosity and other exciting science presented at last week's Division for Planetary Sciences meeting, and get your pressing space questions answered! The Google+ Hangout is on Wednesday, October 24, at 16:00 PDT / 23:00 UTC. Note: this one will end about 15 minutes early.

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A huge color global view of Dione

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/23 02:33 CDT

From the Cassini data archives comes a huge (5000 pixels square!) color image of Saturn's icy moon Dione, worth investigating from both near and far.

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Book Review: Planetary Surface Processes, by H. Jay Melosh

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/23 12:18 CDT | 2 comments

Planetary Surface Processes provides a rigorous overview of every process that shapes the appearance of planetary surfaces, and I'll be referring to it to help me explain everything from impact cratering to isostasy.

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DPS 2012: The most detailed images of Uranus' atmosphere ever

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/22 04:14 CDT | 3 comments

New ground-based images of Uranus show more finely detailed structure than any photos I have ever seen.

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DPS 2012, Day 5: How to make asteroids crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/19 07:53 CDT | 2 comments

A summary of just one talk from the Division for Planetary Sciences meeting, by Lindy Elkins-Tanton, which provided a neat explanation for how asteroids can be melted and layered on the inside yet have a primitive-looking exterior.

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DPS 2012, Tuesday: Titan's surface

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/17 10:22 CDT | 4 comments

Tuesday morning at the Division of Planetary Sciences meeting featured talks on the surface composition and landforms on Titan, including lakes and "hot cross buns."

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DPS 2012, Monday: Icy moons and a four-star exoplanet

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/15 11:31 CDT | 1 comment

In the first full day of the annual meeting of the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society, I listened to scientific sessions on icy worlds and on an exoplanet in a four-star system.

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Bringing you the latest science from the 2012 Division of Planetary Sciences meeting

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/14 07:49 CDT | 2 comments

I've just arrived in Reno, Nevada for the annual meeting of the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society. Here's an introduction and a few useful links; stay tuned the rest of the week for new science from all over the solar system and beyond.

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Book Review: The International Atlas of Mars Exploration, by Phil Stooke

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/12 04:31 CDT | 3 comments

I've been waiting for the publication of this book for years. Phil Stooke's International Atlas of Mars Exploration, just published by Cambridge University Press, is an exhaustively awesome labor of love, chronicling the first five decades of Mars exploration in pictures, maps, and facts.

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First science reports from Curiosity's APXS and ChemCam: Petrology on Jake Matijevic

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/12 01:18 CDT | 16 comments

A Curiosity press briefing yesterday gave some of the first results from ChemCam and APXS on the rock "Jake Matijevic." It was a little too much petrology for most people; I do my best to explain.

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Pretty panoramas: Curiosity's scenic views of distant hills

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/11 07:37 CDT | 3 comments

The landscapes that surround Curiosity are picture-postcard beautiful.

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Pretty picture: Late afternoon in Gale Crater

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/09 05:36 CDT | 3 comments

Curiosity shot a lovely panoramic view of the distant rim of Gale crater in the dramatic lighting of late afternoon on sol 49. Damien Bouic has colorized it, and it is beautiful.

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Cosmoquest Astronomy Hour, Wednesday: What's up with Curiosity on Mars

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/09 03:45 CDT | 2 comments

It's becoming a biweekly thing -- join me, Fraser Cain, and now Casey Dreier for an update on Curiosity and a chance for you to get your Curiosity questions answered! The Google+ Hangout is on Wednesday, October 10, at 16:00 PDT / 23:00 UTC.

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Mangalyaan update: Testing of main engine underway

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/09 11:25 CDT | 1 comment

A report in the Times of India states that India's Mars mission's main engine is now being tested.

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Happy Cassini PDS Release Day!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/08 01:00 CDT | 2 comments

It's a quarterly feast day for me: the day that the Cassini mission delivers three months' worth of data to NASA's Planetary Data System. Here's a few images processed from the October 1, 2012 data release.

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Deep Impact targets possible 2020 asteroid flyby

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/05 12:28 CDT | 3 comments

Yesterday, Deep Impact performed a trajectory correction maneuver, firing its thrusters to line up for a flyby seven years from now. Here's a preview of that encounter.

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Curiosity Update, sol 57: Digging in at Rocknest

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/04 03:27 CDT | 2 comments

Engineers requested that Curiosity be driven to a "nice sandbox" to play in for the first soil sample, and it appears that a sand drift named Rocknest satisfies that requirement.

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Curiosity catches sunspots along with Phobos and Deimos transits

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/03 07:15 CDT | 2 comments

Curiosity has been shooting photos of the Sun as Phobos and Deimos cross its face, and -- as far as I can tell -- captured sunspots as well.

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Beautiful rocks ahead at Glenelg, but first, Curiosity must dig in the sand

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/01 05:31 CDT | 4 comments

A beautiful panoramic view of the varied rocks of Glenelg has been transmitted from Curiosity on Mars. But before going any further, it's time to run the first Martian sand through the soil sampling system.

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What's Up in the Solar System in October 2012

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/09/28 05:27 CDT | 2 comments

Welcome to my monthly survey of the activities of robots across the solar system! Tomorrow is the equinox at Mars; both Curiosity and Opportunity will be spending the month actively analyzing Martian rocks. It'll be a less active month for Cassini, as Saturn passes through solar conjunction late next month.

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Curiosity Update, Sol 52: Glenelg Ho!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/09/28 02:28 CDT

Curiosity has pulled up to the edge of Glenelg, its first destination within Gale crater.

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Mangalyaan, India's 2013 Mars mission, is now under construction

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/09/27 12:33 CDT | 10 comments

In August, India's prime minister announced the intent to build and launch a Mars orbiter in time for the November 2013 launch window, an insanely fast schedule. The structure of the spacecraft has now been delivered.

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An alien moon, photographed from the surface of an alien world

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/09/26 12:10 CDT | 8 comments

Curiosity has successfully photographed a crescent Phobos in a bright daylit Martian sky.

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Cosmoquest Science Hour, Wednesday: A virtual field trip to the hills on Curiosity's horizon

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/09/25 04:50 CDT | 2 comments

I'm hosting this week's Cosmoquest Science Hour, and plan to take viewers on a virtual tour of those mountains on Curiosity's horizon, and show you where Curiosity is likely to go. Join me and Fraser Cain here at 1600 PDT / 2300 UTC Wednesday.

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Video: Endeavour's final liftoff

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/09/21 04:41 CDT | 1 comment

I was at Edwards Air Force Base this morning for Endeavour's last takeoff, and shot video as it roared past me. Follow the link for 3D video.

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A 3D photo album of Endeavour at Edwards Air Force Base

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/09/20 11:01 CDT | 7 comments

I drove up to Edwards Air Force Base today to see the shuttle carrier aircraft NASA 905 carry in the space shuttle Endeavour, which will be delivered to Los Angeles tomorrow. I'm not a great photographer but I do have a 3D camera; here's an album.

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Curiosity sol 43 update: First science stop

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/09/19 05:24 CDT | 8 comments

It's now the early hours of sol 44, and JPL held a phone briefing today with the latest news from Curiosity. She's now driven about 300 meters, and has stopped at her first science target, a rock the team has named for the late Jake Matijevic.

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Endeavour's final mission has begun

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/09/19 11:38 CDT

Piggybacked on the shuttle carrier aircraft NASA 905, Endeavour has departed Florida for the last time. Her journey will take her to Los Angeles, where she'll begin a new and different kind of mission at the California Science Center.

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Pretty picture: rocks underfoot at Curiosity's landing site

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/09/17 02:54 CDT | 4 comments

An amateur-processed mosaic of some intriguing-looking broken rocks along Curiosity's traverse. They were intriguing enough to photograph with the Mastcam -- but not enough to stop and check them out, as Curiosity has already rolled on.

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Curiosity sol 38 update: arm tests done, on the road again, and an important question answered

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/09/14 06:28 CDT

Curiosity has completed Commissioning Activity Period 2 and is on the road again. I asked Daniel Limonadi to explain a couple of the photos of tests being performed on CHIMRA, and took the opportunity to ask him an amusing question that came up during a previous Google+ Hangout.

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Pretty Picture: Eagle's Landing

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/09/13 03:59 CDT

Amateur image processor Tom Dahl's spectacularly high-resolution version of Buzz Aldrin's panoramic view of the Apollo 11 landing site.

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Cosmoquest Astronomy Hour replay: What's up with Curiosity on Mars, with guest: me! (yes, again)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/09/12 07:00 CDT | 8 comments

Fraser Cain and I had a wide-ranging conversation about Curiosity's recent activities on Mars during the Cosmoquest Astronomy Hour.

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Spring arrives to Vesta's north pole, as Dawn departs, plus a request for citizen scientists

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/09/11 11:08 CDT | 3 comments

Dawn's last images of Vesta peek into previously shadowy north polar territory. As the spacecraft leaves Vesta behind, its science team requests help from the public.

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IKAROS is alive! (Or: oh me of little faith!)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/09/11 12:27 CDT

I am rarely so glad to admit that I was wrong as when it's about the failure of a mission. Only last month, I speculated that IKAROS's mission was done. And now the news comes that IKAROS has been heard from -- twice! -- on September 6 and 8, 2012.

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A couple of gems from the archives

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/09/10 11:07 CDT | 2 comments

We're still working on migrating content from the old to the new website. This week, that means I am looking, one by one, through some great amateur-processed space images.

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MAHLI sees Curiosity's wheels firmly on Martian ground

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/09/10 12:39 CDT | 3 comments

MAHLI opened its "eye" on sol 33, seeing Mars clearly for the first time. On sol 34, Curiosity used MAHLI to survey the parts that Mastcam can't see, including a view right underneath the rover.

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Hello, beautiful!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/09/07 11:24 CDT | 3 comments

Curiosity's much-anticipated self-portrait with the MAHLI camera just arrived on Earth, and even though it was shot through the dust cover it is AWESOME.

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Pretty picture: bizarre spherules

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/09/06 04:25 CDT | 5 comments

A wonderfully strange photo from Opportunity's exploration of Cape York, Endeavour Crater.

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Checking in on Curiosity after sol 30

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/09/06 03:54 CDT | 4 comments

Curiosity completed the "Intermission" phase on sol 29, and began checking out the robotic arm.

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Cure for the blues: processing images of a blue planet

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/09/06 01:00 CDT

I noticed today that I hadn't seen any amateur-processed versions of Voyager's departing shots of Uranus, so I decided to give it a try.

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An amazing LEGO model of Curiosity

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/09/03 09:15 CDT | 1 comment

A petite model of Curiosity in LEGO accurately represents many of its features and functions.

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What's Up in the Solar System in September 2012

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/08/31 04:17 CDT | 4 comments

It's an active time in interplanetary exploration! Curiosity has begun roving Mars, and Opportunity's not wasting any time either. Dawn has just departed Vesta and begun the more than two-year cruise to Ceres. Juno is in the middle of a big deep-space maneuver, setting up next year's Earth flyby.

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HiRISE's best view of Curiosity yet

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/08/31 12:50 CDT | 10 comments

HiRISE's best opportunity to view Curiosity so far came 12 days after landing, when the orbiter passed nearly directly overhead. The photo resolves amazing detail on the huge rover.

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An unheralded anniversary
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Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/08/28 11:57 CDT | 16 comments

Yesterday, August 27th, 2012, was, in a sense, the 50th anniversary of interplanetary travel. Fifty years ago yesterday, Mariner 2 launched toward Venus, and became the first object to leave Earth and travel to another world.

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Explaining the new black-and-white Mastcam and MARDI raw images

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/08/24 05:05 CDT | 2 comments

If you've been obsessively checking the Curiosity raw images websites for new pictures from Mars, you might have noticed something weird: a bunch of Mastcam images and a few from MARDI that are black-and-white instead of color, and which have a peculiar checkerboard pattern.

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The definitive version of Curiosity's first color panorama

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/08/23 06:15 CDT | 8 comments

The top of the mountain has finally been filled in, and Damien Bouic has produced what I think is the definitive version of Curiosity's first color panorama.

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New spots on Uranus

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/08/22 05:42 CDT | 5 comments

New Hubble photos show that Uranus has both dark and bright spots!

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Saturn's still there

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/08/22 07:01 CDT | 8 comments

A pretty picture of Cassini's current view of Saturn.

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August 22, 2012 officially proclaimed "Space Day" in California

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/08/21 09:58 CDT

Governor Brown has declared August 22, 2012 "Space Day." I'm not sure what it means, but I love the repeated use of the word "whereas."

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Curiosity sol 15 update: Wheel wiggles, arm flexes, and bad news about REMS

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/08/21 04:26 CDT | 8 comments

Notes from this morning's press conference. Curiosity has successfully steered the corner wheels and deployed and restowed the robotic arm. ChemCam tests went well over the weekend. But one of the two wind speed sensors in REMS appears to have suffered permanent damage during landing.

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The first Curiosity 360-degree panorama including the mountain

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/08/18 10:45 CDT | 8 comments

Damien Bouic took Curiosity's Hazcam images of Aeolis Mons / Mount Sharp and merged them with a beautiful 360-degree Navcam panorama to give us our first look at what the view will look like once the mission finally gets higher-resolution images that include the mountain's peak.

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Curiosity sol 11 update: Decision to drive to "the high thermal inertia unit" and what that means

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/08/17 06:06 CDT | 8 comments

Some notes from this morning's Curiosity press briefing: the rover will be driving to "Glenelg" to investigate the "high thermal inertia unit." I explain what that means, with psychedelic Odyssey THEMIS images of the landing site.

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Some fun with Curiosity MARDI images

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/08/16 11:36 CDT | 9 comments

Yesterday Curiosity returned a pile of full-resolution descent imager photos to Earth. The full-resolution MARDI images are just as great as we anticipated.

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Cosmoquest Astronomy Hour, Wednesday: What's up with Curiosity on Mars, with guest: me!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/08/15 05:00 CDT | 11 comments

I'm hosting this week's Cosmoquest Astronomy Hour, and rather than having a special guest I'll be speaking myself about what's going on with Curiosity, and will leave lots of time to answer people's questions. Join me at 1600 PDT / 2300 UTC at cosmoquest.org/hangouts.

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Curiosity sol 9 update

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/08/15 01:21 CDT | 1 comment

An update on Curiosity's status as of sol 9, and a look ahead to the next month or two of commissioning activities.

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Video, sound, and timeline of Curiosity's descent

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/08/14 04:56 CDT | 7 comments

A fantastic video produced by Brian Lynch combines the thumbnail images from Curiosity's Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) with the audio from the control room during landing night and a detailed timeline from spaceflight101.com.

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