The Planetary Society Blog
The Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Dust Storm Wanes, Opportunity Sleeps, Team Prepares Recovery Strategy2 Aug 2018, 03:18 UTC As the veteran Mars Exploration Rover (MER) slept in Endeavour Crater’s Perseverance Valley under the thick cloud of dust that has blanketed the Red Planet for the last six weeks, scientists who are studying the monster storm that forced the robot field geologist into its hibernation mode are now reporting the tempest has peaked.
Astro Bob 1 Aug 2018, 22:29 UTC Enjoy this photo of Saturn from one of the finest instruments on the planet. Or off the planet. The Hubble Space Telescope orbits 335 miles (540 km) above the Earth’s surface and completes one revolution in about 97 minutes. The color and detail in the photo are stunning. Be sure to click on the image for a large, monitor-filling version.
NASA Space Station Blog 1 Aug 2018, 16:48 UTC The Expedition 56 crew has nearly completed loading the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship with cargo for retrieval back on Earth this Friday. The orbital residents are also busy with an intense day of space research and Russian spacewalk preparations.
Scientific American 1 Aug 2018, 13:00 UTC If all goes according to plan, two spacecraft will commence close encounters of the curious kind with two separate asteroids by the end of August. Their goal: to retrieve samples that may contain organic materials dating back to the solar system’s birth. These building blocks may be key to understanding the origins of the planets and of life on Earth—and could also make future space prospectors very rich.
Scientific American 1 Aug 2018, 10:45 UTC For the first time scientists have observed the gas giant sending magnetic waves back to its ring system and its moon Enceladus. Saturn’s massive rings and its icy moon Enceladus have long been known to interact with the gas giant’s magnetic field via energy-rich waves of plasma, or ionized gas. Now, for the first time, researchers have detected the gas giant sending similar signals back toward its rings and moon, closing the magnetic loop.
International Dark Sky Association 1 Aug 2018, 01:35 UTC On June 26, 2018, after a two-year citizen-led effort, the Kanab City Council enacted an outdoor lighting ordinance to protect the natural darkness that makes Kane County, Utah, a great place to see stars. Residents of Kanab and visitors alike expressed elation with comments like “This is a win-win for everyone!”
Astro Watch 31 Jul 2018, 21:57 UTC Astronomers have made the first definitive detection of a radioactive molecule in interstellar space: a form, or isotopologue of aluminum monofluoride (26AlF). The new data – made with ALMA and the NOEMA radio telescopes – reveal that this radioactive isotopologue was ejected into space by the collision of two stars, a tremendously rare cosmic event that was witnessed on Earth as a “new star,” or nova, in the year 1670.
Astro Bob 31 Jul 2018, 19:41 UTC Precession is the slow wobble of Earth’s axis over a period of 26,000 years caused by the combined gravitational tugs of the sun and moon. As a spinning top slows down, you’ve probably noticed that the axis of the top describes a little circle (wobble) in the air before eventually tipping over. The Earth’s axis traces out a similar circle in the sky. Since the pole star is determined by where our axis points, it follows that the pole star will shift position and change in sync with that wobble. Right now, Polaris in the Little Dipper occupies the hallowed spot at which our axis points, but in 14,000 A.D., brilliant Vega will displace Polaris as the pole star. Due to the cyclic nature of precession, Polaris will return as the North Star again in 28,000 A.D.