An update on the Siding Spring Observatory

A short followup of my post sent last night with a good news through an official announcement by the Australian National University  posted today.

In a nutshell, no telescopes have suffered major damages from the bush fire, but the astronomer’s lodge, the visitor’s center and several staff houses have been destroyed or seriously damage.

Siding Spring Observatory. Photo by NSW RFS

Live-Tweets of Jim Green Presentation at OPAG

A few days ago, I received in my email the following message from the Division for Planetary Sciences.
Community Urged To Hear NASA’s Jim Green Presentation On 10 January

There has been much discussion of NASA’s Planetary Science Division (PSD) budget in recent weeks (about R&A in particular). Next week, Jim Green will give a presentation at the OPAG meeting in Atlanta about this, at 8:30 am on 10 January 2013. We strongly encourage our membership to call in via webcast to hear what he has to say, and to educate themselves about the current and upcoming PSD budget, including R&A. You can register for the webex and see the agenda at

Rosaly Lopes (DPS Chair) & Heidi Hammel (DPS Vice-Chair)

I was very curious to hear what Jim Green, NASA’s Planetary Science Chief, wanted to tell at the Outer Planet Assessment Group (a new mission toward Europa? a boost in the budget of NASA?) but unfortunately,  I could not attend or listen to the his talk.

China joined the interplanetary club by successfully imaging the asteroid Toutatis

This exceptional result was brought to my attention late on Friday evening, but it clearly deserves a short post on this blog. Chang’E 2, a chinese mission dedicated to the exploration of the moon was recycled to explore the Near-Earth Asteroid (4179) Toutatis  and succeeded.

Chang'e 2 images of (4179) Toutatis captured at 93–240 km distance between 16:30:09–16:30:24, maximum resolution 10 meters/pixel

AGU Fall Meeting – Internal Structure and Composition of Small Solar System Bodies

Third day of the 2012 AGU Fall Meeting tomorrow, Wednesday December 5, and I anticipate another busy day. Julie Castillo from Jet Propulsion Laboratory and myself organized a session on the internal structure and composition of small solar system bodies (SSSBs). This session will give us an opportunity to discuss recent results on the compositions and physical properties of asteroids and comets.  The discussion and results should be new since our view on the internal structure of SSSBs has changed drastically over the past decade thanks to the exploration with spacecrafts and the discovery of satellites around several asteroids.

Possible asteroid internal structures by Walkers et al. (Advances in Space Research Volume 37, Issue 1, 2006, Pages 142–152)

A Lecture at UC-Berkeley on Science and Ethical Dilemmas in the Blogosphere

On November 26 2012, I gave a lecture at a UC-Berkeley for the course “Ethics for Astronomers” led by Paul Kalas, Professor in this university and colleague of mine for several years. I think this kind of courses is extremely important for graduate students who will face ethical issues in their career and need to learn early how to address them.

New NASA Institute – The NASA-Armstrong Space Exploration Institute?

NASA made a request for input to name the new NASA Science and Exploration Institute.  You can propose your own name on this web site. I just submitted a proposed name for this virtual institute, which will include other destinations beyond the Moon, stemming from NASA’s flexible path strategy for human exploration. I propose to name this new

No Detection of a Scar on Jupiter in the NIR

Some news about the Jupiter flash which was detected on September 10. I reported the absence of detection in the visible light from data collected by amateur astronomers. Glenn Orton, a  colleague from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory,  sent me yesterday two observations of Jupiter taking with the IRTF telescope and the SpeX Guiding camera in the near-infrared. No scar, or debris field, can be seen at the location of the flash. The meteoroid did not enter in the inner part of the planet atmosphere. This observation confirms that it was most likely a meteor.

2.3 um observations of Jupiter taken with the IRTF telescope and the SpeX guide camera. The dark circle indicates the location of the flash observed on September 10 2012 (credit: G. Orton, Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Another fireball on Jupiter?

An amateur astronomer reported the visual detection of a fireball on Jupiter at 11:35 UT (September 10 2012) last night. It was confirmed on a video recorded from Texas. This is the 6th impact of Jupiter detected so far.

A screen capture from the video recorded on September 10 2012 at 11:35 UT by George. The video was captured with a 12" LX200GPS, 3x Televue Barlow, and Point Grey Flea 3 camera.