Stalking Uranus: A Complete Guide to the 2014 Opposition Season

by David Dickinson on September 15, 2014

Uranus as seen through the automated eyes of Voyager 2 in 1986. (Credit: NASA/JPL).

Enigmatic Uranus as seen through the automated eyes of Voyager 2 in 1986. (Credit: NASA/JPL).

It’s no joke… now is the time to begin searching the much-maligned (and mispronounced) planet Uranus as it reaches opposition in early October leading up to a very special celestial event.

Last month, we looked at the challenges of spying the solar system’s outermost ice giant world, Neptune. Currently located in the adjacent constellation Aquarius, Neptune is now 39 degrees from Uranus and widening. [click to continue…]

Astronomy Cast Ep. 352: Water, Water Everywhere!

by Fraser Cain on September 15, 2014

Where ever we find water on Earth we find life. And so, it makes sense to search throughout the Solar System to find water. Well, here’s the crazy thing. We’re finding water just about everywhere in the Solar System. This changes our whole concept of the habitable zone.
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A view of rivers in Montana, USA, from the ISS. Credit: ESA/Luca Parmitano.

A view of rivers in Montana, USA, from the ISS. Credit: ESA/Luca Parmitano.

A new organization aims to send people to space on private spacecraft while supporting worthy causes on Earth at the same time. Spaceship Earth Grants has launched a contest with a 1-in-50,000 chance for the ultimate ride — a trip into space — and other prizes as well. For example, parabolic flight opportunities will be available for some of the first 5,000 who apply.

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Artist's conception of the New Horizons spacecraft flying past Pluto and Charon, one of the dwarf planet's moons. Credit: Johns Hopkins University/APL

Artist’s conception of the New Horizons spacecraft flying past Pluto and Charon, one of the dwarf planet’s moons. Credit: Johns Hopkins University/APL

Here’s Hydra! The New Horizons team spotted the tiny moon of Pluto in July, about six months ahead of when they expected to. You can check it out in the images below. The find is exciting in itself, but it also bodes well for the spacecraft’s search for orbital debris to prepare for its close encounter with the system in July 2015.

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A self-portrait of the Opportunity rover shortly after dust cleared its solar panels in March 2014. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.

A self-portrait of the Opportunity rover shortly after dust cleared its solar panels in March 2014. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.

In fantastic news for the long-running Opportunity mission on Mars, NASA says the rover’s much-needed memory reset worked out perfectly. The rover was unable to perform science or beam pictures back to Earth because portions of its flash memory — which can store information even when the rover is turned off — were beginning to wear out.

The reboot means the rover is soon going to be on the move again as it continues exploring the rim of Endeavour Crater, tacking on nearly a marathon of miles that Opportunity has racked up on Mars since 2004.

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