Blog Archives

Hurray For Plutonium!

Wait a minute! Isn’t plutonium that nasty stuff they make bombs from? Radioactive? The stuff Doc Brown stole from Libyans to fuel the Back to the Future DeLorean time machine? Well, yes…but there’s more to it than that. Plutonium exists

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Posted in Planets, Spacecraft

In Saturn’s Shadow

One of the most astounding images of the space age is about to be replicated. Take a look at this image of a backlit Saturn eclipsing the sun. This is a mosaic of images taken over three hours in September,

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Posted in Planets, Solar System, Spacecraft

Weekend Sky Show

The two brightest planets in the sky, Venus and Jupiter, have been drawing closer and closer to each other as seen from Earth for the past several days. This weekend they will be joined by the hard-to-see innermost planet Mercury

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Posted in Planets, Sky Phenomena, Solar System

A Pattern And A Puzzle

In my previous post, I talked about the strong evidence for the presence of water ice in permanently shaded crater floors around the north pole of Mercury. Part of the evidence for this was the thermal modeling of surface and

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Posted in Planets, Solar System

Ice On A Sun-Scorched Planet

The universe is full of surprises. More than once I have read an article about a new discovery and told myself something like this: “That can’t be right! They must have messed up somewhere, and we’ll read about how in

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Posted in Planets, Spacecraft

The “What Ifs?” of Science Fiction

If someone were to ask people who have one way or another made a career out of science or technology what they read in their childhood, the chances are very good that the common thread would be science fiction. I

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Posted in human spaceflight, Planets, Solar System

Will Curiosity Find Life On Mars?

Well, probably not like this. But it does carry instrumentation designed to look for biosignatures, evidence that simple microbial life may have existed at some point in the Martian past, even if it no longer does so.

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Posted in Mars, Planets, Solar System

Curiosity’s Communication With Earth

You may have read that the Curiosity Mars rover is communicating with Earth mostly by relaying data through one of the spacecraft orbiting Mars, and wondered why that is so. Even if you haven’t wondered, I have! Hence this post.

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Posted in Planets, Solar System, Spacecraft

How To Satisfy Your Curiosity About Curiosity

Quote: “This is just insane. The Internet is still totally exploding over what happened…” Rather than try to recap everything, I’m just going to point you to the two best web sources: the Curiosity site itself, and Emily Lakdawalla’s blog,

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Posted in Planets, Solar System, Spacecraft

Curiosity on Mars–One Way or the Other

In just a few more days, the largest and most complex spacecraft ever to land on Mars will either have six wheels on the ground or will be a smoking billion-dollar crater. I’ve posted this video before, but it’s cool

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Posted in Planets, Solar System, Spacecraft