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Saturday Morning Link Roundup

The view of Vesta's south pole, taken by the Dawn spacecraft.

It’s Saturday, so hopefully people are doing more fun things than reading my blog, but here’s a link roundup of items from the last few days:

  • The Dawn probe, currently in orbit around Vesta, has taken enough pictures to create a map of the entire asteroid. Unlike Earth, the Moon, and many other objects studied in this much detail, Vesta is significantly non-spherical, so producing a topographic map has extra challenges beyond, you know, mapping an entirely different world. Emily Lakdawalla has more, including an animated loop showing the shape of Vesta.
  • Speaking of robotic probes exploring our Solar System: the Cassini mission (my favorite probe currently in operation) has released a bunch of raw images of Enceladus, Saturn’s icy moon. (Raw images mean unprocessed: the camera aboard the probe doesn’t take color photos like we think of. Instead, it just collects photons, so the images show white where a photon strikes, and black where one doesn’t. Processing will add color through filters: a full-color image is reconstructed from three photos taken with different filters, then combined digitally, which is a more intensive process.)
  • Science and Music: Seeing Beyond the Noise: Marie-Claire Shanahan takes the chance to be a rock journalist and interviews archaeologist Robin Woywitka and mechanical engineer Paul Farrant, who perform together and have released a new CD.
  • A lot of people watch The History Channel, but let’s face it: there’s a huge amount of nonsense and pseudoscience that gets peddled to viewers. Science writer Virginia Hughes takes them to task in “Dear Mom”, where the problematic approach bleeds into her family life.
  • Since my quick post on Kepler-16b (“Tatooine”, the planet with two suns, etc.) on Thursday, a lot more people have weighed in, including several who have pointed out flaws (or missing information) in what I wrote. Rather than give a bunch of links here, I am reading the technical literature and will have an update for you early next week. However, if you want to get involved in hunting for exoplanets, you can! “Tatooine” was identified several months ago by a user of the Planet Hunters citizen science program, which anyone can use. Go check the site out.

Oh yeah, and if you want to, buy a shirt.

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