Month: <span>October 2009</span>

What Do We Really Know About the Kuiper Belt?

Kindly explain to me what Quaoar is. A fifth dispatch from the annual planets meeting.

FAJARDO, Puerto Rico—It smacked of a cunning plan. The organizers of last week’s planets conference put one of the best talks in the very last session of the very last day. Most scientists had either left for the airport or the beach. I almost didn’t make it myself—the room and time got switched at the […]

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LCROSS Strikes Earth’s Moon As Other Moons Continue to Puzzle

If planet formation is a mystery, satellite formation is a mystery upon a mystery. A fourth dispatch from the annual planets meeting.

FAJARDO, Puerto Rico—”We could have just stayed in bed” was one comment I overheard this morning from planetary scientists who had woken up early to see NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) crash into the lunar surface. At 7:31 A.M. (Eastern Daylight Time) the spacecraft’s Centaur-class rocket booster slammed (deliberately) into the moon, […]

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Planetary Bombardments, Past and Future

Is Mercury the long-lost moon of Venus? What’s our risk for a massive asteroid impact? A third dispatch from the annual planets meeting.

FAJARDO, Puerto Rico—A fascinating idea came up in an informal chat I had yesterday with asteroid expert Erik Asphaug of the University of California, Santa Cruz. The early solar system was a veritable shooting gallery. Our moon is thought to have formed when a Mars-size body hit Earth and threw out a cloud of debris […]

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What Caused Saturn to Lurch?

Saturn’s rings are misaligned with the planet’s equator. Sometime in the 1980s, either the ring moved, or the planet did. A second dispatch from the annual planets meeting.

FAJARDO, Puerto Rico—I first heard about Matt Hedman’s talk while going out to dinner on Tuesday night. Best talk of the meeting, I was told. Everywhere I went yesterday, I kept hearing about this guy Matt Hedman. A former professor of mine chided me for missing his presentation. The problem with the Division for Planetary […]

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From Carbon Planets to the Lakes of Titan

In Titan’s southern lake district, one lake has receded and two have dried up altogether. A dispatch from the annual planets meeting

FAJARDO, Puerto Rico—Part of the fun of coming to astronomy conferences is seeing the nonplussed reaction of local people in restaurants and bars–it’s not often you get a crowd of people sweeping through your town to talk about Titanian lakes, lunar soil, and the prospects for life beyond the solar system. People get over it […]

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