“There’s no place like home…”

I didn’t ‘Wave at Saturn’ on 19 July when the Cassini probe, orbiting the gas giant, was taking a high-definition image of the view back home.  I don’t think it encouraged a proper sense of perspective…  But the resultant image is stunning. [Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute] It’s not the first time Cassini has looked home.  Nor is it the only stunning image the probe has provided.  But, as those involved pointed out “We can’t see individual continents or people in this …

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“Look again at that dot.”

As Curiosity heads to Mars, and Voyager continues to go boldly further than ever, the BBC reports on some speculative assessments of potentially habitable locations elsewhere in the galaxy.  A timely reminder, then, from the Guardian’s GrrlScientist of our pale blue dot in this short video tribute to Carl Sagan. Carl Sagan (1934-1996), Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space [1997: Amazon UK; Amazon US]. From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any …

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Mercury: “A world in and of its own”

In March this year Nasa’s Messenger probe became the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury.  And, as the BBC reports, a few days ago Nasa released the scientific observations and data collected during the first three months of its scheduled year-long mission.  In the process a number of hypotheses about the innermost planet were consigned to the “dust bin of science”.  Mercury is not like the Moon, nor like the Earth, and it’s not “the burnt-out cinder of the solar system”. [All images …

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“you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s…”

With Cassini exploring Saturn’s moons, and Messenger finally at Mercury, the BBC’s Spaceman, Jonathan Amos, takes an interesting look at the future prospects for interstellar travel.  And he starts with this observation of Voyager’s 33-year-long journey. I’ve been troubled of late by the scale of things, by the vastness of space. It’s been brought into focus by two things, I think. The first is the Voyager 1 probe – the most distant man-made object from Earth. I’ve written a couple of …

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Messenger to Mercury

Tonight at 12.45am [GMT] Nasa’s Messenger spacecraft will begin a 15 minute engine burn timed to take it into orbit around Mercury – the first spacecraft to do so.  (All images credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington) Launched on 3 August 2004, Messenger’s taken a circuitous route to the innermost planet. It’s second, and final, look at the Earth was in August 2005. Twice past Venus, the second time in June 2007 Before not one, not two fly-bys, but …

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