Does America Need a Space Force?

No. No it does not. But that’s exactly what the Trump administration wants, and so today, August 9, 2018, America’s eerily stone-faced Vice President Mike Pence confirmed that there will indeed (pending Congress approval) be a new sixth branch of the U.S. military up and running by 2020, one dedicated to “restoring America’s leadership in…

Happy Opposition Day!

It’s Opposition Day! No, that’s not a political stance but rather a geometric one, relating to the positions of Earth, the Sun, and Mars in the Solar System. Today our neighboring planet Mars will be directly opposite the Sun relative to Earth, which will make it the second-brightest “star” in the night sky after Venus….

A Naked Titan Revealed by 13 Years of Cassini Data

Saturn’s largest moon Titan boasts the distinction of being the only moon in the solar system to have a thick atmosphere…so thick, in fact, that its surface is perpetually hidden from our view—but not from the view of the Cassini spacecraft’s infrared cameras! Cassini, now over ten months gone after its Sept. 2017 plunge into…

Ten More Moons For Jupiter!

Jupiter is the reigning heavyweight among the planets in our solar system so it just makes sense that it also possesses the most natural satellites. Over the past year I have been gleefully telling people that Jupiter has 69 moons (usually to a shocked response, occasionally to a giggling one) but now I must admit…

Three Years Ago Today New Horizons Passed Pluto

Holy Hadean history Batman, where does the time go? Today marks the third anniversary of New Horizons‘ flyby of Pluto and Charon, the first, last, and as yet only mission ever to the distant dwarf planet (aka the reigning King of the Kuiper Belt.) All of the close-up detailed images of Pluto and Charon we…

Meet Metis – Jupiter’s Closest, Quickest Moon

Everyone’s heard of Jupiter’s four most famous moons Europa, Io, Callisto, and Ganymede—we’ve known about them for over 400 years, thanks to Galileo—but giant Jupiter has many more moons than that. To date there are thought to be 69 natural satellites orbiting Jupiter. 53 are officially named, while 16 are awaiting further confirmation. So you’d…

Surprise! Jupiter’s Poles are Literally Encircled by Cyclones

If you think that Saturn’s polar storm systems are amazing then you’re gonna love this: Jupiter has them too, and not just a single central storm over each of its poles either. NASA’s Juno mission has revealed that Jupiter has not only polar vortices but also a ring of enormous cyclones spinning in formation around…

ESA Grabs Glimpses of Mars’ Groovy Moon

This animation is comprised of three images acquired by ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft on Sept. 12, 2017 with its High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC). It shows parts of the grooved and pitted surface of Phobos, the larger of Mars’ two natural satellites. The original images were captured in greyscale; I added color based on other…

THEMIS Takes Deimos’ Temperature

Can you feel the heat? NASA’s Mars Odyssey can see it! This is an image of Mars’ smaller moon Deimos, captured with Odyssey’s THEMIS (Thermal Emission Imaging System) instrument on Feb. 15, 2018. Part of the 7-mile-wide Moon was in shadow, but the sunlit surface area reached temperatures up to 200 K (that’s still pretty…

After 5,000 Sols We See the Face of Opportunity

It’s finally happened—after over 14 years on Mars (14!!!) NASA’s Opportunity rover has turned its arm-mounted camera around to take a look at itself, giving us the very first true “selfie” of the Mars Exploration Rover mission! Hello Opportunity!

This is Earth and the Moon from 40 Million Miles Away

That’s here; that’s home; that’s us—the two bright objects in this picture are Earth and the Moon, imaged by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on January 17, 2018 from a distance of 39.5 million miles (63.5 million km). This is about the distance between Earth and Mars at their closest points to each other (give or take…