Blog Archives

It’s the Beginning of the End for Cassini (But the Pictures Will Be Awesome)

A view of Saturn's north pole captured by Cassini's wide-angle camera on Dec. 3, 2016. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

A view of Saturn’s north pole captured by Cassini’s wide-angle camera on Dec. 3, 2016. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

After more than twelve years in orbit around Saturn, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is now in its final year of operation…and newly-positioned in an orbit that will send it soaring high over the planet’s north pole as well as close by the outer edge of its glorious shining rings.

Over the course of 20 week-long “ring-grazing orbits” — the first of which was completed on Dec. 4 — Cassini will obtain close-up images and data on the composition and structure of Saturn’s rings and nearby shepherd moons.

It’s the mission’s penultimate phase, heralding the end of Cassini in September 2017.

“This is it, the beginning of the end of our historic exploration of Saturn,” said Cassini imaging team leader Carolyn Porco. “Let these images — and those to come — remind you that we’ve lived a bold and daring adventure around the solar system’s most magnificent planet.”

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Space Geek Gift Alert: The Year in Space 2017 Calendar!

If The Year in Space calendar were any more densely packed with information it would become a black hole. And try hanging one of those on your wall.

If The Year in Space calendar were any more densely packed with information it would become a black hole. (Don’t try hanging one of those on your wall!)

What brings you an entire sidereal year of awesome space facts and pictures, each and every day? That’s right: The Year in Space calendar! And it makes a super great gift for the space fan in your life (especially if it’s yourself.) Find out how to order below.

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What’s So Super About a Supermoon?

Full Moon rising over the Conimicut Point Light in Warwick, RI. Sept. 16, 2016. © Jason Major.

Full Moon rising over the Conimicut Point Light in Warwick, RI. Sept. 16, 2016. © Jason Major.

You’ve probably heard the news or read the headlines: the full Moon on November 14 will be a “supermoon,” and in fact the biggest and brightest one since 1948 and until 2034. But what does that really mean and what can we expect to see in the night sky?

In all honesty it won’t be that much different from the garden variety, mild-mannered regular full Moon. (But it will still be no less beautiful to look at!)

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More Moons For Uranus?

Voyager 2 view of Uranus with  rings and moons noted (Credit: NASA/University of Arizona/Erich Karkoschka)

Voyager 2 view of Uranus with rings and moons noted (Credit: NASA/University of Arizona/Erich Karkoschka)

The distant ice giant Uranus may not have been visited by a spacecraft since Voyager 2’s “Grand Tour” flyby in 1986 but the data gathered then is still being used today to make new discoveries. Most recently, researchers think they have found evidence of two previously unknown moons around Uranus, potentially bringing the planet’s count up to 29.

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With One More Comet Landing Rosetta’s “Rock and Roll” Mission is Ended

ESA's Rosetta mission has come to an end with the spacecraft's impact on Sept. 30, 2016. (Illustration by ESA/ATG medialab)

ESA’s Rosetta mission has come to an end with the spacecraft’s impact on Sept. 30, 2016. (Illustration by ESA/ATG medialab)

Rosetta is down. I repeat: Rosetta is down.

This morning, Sept. 30, 2016, just after 10:39 UTC (6:39 a.m. EDT) ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft ended its mission with an impact onto the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The descent, begun with a final burn of its thrusters about 14 hours earlier, was slow, stately, and deliberate, but even at a relative walking pace Rosetta was not designed to be a lander like its partner Philae and thus ceased operation upon contact with the comet.

With the comet 446 million miles (719 million km) from Earth at the time, the final signals from Rosetta were received 40 minutes after impact, officially confirming mission end.

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NASA Readies OSIRIS-REx to Visit an Asteroid

Artist's concept of OSIRIS-REx (NASA/Goddard)

Artist’s concept of OSIRIS-REx (NASA/Goddard)

NASA is about to embark on its first mission to sample an asteroid—and I’ll have a front-row seat to the launch!

On Thursday, Sept. 8, at 7:05 p.m. (23:05 UTC) the launch window opens for the launch of OSIRIS-REx, NASA’s mission to visit the near-Earth asteroid Bennu, orbit and map it, collect a sample and return it to Earth. The 8-foot-wide, 20-foot-long spacecraft will launch aboard a ULA Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral AFS and as a member of the latest NASA Social event I and 99 other attendees will be at the Cape to see it off on its 7-year journey. Be sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram to see pictures and videos from the two-day event on Sept. 7–8, and follow the #NASASocial hashtag on Twitter too!

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