Wednesday, May 09, 2007

space roundup

I used to fuss over every last bit of space minutiae on this blog, but I haven't done that for a while. Here are a few recent interesting items I've been meaning to mention but didn't get around to:

  • The New Horizons probe flew past Jupiter back in February, on its way to Pluto. That didn't get a lot of press, since I guess visiting Jupiter is old hat these days or something. In any case, here are the cool photos.

  • The Japanese space agency's finally released the full photo sets from the Hayabusa probe's visit to the asteroid Itokawa. Looks like a weird and fascinating place; I don't know how you even tell which way is up on a thing like that.

    The website isn't the best-organized I've ever seen, but at least they finally released the goodies.

  • The ESA's Rosetta craft flew by Mars around the same time New Horizons was at Jupiter. The photos at that link are the only ones I've seen so far. But then, visiting Mars really is old hat these days.

  • As for upcoming events, MESSENGER will pass Venus early next month on its way to Mercury. Later that month, Dawn leaves for the asteroid belt, and in August Phoenix heads off to Mars.

  • And another batch of newly named moons of outer planets. They've been handing out a lot of nice exotic-sounding names from world mythology lately. It's kind of a shame that the objects being named are small, nondescript chunks of rock and ice.

    When I was a kid, you could memorize the whole list of moons. And really that wasn't very long ago at all, I'll have you know. You could memorize the whole list, I think there were mnemonics for it and everything, and I did memorize the list. Hey, I'm a geek, what can I say?

    From here, one more for Jupiter, and 13 for Saturn.

    Jupiter XLIX Kore = S/2003 J 14

    Saturn XXXVI Aegir = S/2004 S 10
    Saturn XXXVII Bebhionn = S/2004 S 11
    Saturn XXXVIII Bergelmir = S/2004 S 15
    Saturn XXXIX Bestla = S/2004 S 18
    Saturn XL Farbauti = S/2004 S 9
    Saturn XLI Fenrir = S/2004 S 16
    Saturn XLII Fornjot = S/2004 S 8
    Saturn XLIII Hati = S/2004 S 14
    Saturn XLIV Hyrokkin = S/2004 S 19
    Saturn XLV Kari = S/2006 S 2
    Saturn XLVI Loge = S/2006 S 5
    Saturn XLVII Skoll = S/2006 S 8
    Saturn XLVIII Surtur = S/2006 S 7

    And from here, another four for Neptune:

    2002N1 - Halimede
    2002N2 - Sao
    2002N3 - Laomedeia
    2002N4 - Neso

    The last one is fairly fascinating, if just because of its extreme orbit. It orbits Neptune at an average distance of around 48 million km, and it takes just over 25 years to complete a single orbit of the planet. For comparison, that distance is about 70% of the distance from the Sun to the planet Mercury, and is almost 125x the distance from the Earth to the Moon. Yow.

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