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20 April 2015

Sol 959-961: Daughter of the Sun

by Ryan Anderson The short drive on sol 958 was a success, placing us at the top of a small ridge, facing an outcrop dubbed “Daughter of the Sun”. The plan for sol 959 is to do some ChemCam and Mastcam of targets “Gold” and “Espinoza”, followed by several Mastcam mosaics. The biggest mosaic will be a 26×2 stereo mosaic looking toward Logan Pass. We also have a 7×3 stereo …

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16 April 2011

Dreaming of Easy-to-Use Data

Some thoughts on how difficult it is to use multiple different types of data in planetary science, how easy it could be, and two free programs that are important first steps in making easy-to-use data a reality.

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7 January 2011

Strange New Worlds

I realized relatively recently that I like planets and I like speculative fiction for basically the same reason: strange new worlds just fire up my imagination.  That’s the topic of my latest post over at Science in my Fiction, where I take a look at some spectacular and bizarre real (or at least realistic) planetary locations that I think would be great settings for some sci-fi. I got a little …

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1 November 2010

Planets Like Grains of Sand

The other day I came across a press release announcing that nearly one in four sun-like stars could have planets as small as Earth. That’s pretty awesome! But I though it was especially interesting how they came up with this number. Current technology can’t quite see an Earth-sized planet around a sun-like star, so how do you count things that you can’t see? Well, you count everything else and then extrapolate.

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27 May 2010

Solar System Overview

Welcome to the solar system! It’s a really interesting place, and there’s a lot to cover. First lets get a basic idea of what our solar system looks like. There are eight planets in the solar system and five “dwarf planets” and they all orbit around the sun. The four planets closest to the sun are called the “inner” planets. They are all pretty small and made mostly of rocks. …

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22 December 2009

AGU 2009: Day 4 – Enceladus and Exoplanets

Thursday at AGU started with a tough choice. At 8 am there was a talk about methane on Mars, and a special lecture about the water plumes on Enceladus, and plate tectonics on Venus! In the end I decided to go to the Enceladus lecture, given by Sue Kieffer. She explained that there are two primary models for how the Enceladus plumes form. The first is dubbed the “cold faithful” …

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4 November 2009

How Habitable is the Earth?

Charlie Stross has an interesting post on his blog that asks the question “How habitable is the Earth?” He goes on to conclude, through a great discussion of the evolution of our planet, that the fraction of time that the earth has been habitable to humans is a tiny sliver of the time the Earth has been around, and that furthermore, much of the earth is not habitable for humans …

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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 …

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28 April 2009

Impact Crater

In my posts about our field trip to Arizona, I showed my best pictures of meteor crater, but really none of them come close to expressing the feeling of standing on the brink of such a feature and trying to imagine an explosion big enough to carve it out. I just came across a photo by Stan Gaz that does a much better job than my snapshots (click to follow …

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26 April 2009

Discoveries in Planetary Science

The Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society just released several short sets of slides summarizing recent important discoveries in planetary science that aren’t yet in textbooks. They are very nice, easy to understand summaries so I encourage you to check them out. The topics so far are: Mars Methane, Extrasolar Planet Imaging, The Chaotic Early Solar System, Mars Sulfur Chemistry, and Mercury Volcanism. Follow those links to …

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