USGS Astrogeology Science Center News News about current and upcoming space missions, USGS gelogic products and historical exhibits en-us <![CDATA[Mike and the Moon]]> Wed, 12 Dec 2018 00:00:00 -0700 We had some friends visit while they were on vacation in northern Arizona over the Thanksgiving holiday this year. One night after dinner the topic of conversation drifted to my work with the USGS Astrogeology Science Center here in Flagstaff as an IT Specialist. They had seen Internet articles about the Flagstaff Lunar Legacy Celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first human to set foot on the Moon.

My friends knew I was an amateur astronomer and as our discussion about the Moon continued, they asked me if I had any photographs of the Moon taken through my telescope. Over the past several months the Flagstaff Lunar Legacy Celebration has garnered more and more attention around town and at work and had me turning my telescope to view the Moon more often too. I had to admit that I'd only taken a few quick snapshots and hadn't really spent too much time creating a nice quality photo.

So, I invited our guests to my home office, where we set to work fixing that.

Over the years I have built a robotic, remotely controlled telescope in a protective dome that I can operate entirely from the comfort of my home office. I have created images of the night sky and sent many of them to our friends in the form of Christmas cards, in special occasion newsletters, and just for fun when a new one was completed. I knew the Moon was up and thought we might be able to get a nice photograph. It was Saturday night, November 17, 2018, around eleven-thirty and the following illustration shows the piece of the sky clearly visible at that time. You can see the Moon at the lower right just before it slid down behind the pine trees in the western sky (outside of the yellow border it's all pine trees).

A visible sky map

                                                  Visible Sky


Here is the telescope used to capture pictures of the Moon. A camera connected to the smaller 127mm refractor mounted on top of the larger reflector telescope was used.


Mike's telescope


After centering the Moon in the telescope's field of view, the monochrome camera was used to collect 100 images while the telescope drive system tracked the Moon to the west. Since the Moon is very bright the camera could be set up for short exposures which helps to defeat the jitter and jumpiness seen with longer exposures caused by atmospheric air turbulence. Each of the 100 exposures here was just over 1/10th of a second in duration resulting in an 11 second stream of images. Of the 100 individual images, I selected the best 30 and used them to create the final image. This involved aligning to correct for slight differences in Moon's position from image to image, processing to reduce artifacts, and combining the images, which reduced image noise and brought out detail.

Mike Klinke’s moon shot

                                       Final Shot of the Moon


Once we were happy with the resulting image my friends asked: "Where did the Apollo missions land?" So, using photo editing software I added some layers to the image showing the Apollo landing sites.


Mike Klinke’s moon shot pinpointing Apollo Landing Sites

            Final Shot of the Moon pinpointing Apollo Landing Sites


We talked about how the USGS Astrogeology Science Center helped train astronauts, test equipment that might be used on missions to the Moon, make maps to select the Apollo landing sites, and more. I hope that one day I can add new layers showing where new missions to the Moon have landed. And when humans do return to the moon in future missions, I have little doubt that the USGS Astrogeology Science Center here in Flagstaff will once again play an important role in ensuring that the missions are successful. Hmmm, I wonder if I should get a bigger telescope?

By Mike Klinke

<![CDATA[Name Approved for Feature on Ceres: Lughnasa Tholus]]> Fri, 30 Nov 2018 00:00:00 -0700 Lughnasa Tholus for a feature on Ceres. For more information, see the Ceres map in the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature. ]]> <![CDATA[Watching InSight for a Successful Landing]]> Wed, 28 Nov 2018 00:00:00 -0700 On November 26,  the InSight Lander safely landed in the Elysium Planitia region of Mars. It is amazing how NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has made landing on Mars look so easy. It is not. Years in the making, this joint American, French, and German collaboration, has the primary mission to measure seismic activity on Mars (or “Marsquakes”). 

Landing site map

Several Astrogeology Science Center employees gathered to watch the live feed broadcast from mission control at JPL in Pasadena, California. Photo Credit: Patty Garcia/USGS.

Ecstatic cheering erupted from mission control once the touch-down was announced and the first dusty image was shown. InSight team members at Astrogeology also breathed a collective sigh of relief since they helped to create the InSight landing site maps. These maps are used to assess whether the site is safe to land on. In fact, Astrogeology employees have created 8 landing site maps for 8 seperate successful Mars robotic landings by NASA.

Landing site map

This image from Fergason, 2017, shows the Astrogeology-created CTX (20 m/pixel) and HiRISE (1 m/pixel) topographic maps, colorized by elevation (m), in support of landing site selection for InSight. The grayscale THEMIS daytime infrared controlled mosaic (100 m/pixel), also by USGS, underlays the topographic layers. Topographic-based landing site maps are generated by combining several pairs of stereo images.

Dr. Robin Fergason, a planetary scientist at Astrogeology, led these efforts for NASA. For more information about our InSight support please see this paper: Fergason, R. Kirk, R.L., Cushing, G., Galuzska, D.M., Golombek, M.P., Hare, T.M., Howington-Kraus, E., Kipp, D.M., Redding, B.L., 2017, Analysis of local slopes at the InSight landing site on Mars. Space Sci. Rev. 211, 109–133.

Article by Trent Hare


<![CDATA[Name Approved for Feature on Mars: Cagli]]> Fri, 16 Nov 2018 00:00:00 -0700 Cagli for a crater on Mars. For more information, see Mars map MC-11 in the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.]]> <![CDATA[Name Approved for Feature on Mars: Kalpin]]> Thu, 15 Nov 2018 00:00:00 -0700 Kalpin for a crater on Mars. For more information, see Mars map MC-15 in the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.]]> <![CDATA[My Journey to Geology and BEYOND]]> Fri, 09 Nov 2018 00:00:00 -0700 My journey to geology started one class at a time. In my mid-twenties, with a full-time office job, life seemed sweet, except there was a void in my education that needed filling. I began taking classes, part-time, at Coconino Community College. I enrolled in each science course available, and finally found my niche in geology by way of an oceanography research project where I correlated off-shore buoy data to seasonal beach face changes.


                          Annette Sunda on the Dune Du Pilat

After 6 years of taking one class at a time, while working full time as a file clerk, I had earned my first degree: An Associate of Arts in Liberal Studies, and I had a new-found passion for learning. Since it’s difficult to train in the geology discipline from behind a file clerk’s desk, I quit my job and focused on school. The decision to leave my career, my friends, and my life behind came after a discussion with management in which I was told to choose between school and work. I woke up the next morning and knew that if I wanted a better life, it was up to me to work for it: I left my career and became a full-time student.

The transition to becoming a full-time student was more challenging than I expected. Giving up a career and the stability that comes with it meant that I had to give up my comfortable life, but I found support in my classmates and friends who put a roof over my head and food in my belly. In 2017, I completed my Bachelor of Science, in Geology, at Northern Arizona University (NAU) and am now working on a Master of Science in Computer Science at Regis University.

Research Opportunities

Many amazing research opportunities came along my journey to becoming a geologist, all which had the common thread of measuring how and why sand moves. My undergraduate geology research included California State University Channel Islands (CSUCI) Project ACCESSO summer internship, NASA NAU Space Grant, a Student Contract with USGS Astrogeology Science Center(Astro) which grew into a Pathways Internship.

My work for CSUCI Project ACCESSO was focused on Sandy Beaches of southern California; we measured many parameters of the beach including grain size and beach face slope, and biological richness. Learning how to measure slopes of sandy surfaces and do a grain size analysis led me to my Space Grant where I worked on correlating the movement of sand dunes on the Navajo Nation with a grain size analysis of the dunes. My student contract work with Astro started with image processing for the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Microscopic Imager (MI). I processed data from the MI to create images such as anaglyphs, color merges, and focal merges but blossomed into building a database to contain metadata for the images and a website prototype to share that data. While working as a student contractor for the MER team, I was asked to join another group of people doing research and joined their team to do a grain size analysis of sand collected at their Mars analog dune site.

Program Support Benefited Me

The research I did for my Space Grant was accepted for a poster presentation at the 10th International Conference for Aeolian Research (ICARX) in Bordeaux, France. ICARX is an international conference dedicated to wind erosion and transport phenomena. The financial support I received from GEM Environmental made it possible for me to attend the conference. They supported me with a $1,000 scholarship which paid for my transportation and hotel for the conference. My poster was displayed for two days, and my abstract included in the abstract book ( This was my first conference in a different country and my first trip to another continent; it was a life-changing experience. I was able to network with people doing similar research, those doing complementary research, and those studying things I had never imagined. For a week I lived and breathed wind-driven sediment transportation and had a field trip to the largest sand dune in Europe, the Dune du Pilat.

My Future Career in STEM: benefited!

My time in Bordeaux was dedicated to the conference; most people go to Bordeaux to drink fine wine and admire the art, but I spent most of my days drinking fine wine and talking about wind driven sediment transport. The time I had between presentations, I asked questions and took notes. Evenings were spent riding a bike through the narrow streets while trying not to run over pedestrians or get run over by trams. I returned home with a collection of knowledge about active research projects from around the world, and made networking connections for potential collaborations. The field of research in sediment transportation is small and somewhat disconnected; attending ICARX helped me bridge some of those gaps. After this conference, I attended a proposal writing workshop for sediment transport and was able to inform key decisions based on connections made at ICARX in Bordeaux. By the end of the workshop, I was co-point for a project, tasked with finding funding sources, finding data archives, and maintaining the momentum from that workshop.


If I ever need to remember for a moment, why I do science, I remind myself of the dead-end paper shuffling career and the struggles I went through to get here. I recall the friends and family that supported me when I wanted to give up, and those that gave me a home when the alternative was sleeping in my car. I think of the people that shared their love of science with me and the incredible projects I’ve had the opportunity to work on. My old chemistry professor, Dr. Salami, comes to mind often; his words are burned in my memory “You will not fail! Do not give up! Failure only happens when you give up.” Dr. Salami would be happy to see how far I’ve come since his introduction to chemistry course. Working at Astro is a daily reminder that with determination you can achieve anything. My passion in science is sediment transport and through that I found data science. My Pathways Internship at Astro allows me to combine my passions and grow as a scientist.

By Annette Sunda

<![CDATA[Sol 2223: Optimism for “Highfield”]]> Tue, 06 Nov 2018 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 2222 Navcam of Highfield

On Sol 2222, Curiosity drove ~10 m towards the “Lake Orcadie” location, in the hopes that we would be able to drill the gray Jura member here.  Today’s plan is focused on characterizing the target “Highfield,” the bright patch of outcrop shown in the middle of the above Navcam image.  I was the SOWG Chair today, and it was a pretty straightforward planning day because most of the activities were pre-planned as part of our standard drill site characterization.  First APXS will carry out a short integration on the intended drill target, followed by two MAHLI images.  Then we’ll use the DRT to brush the target, followed by Mastcam imaging and a full suite of MAHLI images.  Then we’ll do a drill pre-load test, which means that we’ll put weight on the drill bit to make sure the surface can support it, and if it makes marks on the surface this might give us an indication of how hard or soft the surface is. Overnight, we’ll acquire a longer APXS integration on “Highfield.”  We were pretty tight on both power and data volume today so it was a bit of a challenge to prioritize everything, but we’re optimistic that this will be our chance to sample the gray Jura member.  I’ll be on duty again tomorrow, so I’m eagerly awaiting our downlink and hoping that we’ll be “go” for a full drill hole here!

By Lauren Edgar

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the MSL science team.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

<![CDATA[So long to NASA's Dawn spacecraft: mission ending today!]]> Thu, 01 Nov 2018 00:00:00 -0700 NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, launched in September 2007, ended its long journey today.  After failed communications and subsequent analyses of the cause, scientists concluded Dawn ran out of hydrazine fuel. This comes as no surprise as  NASA announced in October 2017 that the mission would be extended until Dawn's hydrazine fuel run out about the latter half of 2018.

 Dawn Spacecraft

Artist rendition of NASA's Dawn spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL


Dawn’s mission focused on Vesta and Ceres, two protoplanets within the asteroid belt, to characterize the conditions and processes that shaped our solar system. From July 2011 to September 2012, Dawn orbited Vesta. In 2012, Dawn began surveying Ceres, its final destination. The spacecraft itself, although no longer active, will remain in orbit for at least 20 to 100 years.

“Today, we celebrate the end of our Dawn mission – its incredible technical achievements, the vital science it gave us, and the entire team who enabled the spacecraft to make these discoveries,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Dawn will be forever known as a mission with many firsts. The data Dawn radioed back to Earth will enable scientists to test and refine hypotheses and likely make even more incredible discoveries.

The Dawn mission was managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn was a project of the directorate's Discovery Program, managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. JPL was responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Northrop Grumman in Dulles, Virginia, designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Italian Space Agency and Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team.

Find out more about the Dawn Mission.

By Janet Richie

<![CDATA[Astrogeology Awarded by ISPRS for Apollo Photogrammetry Paper]]> Tue, 30 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0700


Researchers from USGS Astrogeology, along with colleagues from NASA Ames Research Center and Arizona State University (ASU) were recently awarded Best Interactive Presentation at the International Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS) symposium held at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, in Germany, from 10-12 October 2018.


This award was presented for the contribution entitled “Revisiting the Apollo Photogrammetric Mapping System.” This mapping system was a group of cameras on the last three Apollo lunar missions (15, 16, and 17) in the early 1970s, used to take high-quality pictures of a significant fraction of the lunar surface.

Astrogeology has been working with NASA Ames, and ASU to convert as much of the Apollo mapping system data as possible into versatile digital map products. These products will enable a variety of scientific/engineering uses including mission planning, geologic mapping, geophysical process modelling, slope dependent correction of spectral data, and change detection. The paper detailing this work was published in The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences. Kenneth Edmundson, a photogrammetrist with Astrogeology, represented the co-authors at the symposium.

Other co-authors and their current affiliations include:

Astrogeology Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Flagstaff, AZ: Brent A. Archinal, Jesse A. Mapel, Janet O. Richie, Makayla R. Shepherd, John R. Shinaman, Ethan D. Smith, and Lynn A. Weller.

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA: Oleg Alexandrov and Ara V. Nefian.

Lunar Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ: Kris J. Becker and Tammy L. Becker.

Google Inc., Mountain View, CA: Zachary M. Moratto.

School of Earth and Space Exploration and Space Exploration, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ: Mark S. Robinson.


<![CDATA[Sols 2213-2215: Eyes on the sky]]> Fri, 26 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 2210 Navcam

The focus of today’s three-sol plan is environmental monitoring.  I’ll be on duty as SOWG Chair on Monday, so I dialed in today to get up to speed.  The first sol kicks off with Mastcam tau, Navcam line of sight, and Navcam dust devil observations, to monitor the dust content in the atmosphere and search for dust devils.  Then CheMin will return the remaining raw data frames from the “Stoer” analysis from early September.  In the afternoon, Curiosity will acquire a Mastcam sky survey, Navcam zenith movie, and Navcam suprahorizon movie, which will provide additional atmospheric monitoring data.  Similar environmental observations will be acquired early the next morning, with an additional Mastcam crater rim extinction observation.  The second sol also includes a redo of the pre-anomaly post-drive imaging, to look for changes and provide a terrain mesh prior to resuming full arm and mobility activities.  And the third sol includes a final suite of Mastcam tau, Navcam dust devil and Navcam suprahorizon movies, in addition to the standard REMS and DAN passive observations throughout the plan.  

But while the environmental theme group has their eyes on the sky, I’ve got mine on the ground, including the above Navcam view, looking south over the back of the rover, and the new terrain that we are tantalizingly close to reaching.  Looking forward to resuming full science operations soon! 

By Lauren Edgar

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the MSL science team.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

<![CDATA[Astrogeology Helps Choose Where to Land on Mars]]> Wed, 24 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0700 Artist's rendition of the NASA Mars 2020 rover

Where would you send NASA’s next Mars rover? That was the question that hundreds of scientists, including USGS Astrogeology’s Robin Fergason, Ken Herkenhoff, and Ryan Anderson set out to answer last week. The Mars 2020 rover represents the beginning of an ambitious plan to collect rock and soil samples from the surface of Mars and return them to Earth for detailed analysis, raising the stakes on the selection of the best landing site possible.

Astrogeology has a long history of providing the most reliable data possible to NASA to aid in the assessment of landing sites, and the Mars 2020 mission is no exception. Astrogeology has been involved in almost every aspect of site characterization for Mars 2020. Topographic data and thermal analyses from the USGS are used, along with images and other data, to identify areas of the landing sites that are dangerous, such as cliffs or craters or fields of sand dunes from which the rover would be unable to escape. Mars 2020 will use a new technology that will allow it to autonomously avoid hazards by comparing its view of the surface with images provided by USGS Astrogeology in real-time as it is landing.

The meeting last week was the culmination of years of discussion and was focused on the science potential of three finalists that emerged from previous meetings: Columbia Hills, Northeast Syrtis, and Jezero. A fourth site, Midway, located between Northeast Syrtis and Jezero was also added to the mix.

Silica nodules observed by Spirit rover on Mars compared with those at hot springs on Earth.

Fans of Mars exploration may recognize the name Columbia Hills. The Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, which landed in Gusev crater in 2004, spent much of its mission exploring the Columbia Hills, and its discoveries there are what make the site an appealing candidate for sample return. Spirit discovered carbonate rocks that may hold clues to the early evolution of the martian atmosphere, volcanic rocks that could provide a precise numerical age for the martian surface, and most importantly, abundant evidence for volcanic and hydrothermal activity. Hydrothermal settings on Earth are known as habitats for life, and silica deposits found in hydrothermal springs are excellent at capturing and preserving microbes. Silica deposits discovered by the Spirit rover look uncannily similar to those found on Earth, so they may represent an ideal sample to collect from Mars to answer the question of whether life ever arose there.

Advocates for the Columbia Hills site at last week’s meeting said that knowing that there are excellent samples to collect at the site means that the Mars 2020 mission is more likely to be successful. However, others argued that there is a risk that any discoveries made in the Columbia Hills might be difficult to link to the rest of Mars, because it is unclear how the Colombia Hills rocks are related to other geologic units on Mars. There was also concern that returning to a site that has been explored before when we have only seen a handful of places on the surface of Mars could limit the potential for new discoveries as compared to visiting new sites.

Cartoon stratigraphic column of the Northeast Syrtis region. From Ehlmann et al. presentation at the Mars 2020 landing site workshop.

Northeast Syrtis would represent one such new site. It is in the rugged, cratered highlands that represent some of the oldest rocks on Mars. Even better, it is part of an entire region where data from satellites in orbit around Mars reveals that there is a predictable sequence of rocks, with extremely ancient weathered rocks on the bottom, carbonate-bearing rocks on top of those, and erosion-resistant cap rocks on top of that. Included in the ancient rocks at the bottom of this sequence are huge blocks of rock ejected from the nearby Isidis basin when it was formed by a giant impact. Farther afield from the landing site, but close enough to be reached during an extended mission are layered sulfate minerals that likely formed in water, and the extensive Syrtis Major lava flows.

Advocates for Northeast Syrtis point to the diverse, ancient rocks that could be sampled that are part of a broader regional, or potentially global, geologic sequence. They also argue that the hydrothermal alteration that formed some of the minerals observed in these rocks would provide a long-lasting habitable environment for life, making them good targets to help answer the question of life on Mars. However, some scientists questioned how well we understand the rocks at Northeast Syrtis and worry that landing there might result in a mission that is inefficient at first as the science team tries to get their bearings and figure out where to go first. There were also concerns about how well the rocks at Northeast Syrtis could preserve the evidence for ancient life, and the extended mission at Northeast Syrtis would bring the rover into rough terrain where a subsequent mission to retrieve the collected samples could have trouble landing.

View of the delta in Jezero crater, with colors indicating different minerals.

Jezero crater is in the same region as Northeast Syrtis, but its main attraction is a spectacular fan-shaped deposit on the northwestern crater floor, thought to be a delta of sediment formed by a river emptying into a lake that once filled the crater. On Earth, deltas are rich in organic materials collected from throughout the river’s watershed and concentrated in the finest sediments. The floor of Jezero also contains an extensive surface with a volcanic composition which, if it is a lava flow, could be analyzed to determine its age. Jezero also shows evidence for concentrations of carbonate minerals, especially along the base of the crater rim near the delta, right at the elevation expected for the former lake, making some scientists hopeful that the carbonates could have been deposited at the shore of the lake. Such deposits on Earth are good at preserving microbes.

Scientists in favor of Jezero as the landing site for Mars 2020 point to the delta deposits and carbonates as high priority samples for answering the question of life on Mars, and the crater floor samples as providing constraints on the age of the martian surface. They also say that the delta provides a clear target of known origin so that the rover can hit the ground running for more efficient operations. However, some scientists were skeptical of Jezero, expressing concern about uncertainty in the age of the delta and whether the crater floor might be sedimentary rather than volcanic rock and therefore less useful for dating the surface.

Image showing the location of the NE Syrtis, Jezero, and Midway landing ellipses.

Midway, just to the west of Jezero and north of Northeast Syrtis, was the final site discussed. It was suggested by the Mars 2020 project as an alternative to Northeast Syrtis. Midway has basically the same rocks as Northeast Syrtis (one benefit of the rocks being consistent across the region), but has the added advantage that, in theory, the rover could drive from Jezero to Midway or vice versa in its extended mission. This idea of a “megamission” was presented as an ambitious compromise solution between Jezero and Northeast Syrtis.

The meeting ended with an anonymous vote considering the science potential of each site, the samples that might be collected there, and the confidence in that assessment of science potential. The extended mission options for each site were also evaluated based on the same criteria. In the end, Jezero, Midway, and Northeast Syrtis ended up with essentially the same scores, and Columbia Hills was ranked lowest of the four sites.

This result, the distillation of years of work by the Mars science community, will be used by the Mars 2020 project to decide which site to recommend to NASA headquarters, where the final decision will be made in the next few months after weighing the science with other considerations.

We are extremely lucky to live in a time where we have such a wealth of data that we can have such sophisticated debates about the merits of landing sites on another planet, and it is always exciting to be involved. No matter where Mars 2020 ends up going, Astrogeology will be there, helping to ensure a safe landing and participating in the mission itself through our involvement in several of the scientific instruments.

<![CDATA[Four Names Approved on Mercury]]> Fri, 19 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0700 Carleton and Travers. Two other names were also approved: Meteor Rupes and Kainan Rupes. For more information, see Mercury map H-14 in the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.]]> <![CDATA[NASA awaits Opportunity's call]]> Fri, 19 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0700
Mars Explorer Rover, Opportunity. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL

The Mars Exploration Rover vehicle Opportunity remains missing in action 124 Martian days after falling silent at the onset of a global dust storm in early June. The solar powered vehicle lost power as the windblown dust blocked sunlight from reaching the solar panels that power the rover. Calculations suggest that the ambient temperature around the vehicle should remain above the survival temperature of the electronics during the dust storm, however all warranties on the vehicle have expired after the passage of 14 years on the surface of Mars (of what was supposed to have been a 90-day mission!). The science team remains hopeful of the possibility that a layer of dust settled on the solar panels, which could be removed by strong gusts of wind in the near future, allowing Opportunity to wake up and "phone home".

By Paul Geissler

<![CDATA[Apollo 8 Astronaut Visits Flagstaff Science Center]]> Fri, 12 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0700 The Astrogeology Science Center had a special guest on September 19, 2018: William Alison Anders, the Lunar Module Pilot on Apollo 8, the first human mission to the Moon. Anders is additionally celebrated for capturing the iconic photograph “Earthrise,” the first color photograph of the Earth taken from lunar orbit. This image is widely credited with starting the environmental movement.

 The famous 'Earthrise' photo from Apollo 8 captured by Anders, annotation by the IAU. Image credit: NASA 

Anders was visiting Flagstaff for more than just a tour of Astrogeology: he was here to meet with the IAU Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature to hash out details regarding commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 8 mission. The IAU approved names for two craters on the Moon, both visible in the foreground of the famous Earthrise photograph taken by Anders on Christmas Eve, 1968.The craters are now named ‘Anders’ Earthrise’ and ‘8 Homeward’.

 The famous 'Earthrise' photo from Apollo 8 captured by Anders, annotation by the IAU. Image credit NASA/IAU.

The USGS Astrogeology Science Center maintains the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature database and website. The nomenclature database managers, Tenielle Gaither and Rose Hayward, respond to requests from researchers for new names through the Gazetteer website and work with researchers to refine and create their name proposals. They also assist the members of the IAU Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature during the approval process.

Get more details about this exciting time for Anders at the International Astronomical website.

By Janet Richie

<![CDATA[Let’s go to the movies and see First Man]]> Tue, 09 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0700

The movie "First Man" about Neil Armstrong, the first astronaut to walk on the Moon, will be released in the United States on October 12, 2018! The film is based on the book First Man, written by Josh Singer.

Here in Flagstaff, our scientists are meeting with members of NASA's Astronaut Candidate Training Program this week, to discuss how to train future astronauts who might return to the Moon, so of course everyone involved will be going to see the premiere of the movie!