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Twelve New Names Approved for Use on Titan

Friday, September 28, 2007

The following 12 names have been approved by the IAU for surface features on Titan: Elivagar Flumina, Abaya Lacus, Bolsena Lacus, Feia Lacus, Koitere Lacus, Mackay Lacus, Mvatn Lacus, Neagh Lacus, Oneida Lacus, Sotonera Lacus, Sparrow Lacus, and Waikare Lacus. See the Titan section of the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature for more information.

Wanna Be An Astronaut?

Friday, September 21, 2007

NASA's hiring several new astronauts! The positions are advertised on the USAJobs website. Duties are described as:

Astronauts are involved in all aspects of assembly and on-orbit operations of the ISS. This includes extravehicular activities (EVA), robotics operations using the remote manipulator system, experiment operations, and onboard maintenance tasks. Astronauts are required to have a detailed knowledge of the ISS systems, as well as detailed knowledge of the operational characteristics, mission requirements and objectives, and supporting systems and equipment for each experiment on their assigned missions.

Long-duration missions aboard the ISS generally last from 3 to 6 months. Training for long duration missions is very arduous and takes approximately 2 to 3 years. This training requires extensive travel, including long periods away in other countries training with our international partners. Travel to and from the ISS will be by Space Shuttle until its retirement in 2010. Following the Shuttle retirement, all trips to and from the ISS will be aboard the Russian Soyuz vehicle. Consequently, astronauts must meet the Soyuz size requirements. Additional information about the position can be found at

USAJobs: Astronaut Candidate - Announcement Number JS07A0176 (open until July 2008)

Three New Saturnian Moon Names and Expansion of Theme

Friday, September 21, 2007

The IAU has approved names for three more Saturnian moons. They are:

Saturn L = S/2006 S 6 Jarnsaxa

Saturn LI = S/2006 S 4 Greip

Saturn LII = S/2007 S 1 Tarqeq

The theme for prograde satellites with an inclination of around 48 degrees has been expanded to include Inuit spirits. See the Planet and Satellite Names and Discoverers page in the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature for more details.

Martian Patera Sizes Adjusted and New Mons/Tholus Names Introduced

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The descriptor term 'patera' is defined in the gazetteer as "an irregular crater, or a complex one with scalloped edges" (see Descriptor Terms). The sizes of seven Martian features (Alba, Apollinaris, Biblis, Hadriaca, Tyrrhena, Ulysses, and Uranius Paterae) have increased over time from the sizes of the central depressions to the sizes of the entire edifices. In order to correct this inconsistency in the database, the sizes of these paterae have been adjusted to correspond only to the central depressions.

New names for the mons/tholus features have been introduced. The new names are: Alba Mons, Apollinaris Mons, Biblis Tholus, Hadriacus Mons, Tyrrhenus Mons, Ulysses Tholus, and Uranius Mons.

New Google Moon features USGS Astro's work!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

google moon screenshot
Screenshot of the Google Moon webpage, displaying map of the Apollo 17 landing site and a photo of Apollo astronaut Jack Schmitt at Tracy's Rock.

Google Moon has been completely revamped, and now features a variety of images and maps created by the USGS Astrogeology Research Program, including a global mosaic from the Clementine mission, terrain, shaded relief map, geologic maps, and high resolution Apollo maps. For more information about the contributors, see the About Google Moon page.

New PBS Special on Astronomy and Interactive Web Site

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"Seeing in the Dark," a dramatic new PBS special by award-winning journalist and author Timothy Ferris, premieres at 8 pm September 19th on most PBS stations (check local listings for exact dates and times.) It explores the delights and rewards of amateur astronomy and chronicles the contributions that amateurs are making to the science and art of astronomy. The program was produced in state-of-the-art high definition and features beautiful images and animations that range from the planets to depths of space.

Accompanying the show is a new interactive web site. Among the many things you can do at the web site are:

  • view or print "Your Sky Tonight" sky chart
  • watch introductory "how-to-videos" on getting started with the hobby of astronomy
  • read more about the astronomers featured in the show and get background information about the astronomy it covers
  • explore a series of class-room tested, hands-on activities for students in grades 2 through 12
  • browse through a gallery of beautiful color images of the cosmos
  • find a star whose light left on its journey toward us in the year you were born
  • discover some fun projects and games for families
  • watch the amazing special effects videos from Seeing in the Dark on your computer
  • browse through links to some of the best web sites for learning more about astronomy, and finding an astronomy club near you
More: PBS - Seeing in the Dark

Cassini's Closest Visit of Iapetus

Friday, September 7, 2007

Cassini image
On New Year's Eve 2004, Cassini flew past Saturn's intriguing moon Iapetus, capturing the four visible light images that were put together to form this global view.
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
On Sept. 10, the Cassini spacecraft performs its closest flyby during the entire mission of the odd moon Iapetus, passing by about 1,640 kilometers (1,000 miles). Iapetus is a world of sharp contrasts. The leading hemisphere is as dark as a freshly-tarred street, and the white, trailing hemisphere resembles freshly-fallen snow. Scientists want to know more about the composition of the dark material that coats Iapetus. They also want to learn more about Iapetus' distinctive walnut shape and the chain of mountains along its equator.

More: NASA Cassini-Huygens Iapetus Flyby

More: NASA - Encountering Iapetus (image right)

HiRISE Camera Returns New View of Dark Pit on Mars

Friday, September 7, 2007

dark  pit on mars
HiRISE image of a dark pit seen on Mars. The pit is a vertical shaft that cuts through lava flow on the flank of the Arsia Mons volcano.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

The High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) has confirmed that a dark pit seen on Mars in an earlier HiRISE image really is a vertical shaft that cuts through lava flow on the flank of the Arsia Mons volcano. Such pits form on similar volcanoes in Hawaii and are called "pit craters."

More: NASA - Dark Pit on Mars' Arsia Mons, with Sunlit Wall

More: UA News - HiRISE Camera Returns New View of Dark Pit on Mars

More: LPL - HiRISE access images, news, and and instrument information

Mars Rovers Survive Dust Storms, Ready for Next Objectives

Friday, September 7, 2007

Two months after sky-darkening dust from severe storms nearly killed NASA's Mars exploration rovers, the solar powered robots are awake and ready to continue their mission. Opportunity's planned descent into the giant Victoria Crater was delayed, but now the rover is preparing to drive into the 800-meter-diameter crater (half-mile-diameter) as early as Sept. 11. Victoria Crater contains an exposed layer of bright rocks that may preserve evidence of interaction between the Martian atmosphere and surface from millions of years ago, when the atmosphere might have been different from today's. Victoria is the biggest crater Opportunity has visited.

Spirit, Opportunity's rover twin, also survived the global dust storms. The rovers are 43 months into missions originally planned to last three months. On Sept. 5, Spirit climbed onto its long-term destination called Home Plate, a plateau of layered bedrock bearing clues to an explosive mixture of lava and water.

More: NASA - Mars Rovers Survive Dust Storms, Ready for Next Objectives

More: NASA Podcast - Opportunity knocks -- on a Martian crater