Mars Opportunity rover panorama


Mars sure is a lonely place


Opportunity’s mission launched on July 7, 2003, and landed on the Red Planet on January 24, 2004. NASA hoped the rover would survive its 90-sols (Martian days) mission but to the surprise of everyone, it lasted 55 times longer than its designed lifespan (more than 14 years).

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover – B, better known as Opportunity, stopped responding to commands in August 2018, prompting NASA to officially declare the mission’s end last month.

This week, the space agency released the final 360-degree panorama snapped by the rover.

Comprised of 354 individual images captured between May 13 and June 10 of last year, the panorama has been stitched together to highlight Perseverance Valley, a system of shallow troughs on the inner slope of the western rim of the Endurance Crater.

Opportunity’s twin, Spirit, touched down on the opposite side of Mars roughly three weeks earlier. Spirit got hung up by the rocky terrain in 2009 and stopped communicating with NASA in 2010.

NASA sent more than 1,000 commands to Opportunity in an attempt to reestablish connection following a planetary dust storm in 2018 but was unsuccessful suggesting the rover either encountered a catastrophic failure or had its solar panels covered by dust.

Moon Water



Moving Water

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) just spotted “moving water molecules” on the near side of the Moon — which could be a big deal for future human missions to the Moon.

Scientists observed water molecules moving around as the lunar surface heated up during the Moon’s day cycle. Researchers had previously assumed that the main source of water — hydrogen ions from solar wind — would be cut off when the Earth travels between the Moon and the Sun. But the new findings didn’t see any decrease when the Earth cut off solar wind to the Moon, suggesting that it could harbor a more sustainable source of water than previously believed.

Hot Topic

The discovery is described in a paper published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters by researchers from the John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and NASA’s Goddard  Space Flight Center in Maryland. The data was collected by the LRO’s Lyman Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP), an ultraviolet spectrograph that was built to map ultralight wavelength reflections on the lunar surface.

“This is an important new result about lunar water, a hot topic as our nation’s space program returns to a focus on lunar exploration,” said Kurt Retherford, principal investigator of the LAMP instrument from Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, said in a statement. “We recently converted the LAMP’s light collection mode to measure reflected signals on the lunar dayside with more precision, allowing us to track more accurately where the water is and how much is present.”

The Shape Of Water

A groundbreaking 2017 study from Brown University suggested that there may be substantial amounts of water inside lunar rocks. At the time, the discovery was a major shift from the consensus view that most water on the Moon is located near its poles.

This year’s results discovered by LAMP seem to underline that the lunar water cycle could make water far more accessible to us during future missions to the Moon than we previously thought — the more water already exists on the Moon, the less time and resources we have to spend in trying to get it there.

READ MORE: LRO sheds light on lunar water movement [NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center]

More on water on the Moon: New Study Challenges Previous Conclusions About Water on the Moon

The summer Perseids are here! 


The Perseid meteor shower is the best of the year! It peaks on a Moonless summer night from 4 p.m. EST on August 12 until 4 a.m. EST on August 13.

Because the new Moon falls near the peak night, the days before and after the peak will also provide nice, dark skies. Your best window of observation is from a few hours after twilight until dawn, on the days surrounding the peak.

Unlike most meteor showers, which have a short peak of high meteor rates, the Perseids have a very broad peak, as Earth takes more than three weeks to plow through the wide trail of cometary dust from comet Swift-Tuttle.


The Perseids appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus, visible in the northern sky soon after sunset this time of year. Observers in mid-northern latitudes will have the best views.

You should be able to see some meteors from July 17 to August 24, with the rates increasing during the weeks before August 12 and decreasing after August 13.

Observers should be able to see between 60 and 70 per hour at the peak. Remember, you don’t have to look directly at the constellation to see them. You can look anywhere you want to-even directly overhead.

Meteor showers like the Perseids are caused by streams of meteoroids hitting Earth’s atmosphere. The particles were once part of their parent comet-or, in some cases, from an asteroid.

The parade of planets Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars–and the Milky Way continue to grace the evening sky, keeping you and the mosquitoes company while you hunt for meteors.

Watch the full.  What’s Up for August Video:

There are so many sights to see in the sky. To stay informed, subscribe to our What’s Up video series on Facebook.

(Source: nasa, Via sagansense)

Saturn and its main ring system


astronomyblog | jellyfishjulie

In the early afternoon of September 13, 2017, the venerable and much-loved Cassini probe captured this final portrait of Saturn and its main ring system, before plummeting to fiery destruction in the planet’s hazy atmosphere just 48 hours later.

Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech/SSI/Ian Regan

Jupiter’s Irregular Satellites



The planet Jupiter has 67 confirmed moons. This gives it the largest retinue of moons with “reasonably secure” orbits of any planet in the Solar System. In fact, Jupiter and its moons are like a miniature solar system with the inner moons orbiting faster than the others. Eight of Jupiter’s moons are regular satellites, with prograde and nearly circular orbits that are not greatly inclined with respect to Jupiter’s equatorial plane. The remainder of Jupiter’s moons are irregular satellites, whose prograde and retrograde orbits are much farther from Jupiter and have high inclinations and eccentricities. These moons were probably captured by Jupiter from solar orbits. There are 17 recently discovered irregular satellites that have not yet been named.

Image Credit:NASA/ESA/Lowell Observatory/J. Spencer/JHU-APL

💞 Exoplanet


sagan*sense | startorialist

We couldn’t let this (often commercial, hetero-normative) holiday pass by without sharing these adorkable exoplanet valentines from @nasa!
The website has great scientifically accurate & detailed explanations of each one (after a couple clicks, e.g.), so even Pedantic Astronomer is a Romantic Astronomer today!

Via exoplanet scientist Dr. Elisa Quintana


Interstellar Road Map for Voyagers’


ΔS ≥ 0 | the-telescope-times

NASA’s two Voyager spacecraft are hurtling through unexplored territory on their road trip beyond our solar system. Along the way, they are measuring the interstellar medium, the mysterious environment between stars. NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is providing the road map – by measuring the material along the probes’ future trajectories. Even after the Voyagers run out of electrical power and are unable to send back new data, which may happen in about a decade, astronomers can use Hubble observations to characterize the environment of through which these silent ambassadors will glide.

A preliminary analysis of the Hubble observations reveals a rich, complex interstellar ecology, containing multiple clouds of hydrogen laced with other elements. Hubble data, combined with the Voyagers, have also provided new insights into how our sun travels through interstellar space.

Read more ~

Image: In this illustration oriented along the ecliptic plane, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope looks along the paths of NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft as they journey through the solar system and into interstellar space. Hubble is gazing at two sight lines (the twin cone-shaped features) along each spacecraft’s path. The telescope’s goal is to help astronomers map interstellar structure along each spacecraft’s star-bound route. Each sight line stretches several light-years to nearby stars.
Credits: NASA, ESA, and Z. Levay (STScI)

Martian storms


sagan*sense |  astronomicalwonders

“Like its predecessor, the Viking 2 mission consisted of a lander and an orbiter designed to take high-resolution images, and study the Martian surface and atmosphere. Both the Viking 1 and 2 landers benefited greatly from their orbiting counterparts, which snapped images that helped mission controllers navigate the landers to safe landing sites.”

This particular image was taken by the Viking 2 Orbiter and shows a massive dust storm on the red planet. This spectacular storm can be seen on a global scale. The Viking 2 mission would end 3 years later on April 11, 1980.

Credit: NASA/JPL

Structure of the Milky Way

astrowhat | Endless Wonder

Artist’s impression of the structure of the Milky Way.

This shows the Milky Way as a barred spiral galaxy, with two major arms (Scutum-Centaurus and Perseus) and two less distinct arms (Sagittarius and Norma). The major arms have a high density of stars, while the minor arms consist mostly of gas and star-forming regions. The far-3kpc arm was discovered via a radio-telescope survey.

Our solar system lies in the Orion spur, a smaller arm.