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16 May 2011

Utah Mars Analogs

Greetings from Los Angeles! I’m in California this week for the 5th and final MSL Landing Site Workshop. Since that is sure to provide some tasty blog-fodder, I thought I should sit down and write about my trip to Utah two weeks ago.

Why did I go to Utah? Because the latest MSL camera team meeting was held in Moab, and I was hoping to give a brief presentation about some work I’ve been doing on the side (in all my copious free time) with the calibration data for the Mastcams. Unfortunately, I can’t write about what happened at the business part of the meeting because then I would have to kill you. Or more likely Mike Malin would kill me. It turned out there wasn’t time for me or my adviser to give our presentations, but it was still a great trip because after the “sit in a room all day and watch powerpoint presentations” part of the meeting, came the field trip!


31 July 2010

Big Sky Country

Well folks, I’m headed off to Big Sky Country tomorrow (aka Montana)! I’ll start the week at the MSL camera team meeting, where I will get all sorts of cool news about the MastCam, MAHLI and MARDI cameras which I will not be able to share with you.* After that, the lot of us will pack up and head to Glacier National Park to learn about the geology of the …


22 July 2010

New Deep Sea Vents Discovered in the Caribbean

Here’s the second of my recent Universe Today Articles: scientists have discovered new deep sea vents in the Caribbean that will teach us more about sunless ecosystems. Good to know if we ever want to look for life in the oceans of Europa some day! Check out the article here.


6 June 2010

Solar System Tour: Earth

This is Earth, the third planet from the sun. I’m hoping, of all the planets, you’re most familiar with this one. Hopefully, though, you’re about to learn a little more about home. When seen from space, one of the most striking features of the Earth is all the water. Our planet’s surface is about 70% water. Earth is the only planet known with liquid water currently on the surface. Mars …


12 January 2010

How to cure the Avatar Blues

I was innocently browsing through my twitter list yesterday when I came across this article on CNN. The gist of it is that many people are experiencing depression after watching Avatar because the fictional world depicted is so beautiful and amazing that life back here on earth seems drab and boring. Many people have responded to this story with shock and derision, and this definitely hints at some pre-existing issues …


30 November 2009

Rings around the Earth – Implications

Last week I posted a video that speculates what it would look like if the Earth had rings like Saturn. Well, over at Quantum Rocketry, Joe Shoer has two excellent follow-up posts. First he calculated what the rings would really look like with gaps caused by Earth’s moons rather than just copying and pasting Saturn’s rings. Here’s a simulated image, but you should check out the full post for more …


23 November 2009

If Earth had Rings

There’s a great video making the rounds showing what it would look like if Earth had a ring system like Saturn’s, including some gorgeous views from the ground. Of course, rings probably wouldn’t be stable with our moon, or at least would look very different, but that doesn’t take away from the coolness of this video. Enjoy!


9 September 2009

If This is Socialist Propaganda, Please, Send More

Surely by now you have heard that president Obama attempted to brainwash our nation’s children with socialist propaganda yesterday. It is apalling, isn’t it? An outrage! But have you actually heard or read what he said? I’ll let his words speak for themselves: I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself. Every single one of you has something that you’re good at. Every single one of you …


30 August 2009

Fire near JPL

Apologies for the silence on the blog lately. I’ve been trying to get caught up with work since I got back from the north woods of Michigan last sunday. However, I thought I should take a minute and mention the forest fires in LA that are threatening JPL . People on the MER team have been sending occasional updates and photos over the last few days as the fires inch …


10 July 2009

Solar System Creator

As I mentioned last month, on top of research and grad school duties, I’m in the process of planning out a sci-fi novel. It began with the month-long outlining challenge “Midsommer Madness” over at the Liberty Hall writing site, and I am continuing with it in my spare time. I am trying to make my novel grounded in reality whenever possible. It is set in a known star system, 55 …


22 April 2009

The Pale Blue Dot

What better Earth day message is there than this? Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer …


6 April 2009

Big Pictures of Mount Redoubt Eruption

The Big Picture, an awesome photo-blog that you should be reading, has a very cool set of photos of the Mount Redoubt eruptions in Alaska. I thought it was especially cool to see how the glacier on top of the mountain is collapsing as it melts from beneath. Update: Just like last time the Big Picture posted volcano photos, global warming deniers are posting in the comments and claiming that …


30 March 2009

ISS, Backlit

I’m starting my first day of work at Johnson Space Center today, and coincidentally, I just came across this awesome photo of the International Space Station. It seemed fitting to post it since I’m going to be about a block from mission control. The ISS may have its critics but you can’t deny that this is an amazing photo of an amazing human achievement.


22 March 2009

The Painted Desert and Petrified Forest

(This is the final day of a week-long field trip in Arizona. Get caught up with days 1,2,3,4,5, 6) Friday was the last day of the field trip, and we spent it at the Petrified Forest national park. We were there to study the colorful clays and river deposits, but we began the day with an unexpected bonus: our guide, Bill Parker, is a paleontologist at the park, and he …


16 March 2009

SP Flow and Sunset Crater

(This is day 3 of a week-long field trip to Arizona. Catch up with days 1 and 2!) Today was all about volcanoes. We started early, driving north out of Flagstaff and skirting around the huge San Francisco peaks, which are the remnants of a huge stratovolcano (think Mt. Fuki or Mt. Rainier). The volcano formed between about 1 and 0.4 million years ago. It is currently 12,633 feet high, …


14 January 2009

Earth, Observed

A lot of people don’t realize that NASA studies the Earth as well as the rest of the universe. Sure, pictures from Hubble and Cassini and the Mars Rovers are spectacular, but there are some great views of our own planet too, many of which are available at NASA’s Earth Observatory site. Today the Big Picture has a selection of some of the best photos of Earth from NASA’s collections. …


12 January 2009

Colonizing Earth

The other day I helped a race of hideous spiderlike aliens colonize Antarctica. I’ve posted about the game Spore before, but the basic idea is that you begin as a protozoan in the primordial ooze and work your way up through various stages of evolution until you become a space-faring civilization capable of colonizing other worlds, terraforming them, and populating them with plants and animals of your choosing (or even …


14 December 2008

Blogging from the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting

Tomorrow I’m heading to San Francisco along with 15,000 other scientists to participate in the 2008 fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). Yes, you read that right: fifteen thousand scientists in one place.  This will be my first AGU and my first time in San Francisco so I’m excited. There’s tons of planetary science stuff scheduled, and I will be taking notes and blogging as much as possible …


13 November 2008

Beyond the Moon

Today the Planetary Society released a “roadmap” for space exploration, detailing what the Society thinks NASA’s priorities and programs should look like in the near future. It is the product of input from the public as well as closed-door meetings of space exploration experts. I encourage you to take a look at the pdf. The plan outlined in the “Beyond the Moon” document is well thought out and feasible, and …


Tectonics on Mars

Mars is often touted as the “most earth-like” planet, but if you take a look at its surface there are some aspects that are decidedly alien. Sure, there are dry river beds and canyons and volcanoes. But there are also craters. Everywhere. So many that, when Mariner 9 sent back the first spacecraft images of Mars, people were dismayed to see a surface that looked just like the moon! Is …