Dawn over Ceres: the lonely volcano

Ceres is different. It was the first asteroid to be discovered and is by some distance the largest. Ceres contains a quarter of all the mass on the entire asteroid belt. (That sounds more impressive than it is: the mass is just over 1% of that of the Moon.) But it does not look like…

Vesta’s volcanoes: Dawn’s blast in the past

This is the second instalment of the Dawn space trilogy. If you haven’t seen the first part yet, you may want to read that first. The region was known to be peculiar. The ground around the German town of Nordlingen contained strange rocks – the houses were build from them. Geologists had decided that it…

Dawn over Ceres: the journey

There used to be a missing planet. It had long been realized that there was an empty gap in the Solar System, between Mars and Jupiter. The two were just too far apart. The distribution of the planets was described well by a relation proposed by Johann Titius and Johann Bode, and this relation predicted…

Volcano Cafe 2.0: Welcome to the Mars Bar

We hope you enjoyed this April Fool’s post! It was designed to sound believable, up to the point you got to either the beer or to the news in the Mars Times. (‘Tiu’ is an old english word for ‘Mars’, as in ‘Tuesday’.) But rest assured, nothing in here is true, especially the bit about…

Beneath a Boiling Sun: Mercury Rising

All volcanoes are the same. You start with liquid rock some distance below the surface. It tries to rise because molten rock is less dense than the solid rock that surrounds it. Once it reaches the surface it is called a volcano. There are many variations, of course. The liquid may pour out and form…

The Moon, the Moon! Mount Marilyn and the Merry Men of Apollo 8

The space race had seemed a bit pointless. The first orbiting satellites were mainly there to demonstrate the capability of the carrying rockets – whose real task was to deliver missiles to whoever was deemed to be the enemy. Jodrell Bank became famous not by detecting the first Sputnik – anyone with a radio could…

New Horizons: News from Pluto

The Judgement of Jupiter is a story written around 1495 in Germany and published under the pen name of Paulus Niavis. It tells of a case in the court of law of Jupiter. The accusation is parricide (destruction of the environment). The accused is a mine worker; the victim is Mother Earth. Mercury is the…

New Horizons: the way to Pluto

The exploration of space has been a two-way battle. Not between the Russians and Americans, but between humans and robots. The race to the Moon was a victory for the humans. But it is notable that the humans have been in retreat since. We no longer go beyond low-Earth orbit: we could not go back…

Pluto: the big-hearted dwarf + Katla Reawakening

Its career as a planet last for less than half its year. Pluto was discovered late, in 1930, as our final planet, completing the Sun’s brood of nine. (In hindsight it had been seen, but not recognized, as early as 1909.) But it was always an odd one, the runt of the litter, banished to…

Terrae Nova: the Eye of Africa

The previous post on Venus described a peculiar type of volcanic construct called a corona, unique to Venus. This blog is read by knowledgeable people with a somewhat critical attitude to authority, while at the same time having a strong respect for experts [For UK readers: see footnote], and this statement was immediately questioned. A…