Adapted from MESSENGER Mission News (March 26, 2013)
The International Astronomical Union (IAU) — the arbiter of planetary and satellite nomenclature since its inception in 1919 — recently approved a proposal from the MESSENGER Science Team to assign names to nine impact craters on Mercury. In keeping with the established naming theme for craters on Mercury, all of the newly designated features are named after famous deceased artists, musicians, or authors or other contributors to the humanities.
The Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) is a next generation adaptive optics instrument being built for the Gemini Observatory. This is an ambitious project with the goal of directly imaging extrasolar planets orbiting nearby stars. The instrument is currently being integrated at the University of California at Santa Cruz. After more than a year of testing in a fixed orientation in a clean room, on March 7, 2013, the 2,030 kg instrument was set up on a crane and flexure rig. In collaboration with the UCSC team, we prepared this time lapse video showing GPI being set up in its new position.
Today I would like to share with you an idea for the International Women’s day on March 8 2013. If you work in an institution, university, or non-profit related to science, have you taken note of the number of women around you? In astronomy and planetary science, it is not too bad even if it is not perfect, but some “hard” science groups, like physics or computer science, clearly have a low proportion of women in their ranks. I will not elaborate on the reasons for such lack of representation; instead, I propose to focus on the bright side.
Almost 12h after the event, it is time to gather my notes on the Russian meteor event (#RussianMeteor) and my thoughts on this impact and those which may come soon.
An important message
We are asking YOU, the US-based SETI Institute Fans, our followers on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to help us save science from sequestration. Send a FAX or write a letter and even send a tweet to your members of Congress. Today is the day you should act to save science!
I mentioned in my previous post the detection of an issue on the Kepler spacecraft which pushed the engineering team to put the space telescope in safe mode for 10 days. The Kepler team announced today that science operation was reinitiated yesterday. That’s a great news!
“Mountain View, we have a problem…”
NASA Kepler Manager at NASA Ames, Mountain View announced today that they interrupted the science operation of the spacecraft, due an issue with one of the reaction wheels. Kepler is equipped with four reaction wheels which are used to accurately point the telescope. One failed in July 2012 and today the team announced that they detected issues with a second one. Kepler needs three reaction wheels to be used properly, if this one fails the mission is most likely over. That’s not good news.
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.
This is definitely not the kind of news that astronomers like reading about… The Siding Spring Observatory in New South Wales, Australia, is currently threatened by a large uncontroled bush fire.
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 http://www.lpi.usra.edu/opag/.
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.