Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Fountains of Enceladus

What a great set of images just down from the Cassini Spacecraft which shows plumes presumably of ice rising from the Saturn moon Enceladus. This meshes well with what I heard in a talk last month which included a discussion of Enceladus. All I can say is Cool! (pardon the pun).

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Hayabusa shadow on Itokawa

The Hayabusa spacecraft did a practice run where it descended to within 70 meters of the surface of asteroid Itokawa. Here is a picture from the ISAS website. In this image, you can see a shadow of the spacecraft on the rubbly surface of the asteroid. You can see the opposition affect making a bright halo around the shadow too, much as you might see around the shadow of the airplane you are riding in if you sit in the right part of the plane.

Hayabusa has a little rover called Minerva which will land on the asteroid soon. The latest reports show that it was successfully released this afternoon. The next few days ought to be very interesting as this mission continues to unfold.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Rubble Piles and Binary Asteroids

Now this image is cool (click on it for a higher resolution version)! This the asteroid Itokawa which is currently being orbited by Japans Hyabusa spacecraft which will soon target a lander onto the asteroid. A few comments about this image. This asteroid looks like what I would expect a rubble pile to look like. It has blocks and boulders protruding from its surface like it just fell together. It's elongated like it might have been tidally distorted during a close approach to Earth. It looks like two discrete asteroids gently collided as though it might have been a binary at one time, perhaps only briefly before the two rubble piles gently collided, causing the smoother area near their joint.

Congratulations to the Hyabusa team and I'm looking forward to the success of the rest of your mission & a successful landing and sample return.