LPSC 2010: So long

Allright folks, I will be off to the George Bush Airport in a moment. It’s been a busy conference, dominated entirely by the news about Moon water, not all of which has to do with the discoveries in the last 6 months from LRO and Chandrayaan. For this other news, I hope you, dear reader, can wait until my story comes out in the magazine next week.  Read more

LPSC 2010: Titan’s lakes — choppy waters ahead?

Ralph Lorenz of APL gave a talk yesterday that discussed the puzzling stillness seen in Titan’s northern lakes. Given the moon’s super-rotating atmosphere and low gravity, one might expect Cassini to see some choppiness on the hydrocarbon seas. Lorenz lays out two possibilities to explain this: Either the lakes are viscous and stiff, or the changing seasons will bring winds to the north — which means that Cassini, in its new Solstice Mission, ought to catch some breakers in the act.  Read more

Man bags first piece of stardust

I had the pleasure today of speaking to Bruce Hudson, a 46-year-old resident of Midland, Ontario in Canada and a lifelong fan of stars and planets and all the things in the heavens that make our little lives on Earth seem at once small and exalted. Seven years ago, Hudson had a stroke that rendered the right side of his body mostly useless and forced him to leave his job as a groundskeeper for a Catholic shrine. He couldn’t really play video games. So he joined Stardust @Home, the crowdsourced effort to find bits of stardust buried within a spacecraft’s trap. For a few years, he scanned thousands of pictures, sometimes working 15 hours a day.  Read more

LPSC 2010: The silvery Moon

What doesn’t the Moon trap in its frigid poles? In a series of talks from the LCROSS team this morning, lunar scientists explained that water seemedo be just one among many volatiles trapped in the polar regions. In a talk, Peter Schultz of Brown University showed evidence for two strong emission lines appearing in the ejecta cloud a few seconds after impact. The bizarre best-fit for these lines? Silver. “If we can find ”http://www.nature.com/news/2009/091113/full/news.2009.1087.html”>mercury on the Moon, maybe we can find silver,” Schultz said.  Read more

LPSC 2010: Spirit: Not dead yet

So the obituaries for the Mars rover Spirit are a bit premature, says rover scientist Ray Arvidson of Washington University, who I caught up with in the hallway here at LPSC. Since NASA headquarters held a press conference at the end of January announcing that Spirit would become a stationary science lander, the rover got itself unstuck and moved 34 centimeters using a sort of lateral ice-skating-like blading action. “We only stopped because we had to get ready for winter,” Arvidson said.  Read more

LPSC 2010: Laurie Leshin talks robotic precursor missions

There’s always a well-attended NASA night at LPSC, and tonight was no exception. Perhaps it was because Laurie Leshin, the new deputy associate administrator for the human space flight programme, was giving her first public talk. Leshin comes from a science background, and so she was speaking to ‘her people’. Everyone wanted to know how the big strategic changes at NASA, revealed in President Obama’s budget request, would affect research, particularly the lunar programme.  Read more

LPSC 2010: Yes there is water on the Moon

It used to be that journalists joked about the multiple times that water was “discovered” for the first time on Mars. So when I heard that there would be an ad-hoc “water on the moon” press event today at LPSC, I wondered if I would hear about yet another wonderful watery lunar discovery.  Read more

LPSC 2010: The Woodlands

Here we are back in the Woodlands, Texas, about 45 minutes north of Houston, for the 2010 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. Last year, LPSC moved to the Woodlands because it had outgrown the modest conference center in League City, south of Houston near Johnson Space Center.  Read more

APS 2010: The missing BEHHGK boson

APS 2010: The missing BEHHGK boson

Maybe Peter Higgs shouldn’t have stayed home. The 80 year old Scottish physicist, famous for the elusive mass-conferring particle named after him, didn’t make it to APS on Monday, when he was supposed to receive the Sakurai Prize along with five other theorists who played important roles in developing the theories that predict the particle. His absence — or perhaps the elevation of the five others involved in the prize — seems to be affecting the way that physicists talk about the particle. Rob Roser of Fermilab gave a talk this morning about how the Tevatron still has time to  … Read more