Juno’s New Jupiter

The Juno spacecraft began its long journey to Jupiter in 2011.  Waking up in 2016 it underwent a successful orbit injection on July 4th. Now after nearly a year of waiting, the public finally gets to see the first fruits of the mission. It has certainly been worth the wait.   A new Jupiter, seen from a distance of 52,000 Km, has a vivid and chaotic southern pole in the above image.  Swirling storms thousands of kilometres across whirl around one another in a sea of gaseous ammonia clouds.  Will the system remain chaotic? Or will it change a year from...

The Future of New Horizons: Beyond Pluto

With the historic fly-by of Pluto last month, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft gave us an up-close look at the former 9th planet, showing that it is a dynamic world with icy plains, tall mountains, and an atmosphere.  But now that New Horizons has passed by Pluto, it has the infinite cosmic horizon in its stead.  So what’s next for the $700 Million spacecraft? Its battery will keep it going for a few more decades, and it will likely pass beyond the edge of the solar system, in the stead of the Voyager crafts.  What else is ahead? The good news is...

Take a Ride on New Horizons as You Fly Past Pluto

The rendering I’ve been waiting for is finally here! A conceptual video of the flyby of Pluto from far away, leading through closest approach and turning back to see the dark side, all together.  This will give you a sense of the motion of New Horizons, and the state of the Pluto system in the Kuiper Belt. The credit goes not just to NASA, but to space enthusiast Björn Jónsson, who created the rendering from the latest Pluto images and data from New Horizons. The strangest part of watching this was the sense of longing I felt as we fly past...

Almost There: Pluto in a Month

New Horizons is giving Earth the A-OK! All the systems look good and we are only 37.4 million kilometres away from Pluto.  Yes that is far, but considering we usually see Pluto at a distance 200 times that, we are doing pretty well.  The newest processed photos have come in from NASA and John’s Hopkins University, and they are starting to show a complex and mysterious surface chock-full of science goodies that make astronomers salivate like Pavlov’s dog when the bell rang.  But image processing is a science in itself, and I wanted to show you the difference between a raw photo...

The Moons of Pluto: Chaotically Unpredictable

As we are approaching the New Horizons bypass of Pluto just over a month from now, there is a lot of focus on the Plutonian system, from its strange Moons to its enigmatic surface.  As we wait for the first ever high resolution images of the surface of Pluto, we can look to Hubble data to give us our fix.  The best image of Pluto taken up to today, by Hubble, is blurry and at best can lead us to speculation about what we are seeing. But Hubble, as always, produces valuable science, and has given new insights into the...

Hyperion the Sponge Moon

A couple of days ago, the still-active Cassini spacecraft orbiting around Saturn performed a flyby of the small Moon Hyperion, taking high resolution photos of the surface, and showing the sponge-like surface of the moon in a different light. Hyperion is a moderate 250 kilometers wide, yet it doesn’t tug very hard on Cassini.  Performing measurements of its surface gravity, Cassini has shown that the moon is mostly empty space, similar to a pumice stone on Earth.  The odd shapes of the craters are thought to be a result of this.  When an impactor hits Hyperion, it blows the material...