Posts by Bob Trembley

Exoplanet Extravaganza

Artist's concept shows what the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system may look like, based on available data about the planets' diameters, masses and distances from the host star. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Exoplanet news has been all the buzz since the announcement of seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a red dwarf star 39 light-years away from Earth - that's 229 trillion miles or 369 trillion kilometers. Three of those worlds orbit within that star's habitable zone, increasing their likelihood of supporting life.

Two hours after the announcement, I discussed with students in the Endeavour Space Academy, what exoplanets are, exoplanet detection methods, and the thousands of exoplanets found to date. The questions I got mirror those I've seen asked online:

Can we go there? Well, there are a lots of gotchas to that question. At our current level of technology, and using the fastest object humans have created as a baseline, it would take well over 100,000 years to reach this star system; Remember: "Space is big. Really big!" Speaking of "we," what will modern-day humans have evolved into after 100,000 years?

Could life exist there? It's certainly possible. With the discovery of extremophiles living in hostile environments on Earth, we've had to redefine the limits of life on Earth, and by extension, where life might be found on other worlds. Several bodies in our solar system have be found to have subsurface oceans, and may have hydrothermal vents - like those on Earth that support rich ecosystems. As Br. Guy likes to point out: "If it has happened, it can happen!"

The SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute has been monitoring the TRAPPIST-1 system for radio emissions using the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) since the announcement in May of 2016 that there were three Earth/Venus-sized worlds orbiting that star; now that we know there are seven, that makes this system an even more interesting target.

The James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in October of 2018, will study the atmospheres of exoplanets; I eagerly await the day when NASA announces the discovery of oxygen in the atmosphere of an Earth-like world orbiting another star.

Hypothetical Earth-like exoplanet with a moon orbiting a binary star. Credit: Universe Sandbox ² / Bob Trembley

JPL Press Release 2017-047:

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star. Three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water.

The discovery sets a new record for greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system. All of these seven planets could have liquid water -- key to life as we know it -- under the right atmospheric conditions, but the chances are highest with the three in the habitable zone.

"This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "Answering the question 'are we alone' is a top science priority and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal."

At about 40 light-years (235 trillion miles) from Earth, the system of planets is relatively close to us, in the constellation Aquarius. Because they are located outside of our solar system, these planets are scientifically known as exoplanets.

This exoplanet system is called TRAPPIST-1, named for The Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile. In May 2016, researchers using TRAPPIST announced they had discovered three planets in the system. Assisted by several ground-based telescopes, including the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, Spitzer confirmed the existence of two of these planets and discovered five additional ones, increasing the number of known planets in the system to seven.

TRAPPIST-1 System showing habitable zone. Credit: NASA Eyes on Exoplanets / Bob Trembley

The new results were published Wednesday in the journal Nature, and announced at a news briefing at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Using Spitzer data, the team precisely measured the sizes of the seven planets and developed first estimates of the masses of six of them, allowing their density to be estimated.

Based on their densities, all of the TRAPPIST-1 planets are likely to be rocky. Further observations will not only help determine whether they are rich in water, but also possibly reveal whether any could have liquid water on their surfaces. The mass of the seventh and farthest exoplanet has not yet been estimated -- scientists believe it could be an icy, "snowball-like" world, but further observations are needed.

"The seven wonders of TRAPPIST-1 are the first Earth-size planets that have been found orbiting this kind of star," said Michael Gillon, lead author of the paper and the principal investigator of the TRAPPIST exoplanet survey at the University of Liege, Belgium. "It is also the best target yet for studying the atmospheres of potentially habitable, Earth-size worlds."

The TRAPPIST-1 System would easily fit within the orbit of Mercury. Credit: NASA Eyes on Exoplanets / Bob Trembley

In contrast to our sun, the TRAPPIST-1 star -- classified as an ultra-cool dwarf -- is so cool that liquid water could survive on planets orbiting very close to it, closer than is possible on planets in our solar system. All seven of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary orbits are closer to their host star than Mercury is to our sun. The planets also are very close to each other. If a person were standing on one of the planet's surface, they could gaze up and potentially see geological features or clouds of neighboring worlds, which would sometimes appear larger than the moon in Earth's sky.

Sol compared to TRAPPIST-1 and Jupiter. Credit: Universe Sandbox ² / Bob Trembley

The planets may also be tidally locked to their star, which means the same side of the planet is always facing the star, therefore each side is either perpetual day or night. This could mean they have weather patterns totally unlike those on Earth, such as strong winds blowing from the day side to the night side, and extreme temperature changes.

Spitzer, an infrared telescope that trails Earth as it orbits the sun, was well-suited for studying TRAPPIST-1 because the star glows brightest in infrared light, whose wavelengths are longer than the eye can see. In the fall of 2016, Spitzer observed TRAPPIST-1 nearly continuously for 500 hours. Spitzer is uniquely positioned in its orbit to observe enough crossing -- transits -- of the planets in front of the host star to reveal the complex architecture of the system. Engineers optimized Spitzer's ability to observe transiting planets during Spitzer's "warm mission," which began after the spacecraft's coolant ran out as planned after the first five years of operations.

"This is the most exciting result I have seen in the 14 years of Spitzer operations," said Sean Carey, manager of NASA's Spitzer Science Center at Caltech/IPAC in Pasadena, California. "Spitzer will follow up in the fall to further refine our understanding of these planets so that the James Webb Space Telescope can follow up. More observations of the system are sure to reveal more secrets."

Following up on the Spitzer discovery, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has initiated the screening of four of the planets, including the three inside the habitable zone. These observations aim at assessing the presence of puffy, hydrogen-dominated atmospheres, typical for gaseous worlds like Neptune, around these planets.

In May 2016, the Hubble team observed the two innermost planets, and found no evidence for such puffy atmospheres. This strengthened the case that the planets closest to the star are rocky in nature.

"The TRAPPIST-1 system provides one of the best opportunities in the next decade to study the atmospheres around Earth-size planets," said Nikole Lewis, co-leader of the Hubble study and astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope also is studying the TRAPPIST-1 system, making measurements of the star's minuscule changes in brightness due to transiting planets. Operating as the K2 mission, the spacecraft's observations will allow astronomers to refine the properties of the known planets, as well as search for additional planets in the system. The K2 observations conclude in early March and will be made available on the public archive.

Spitzer, Hubble, and Kepler will help astronomers plan for follow-up studies using NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, launching in 2018. With much greater sensitivity, Webb will be able to detect the chemical fingerprints of water, methane, oxygen, ozone, and other components of a planet's atmosphere. Webb also will analyze planets' temperatures and surface pressures -- key factors in assessing their habitability.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center, at Caltech, Pasadena, California. Spacecraft operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at Caltech/IPAC. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

For more information about Spitzer, visit:
For more information on the TRAPPIST-1 system, visit:
For more information on exoplanets, visit: 

Simulated view from the surface of TRAPPIST-1f. Credit: Universe Sandbox ² / Bob Trembley

News Media Contacts:
Elizabeth Landau
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Felicia Chou / Sean Potter
NASA Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1726 / 202-358-1536 /

Related Links
TRAPPIST-1 info hub
Video file for media
Video: Seven Wonders of TRAPPIST-1
Visions of the Future
Archived news conference

Educational materials:
› NASA Eyes on Exoplanets (app):
› NASA Wavelength - Exoplanets:
› NASA Space Place - All About Exoplanets:
› NASA's Universe of Learning:

Exoplanet Detection Methods. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

TRAPPIST-1 System showing habitable zone. Credit: Universe Sandbox ² / Bob Trembley

New Named Asteroids – Feb. 12, 2017

Asteroid 21 Lutetia. Credit: ESA 2010 MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

The day before the 4th anniversary of the Chelyabinsk meteor strike, the IAU Minor Planet Center released a new circular: this one, however, contains only the citations for newly names minor planets - it is completely devoid of the usual list of asteroid and comet observations.

Here are the new named minor planets for Feb. 12, 2017:

(6117) Brevardastro = 1985 CZ1
Discovered 1985 Feb. 12 by H. Debehogne at the European Southern Observatory.
Brevard is a county on the east coast of Florida and is known as the “space coast”. Brevard county is the home of the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, where many of the early manned space flights originated. The Brevard Astronomical Society is a very active amateur astronomy community in Brevard county.

(6118) Mayubosh = 1986 QX3
Discovered 1986 Aug. 31 by H. Debehogne at the European Southern Observatory.
There is a Japanese poem whose subject is Mt. Bizan in the Manyosyu, an anthology of the Nara Era. Mt. Bizan is a small mountain that looks like an eyebrow, and is one of the symbols of Tokushima. This whimsical name uses the character for eyebrow, “mayu”, combined with “boshi” (star).

(6125) Singto = 1989 CN
Discovered 1989 Feb. 4 by S. Ueda and H. Kaneda at Kushiro.
Singto Pukahuta (1915–2007) was a prominent Thai astronomy educator and author. He was a founder and Director of the Bangkok Planetarium, and president of the Thai Astronomical Society. One of his books, Star Tales, was included in the List of 100 Good Books that Thai Children and Young Adults Should Read.

(6126) Hubelmatt = 1989 EW1
Discovered 1989 Mar. 5 by Z. V´avrov´a at Kleˇt..
In 1966 the Astronomical Society of Lucerne got permission from the city to use an observatory dome that was located on the grounds of Hubelmatt, a public school. Public tours have been held at the observatory every Tuesday evening. In 1979 a new observatory opened on the roof of the nearby schoolhouse, Hubelmatt West.

(6133) Royaldutchastro = 1990 RC3
Discovered 1990 Sept. 14 by H. E. Holt at Palomar.
The Koniklijke Nederlandse Vereniging voor Weeren Sterrenkunde (KNVWS, Royal Netherlands Association for Meteorology and Astronomy), established in 1901, is a federation of more than fifty amateur organizations and public observatories.

(6134) Kamagari = 1990 RA5
Discovered 1990 Sept. 15 by H. E. Holt at Palomar.
Kamagari is an area in the south of Kure city in Hiroshima prefecture. The Kamagari astronomical observatory is located in this area.

(6138) Miguelhernández = 1991 JH1
Discovered 1991 May 14 by S. Otomo and O. Muramatsu at Kiyosato.
Miguel Hernández (1910–1942) was a poet who fought for peace and the Republic during the Spanish Civil War. He was incarcerated in several fascist prison camps until his death at the summit of the repression. His name went into oblivion until the collapse of the fascist dictatorship, when his plays and poems were rediscovered.

(6142) Tantawi = 1993 FP
Discovered 1993 Mar. 23 by A. C. Gilmore and P. M. Kilmartin at Lake Tekapo.
Muhammad Tantawi (1845–1889) was an Egyptian astronomer and mathematician, who was born in Tanta and later settled in Damascus, Syria. He is well known for reconstructing the ancient sundial in Omayad Mosque in the ancient city of Damascus, which was originally made by Syrian astronomer Ibn al-Shatir.

(6159) Andréseloy = 1991 YH
Discovered 1991 Dec. 30 by S. Ueda and H. Kaneda at Kushiro.
Andrés Eloy Martinez (b. 1963) is a Mexican astronomer and science popularizer known in his country for his radio dramatization of the novel War of the Worlds. He loves creating science videos for the Internet. His biggest concerns are global warming and an asteroid impact on Earth.

(6177) Fécamp = 1986 CE2
Discovered 1986 Feb. 12 by H. Debehogne at the European Southern Observatory.
Fécamp is a small town located in Normandy, France. The history of F´ecamp rests with that of its abbey.

(6187) Kagura = 1988 RD5
Discovered 1988 Sept. 2 by H. Debehogne at the European Southern Observatory.
The Kagura is a Shinto theatrical dance, that has been perfomed in sacred places and on special occasions for a thousand years in Japan.

(6192) Javiergorosabel = 1990 KB1
Discovered 1990 May 21 by E. F. Helin at Palomar.
Javier Gorosabel (1969–2015) was a Spanish astronomer, born in the Basque Country. His contributions to the study of γ-ray bursts were crucial for the development of that field. He was an eager popularizer of astronomy.

(6196) Bernardbowen = 1991 UO4
Discovered 1991 Oct. 28 by S. Ueda and H. Kaneda at Kushiro.
Bernard Bowen was the founding chair of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research and was instrumental in its establishment in 2009. He helped bring part of the Square Kilometre Array telescope to Western Australia. He has also had a distinguished career in Australian marine science and environmental protection.

(6212) Franzthaler = 1993 MS1
Discovered 1993 June 23 by M. Nassir at Palomar.
Franz Thaler (1925–2015) was an author from South Tyrol, Italy and a survivor of Dachau and Hersbruck. Thaler’s memoir, Unvergessen (Unforgotten), initiated the process of coming to terms with what happened during the Nazi era. He was a firm believer in the peaceful coexistence of the three ethnic groups living in South Tyrol.

(6215) Mehdia = 1973 EK
Discovered 1973 Mar. 7 by L. Kohoutek at Bergedorf.
Mehdia, equivalent to the Arabic word for “gift”, is a region in Morocco with rich natural resources. The forest and the Sidi Boughaba lake are home to thousands of species, including endangered migrating birds from Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa, which prefer to spend the winter in the calm, warm waters of Sidi Boughaba.

(6217) Kodai = 1975 XH
Discovered 1975 Dec. 1 by C. Torres and S. Barros at Cerro El Roble.
Kodai Fukushima (b. 1991) is a founder of the student club Libertyer. He made the original proposal of the chosen names “Libertas” and “Fortitudo” for the host star ξ Aquilae and its exoplanet ξ Aquilae b in the IAU’s NameExoWorlds contest.

(6327) Tijn = 1991 GP1
Discovered 1991 Apr. 9 by E. F. Helin at Palomar.
Named for Tijn Kolsteren from the Netherlands, who, at age 6 and diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor, raised over 2 million euros for the International Red Cross, as part of the Dutch charity radio program Serious Request 2016.

(6893) Sanderson = 1983 RS3
Discovered 1983 Sept. 2 by H. Debehogne at the European Southern Observatory.
Richard Sanderson (b. 1955) is Curator of Physical Science at the Springfield Science Museum in Massachusetts, USA. He has been actively involved in developing and presenting popular astronomy public outreach programs for several decades.

(11780) Thunder Bay = 1942 TB
Discovered 1942 Oct. 3 by L. Oterma at Turku.
Thunder Bay, located on the shores of Lake Superior, is the most populous municipality in Northwestern Ontario, Canada. Formed in 1970 as the amalgamation of two cities, Thunder Bay is known as “the Lakehead” because it is Canada’s westernmost port on the Great Lakes and the end of Great Lakes Navigation.

(12706) Tanezaki = 1990 TE1
Discovered 1990 Oct. 15 by T. Seki at Geisei.
Tanezaki is a beach on the eastern side of Urado Bay in Kochi prefecture. It is a beautiful parkland dotted with pine trees and a great place for swimming and relaxation for Kochi city residents.

(14467) Vranckx = 1993 OP3
Discovered 1993 July 20 by E. W. Elst at the European Southern Observatory.
Rudy Vranckx (b. 1959), a historian, has been a conflict journalist in the news department of the Flemish public service broadcaster VRT for more than 25 years. In a career, which included time spent in the Centre for Peace Studies at KU Leuven, he has reported on many conflicts all over the world.

(20098) Shibatagenji = 1994 WC2
Discovered 1994 Nov. 24 by K. Endate and K. Watanabe at Kitami.
Genji Shibata (b. 1940) is a medical doctor, who contributed to public welfare by establishing a hospital and a home for elderly people in Yamaguchi, Japan.

(20117) Tannoakira = 1995 VN1
Discovered 1995 Nov. 15 by K. Endate and K. Watanabe at Kitami.
Akira Tanno (b. 1940) is a historian studying folk customs and scientists in the Edo period of Japan.

(23691) Jefneve = 1997 JN16
Discovered 1997 May 3 by E. W. Elst at the European Southern Observatory.
Jef Neve (1977) is a Belgian jazz and classical music pianist. A 2000 graduate of the Lemmens Institure in Leuven , he wrote the soundtrack for the 2012 VRT series “In Vlaamse Velden” (“In Flandern Fields”).

(30881) Robertstevenson = 1992 RS4
Discovered 1992 Sept. 2 by E. W. Elst at the European Southern Observatory.
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–1894) was a Scottish novelist, poet, essayist and travel writer. His 1879 publication Travels with a Donkey in the C´evennes, recounted his 200 km trip on foot through the C´evennes mountains. The road he followed has been named Chemin de Stevenson in his honor.

(41213) Mimoun = 1999 XG2
Discovered 1999 Dec. 2 by M. Boeuf at Les Tardieux.
Alain Mimoun (1921–2013) was a French long-distance runner, and marathon champion at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne.

(157533) Stellamarie = 2005 TL49
Discovered 2005 Oct. 10 by W. Ries at Altschwendt.
Stella Marie Ries (b. 2008) is the niece of the discoverer.

(176380) Goran = 2001 TE248
Discovered 2001 Oct. 14 by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey at Apache Point.
Goran Ivezic (b. 1971), is a Croatian amateur astronomer and the brother of SDSS team member Zeljko Ivezic.

(428102) Rolandwagner = 2006 QO137
Discovered 2006 Aug. 30 by B. Christophe at Saint-Sulpice.
Roland C. Wagner (1960–2012) was a French author, journalist, literary critic, translator and sometime singer, who wrote dozens of sci-fi novels. His final novel, Reves de Gloire, won several literary awards.


New Named Asteroids – Jan. 12, 2017

Asteroid 21 Lutetia. Credit: ESA 2010 MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Each month (or thereabouts), the IAU Minor Planet Center publishes a PDF document containing an extensive list of asteroid and comet observations. At the bottom of this document is a list of newly named asteroids.

Asteroids have been named after: scientists (Br. Guy Consolmagno, Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson) and fictional characters (Sauron, Achilles), cities (Barcelona, Chicago), and entertainers (Freddie Mercury, Monty Python, Wil Wheaton), science and engineering fair winning students, and space mission specialists (a boatload of OSIRIS-REx mission team members got asteroids named after them). The Warren Astronomical Society and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific both have asteroids named after them.

While doing research for my lecture on asteroids, I got to know an astronomer who worked at the Catalina Sky Survey; through him, I was able to get an asteroid named after my wife: 117852 Constance (2005 JG151). Each citation is allowed a short description of the recipient; sometimes it can be difficult to extol the virtues of a recipient in the space of two "tweets."

Connie's citation reads:
117852 Constance = 2005 JG151
Discovered 2005 May 3 by the Catalina Sky Survey.
Constance L. Martin-Trembley (b. 1962) has been a beloved and inspirational science teacher for over a decade. Connie has organized educational trips, run an after school book club and science club, and has a passion for astronomy. She was awarded Teacher of the year for her district in 2007.

Here are the new named minor planets for Jan. 12, 2017:

(6406) Mikejura = 1992 MJ
Discovered 1992 June 28 by H. E. Holt at Palomar.
Michael Jura (1947–2016) was as an American astronomer and UCLA professor whose work on polluted white dwarfs first enabled the measurement of the chemical compositions of extrasolar asteroids.

(6466) Drewesquivel = 1979 MU8
Discovered 1979 June 25 by E. F. Helin and S. J. Bus at Siding Spring.
Drew Esquivel (1995–2016), a devoted student, mentor, leader, and outstanding athlete on wrestling and swimming teams, enjoyed sharing his skills and passion for software development with his peers at MIT and the Summer Science Program, and with the community at large via mobile applications and online tutoring.

(7156) Flaviofusipecci = 1981 EC2
Discovered 1981 Mar. 4 by H. Debehogne and G. De Sanctis at the European Southern Observatory.
Flavio Fusi Pecci (b. 1948) is an Italian astrophysicist who has made major contributions to the study of globular clusters. He was director of the Bologna and Cagliari astronomical observatories.

(9649) Junfukue = 1995 XG
Discovered 1995 Dec. 2 by T. Kobayashi at Oizumi.
Jun Fukue (b. 1956), professor at Osaka Kyoiku University, works on theoretical studies concerning accretion disks embedded in quasars and black holes. He also has engaged in science outreach and has published many popular-level books on astronomy.

(9791) Kamiyakurai = 1995 YD1
Discovered 1995 Dec. 21 by T. Kobayashi at Oizumi.
Yakuraisan, popularly called Kami Fuji, is a mountain located in the town of Kami in northeastern Japan. People come here to enjoy beautiful seasonal nature, flowers and starry nights.

(9792) Nonodakesan = 1996 BX1
Discovered 1996 Jan. 23 by T. Kobayashi at Oizumi.
Nonodakesan is a mountain located in the town of Wakuya in northeastern Japan. Konpo-ji Temple, popularly called Nonodake Kannon, was constructed on the summit of Nonodake in the eighth century.

(9804) Shrikulkarni = 1997 NU
Discovered 1997 July 1 by E. O. Ofek at Wise.
Shrinivas Kulkarni (b. 1956) was a co-discoverer of the first millisecond pulsar, the first optical counterpart of a binary pulsar, the first pulsar in a globular cluster, the extragalactic origin of gamma-ray bursts and the first brown dwarf. He founded the Palomar Transient Factory and the Zwicky Transient Facility.

(9977) Kentakunimoto = 1994 AH
Discovered 1994 Jan. 2 by T. Kobayashi at Oizumi.
Kenta Kunimoto (b. 1960) is a Japanese neurosurgeon and a specialist in emergency medicine. He is the medical director of the Kitamurayama Hospital in Yamagata Prefecture.

(10791) Uson = 1992 CS
Discovered 1992 Feb. 8 by T. Seki at Geisei.
Uson Morishita (1890–1965), born in Sagawa, Kochi prefecture, was one of the earliest mystery writers in Japan. He wrote many novels, mentored young writers, and is called the father of Japanese mystery novels.

(11294) Kazu = 1992 CK
Discovered 1992 Feb. 4 by T. Seki at Geisei.
Kazumasa Imai (b. 1955) is a Japanese radio astronomer at Kochi National College of Technology. He specializes in Jupiter radio science and made the first model to explain the modulation lanes of Jupiter’s decametric radio emissions.

(12663) Bj¨orkegren = 1978 RL7
Discovered 1978 Sept. 2 by C.-I. Lagerkvist at the European Southern Observatory.
Named after the family Bj¨orkegren, friends and neigbours of the discoverer’s summer house on Gotland.

(12749) Odokaigan = 1993 CB
Discovered 1993 Feb. 2 by T. Seki at Geisei.
Odokaigan is a beach on the Otsuki Peninsula at the south-western tip of Shikoku, Japan. It boasts a spectacular view of the coast with a line of 80-meter-tall cliffs and tower-like rock formations projected above the water.

(15810) Arawn = 1994 JR1
Discovered 1994 May 12 by M. J. Irwin and A. Zytkow at La Palma.
The Middle Welsh Pedair Cainc Y Mabinogi (Four Branches of the Mabinogi) describes Arawn as the ruler of the Celtic otherworld, Annwn.

(15853) Benedettafoglia = 1996 BB13
Discovered 1996 Jan. 16 by U. Munari and M. Tombelli at Cima Ekar.
Benedetta Foglia (b. 2006) is the second daughter of Sergio and Paola Diomede, friends of the discoverers. Benedetta is an amateur astronomer.

(16598) Brugmansia = 1992 YC2
Discovered 1992 Dec. 18 by E. W. Elst at Caussols.
Named for a genus of flowering plants in the family Solanaceae. They are woody trees or shrubs, with pendulous flowers, and have no spines on their fruit. Their large, fragrant flowers give them their common name of “angel’s trumpets.”

(16680) Minamitanemachi = 1994 EP3
Discovered 1994 Mar. 14 by K. Endate and K. Watanabe at Kitami.
Minamitanemachi is a town located in the southern part of Tanegashima Island, Kagoshima. It is well-known as the town where a gun was introduced to Japan for the first time in 1543. It is also known for the Tanegashima Space Center.

(18289) Yokoyamakoichi = 1976 UB16
Discovered 1976 Oct. 22 by H. Kosai and K. Hurukawa at Kiso.
Koichi Yokoyama (b. 1940) is a professor emeritus of the National Astronomical observatory, Japan. He was Director of the International Polar Motion Service (1981–1987) and first chairman of the directing board of the International Earth Rotation Service. He also improved the nutation tables.

(18399) Tentoumushi = 1992 WK1
Discovered 1992 Nov. 17 by K. Endate and K. Watanabe at Kitami.
The Tentoumushi astronomy club was named after the seven-starred ladybug. The club received an award from the city of Komatsu for its astronomy popularization.

(18524) Tagatoshihiro = 1996 VE8
Discovered 1996 Nov. 6 by K. Endate and K. Watanabe at Kitami.
Toshihiro Taga (b. 1951) is a Japanese amateur astronomer and president of the Tottori Society of Astronomy. He is a popularizer of astronomy.

(19288) Egami = 1996 FJ5
Discovered 1996 Mar. 20 by K. Endate and K. Watanabe at Kitami.
Katsunori Egami (b. 1959) is the leader of the astronomical volunteers at the Fukuoka Science Museum. He is well-known throughout Kyushu as a collector of meteorites.

(19303) Chinacyo = 1996 TP1
Discovered 1996 Oct. 5 by K. Endate and K. Watanabe at Kitami.
Chinacyo town is on Okinoerabujima island, one of the Amami Islands, in Kagoshima Prefecture in the southern Japan.

(19953) Takeo = 1982 VU2
Discovered 1982 Nov. 14 by H. Kosai and K. Hurukawa at Kiso.
Takeo is a city in Saga prefecture on Kyushu island in Japan, surrounded by mountains. Takeo is famous for hot springs and ceramics. In the 19th century, the Lord of Takeo was very interested in astronomy and eagerly accepted Western culture.

(19954) Shigeyoshi = 1982 VY3
Discovered 1982 Nov. 14 by H. Kosai and K. Hurukawa at Kiso.
Shigeyoshi Nabeshima (1800–1862) was the 28th lord of Takeo area, Saga domain in the 19th century. He imported globes and astronomical telescopes, and introduced foreign studies including astronomy. He is respected as a local hero, called “Shigeyoshi-kou” in Takeo.

(20243) Den Bosch = 1998 DB36
Discovered 1998 Feb. 25 by E. W. Elst at the European Southern Observatory.
Den Bosch (s-Hertogenbosch) is the capital of the province of North Brabant in the Netherlands. The city flourished in the 15th century, although it was nearly completely destroyed by a catastrophic fire in 1463. The painter Hieronymus Bosch lived almost his entire life in Den Bosch.

(22280) Mandragora = 1985 CD2
Discovered 1985 Feb. 12 by H. Debehogne at the European Southern Observatory.
Named for a genus belonging to the nightshade family (Solanaceae). Members of the genus are known as mandrakes. They are perennial herbaceous plants, with large tap-roots and leaves in the form of a rosette. Individual flowers are bell-shaped, whitish through to violet, and are followed by yellow or orange berries.

(22383) Nikolauspacassi = 1994 EL
Discovered 1994 Mar. 5 at Farra d’Isonzo.
Nikolaus Franz Leonhard von Pacassi (1716–1790) was an Austrian architect of Italian origin. He was appointed court architect to Maria Theresa of Austria and designed notable buildings in Vienna, Prague, Buda and Gorizia.

(24945) Houziaux = 1997 LH9
Discovered 1997 June 7 by E. W. Elst at the European Southern Observatory.
L´eo Houziaux (b. 1932), a Belgian astrophysicist at Li`ege University, specialized in stellar structure at Mt. Wilson and Palomar. From rockets and satellites, he obtained the spectra and fluxes from over 30 000 stars. He created the Department of Astrophysics at Mons University (B) in 1982.

(27718) Gouda = 1989 GH3
Discovered 1989 Apr. 2 by E. W. Elst at the European Southern Observatory.
Gouda, a city in the South Holland province of the Netherlands, was founded in 1272. The city is well known for its yellow-colored Gouda cheese, one of the oldest known cheeses in world, first mentioned in 1184. The Gouda cheese market, held on Thursdays, is a tourist attraction.

(28251) Gerbaldi = 1999 BW13
Discovered 1999 Jan. 20 by ODAS at Caussols.
Michele Gerbaldi (b. 1944) is a French astronomer specializing in stellar astrophysics. She worked at the Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris from 1968 to 2007. She is one of the founding member of CLEA (Comit´e de Liaison Enseignants et Astronomes) and has also been very active in the IAU’s ISYA program.

(28547) Johannschr¨oter = 2000 EB21
Discovered 2000 Mar. 3 by the Catalina Sky Survey.
Johann Hieronymus Schr¨oter (1745–1816) was a lunar astronomer influenced by William Herschel and who later influenced Karl Ludwig Harding and Fredrich Wilhelm Bessel. He published his seminal work on lunar topography entitled Selenotopographische Fragmente zur genauern Kenntniss der Mondfl¨ache in 1791.

(29508) Botinelli = 1997 XR8
Discovered 1997 Dec. 7 by ODAS at Caussols.
Lucette Botinelli (1937–2015) was a French radio astronomer from Meudon Observatory, who taught at Orsay University from 1962 to 2005. Observing the 21 cm line of galaxies, she helped reconcile the then-divergent values of the Hubble constant. She is a founding member of the Comit´e de Liaison Enseignants et Astronomes.

(29633) Weatherwax = 1998 VH2
Discovered 1998 Nov. 10 by ODAS at Caussols.
Craig (b. 1947) and Leigh (b. 1947) Weatherwax have helped the astronomy community in southern California for more than 40 years. They are good friends of the discoverer and this naming is on the occasion of their retirement.

(29696) Distasio = 1998 YN
Discovered 1998 Dec. 16 by ODAS at Caussols.
Penny Distasio (b. 1955) is an amateur astronomer and author. She ran the OPTAS astronomy club for 15 years and is now a content writer for many web sites related to astronomy.

(29725) Mikewest = 1999 AC25
Discovered 1999 Jan. 15 by ODAS at Caussols.
Michael West (b. 1954) has served amateur astronomers for more than 30 years with his expertise, advice, encouragement and unwavering commitment to the astronomical community.

(30094) Rolfebode = 2000 ER141
Discovered 2000 Mar. 2 by the Catalina Sky Survey.
Rolfe Bode (b. 1959) is an aerospace engineer who has worked on many NASA missions including MPL-MVACS and the Phoenix Mars mission at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and private space companies including Paragon Space Development Corp. and World View Enterprises.

(30095) Tarabode = 2000 EU145
Discovered 2000 Mar. 3 by the Catalina Sky Survey.
Tara Bode (b. 1975) has been the long-time business manager at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and the Department of Planetary Sciences. She has provided vital support for numerous planetary scientists, staff, students, programs and spacecraft missions.

(30096) Glindadavidson = 2000 EZ147
Discovered 2000 Mar. 4 by the Catalina Sky Survey.
Glinda Davidson (b. 1963) is a long-time business manager, contracts and budget expert at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and the Department of Planetary Sciences. She has provided essential support for numerous planetary scientists, staff, students and spacecraft missions.

(32618) Leungkamcheung = 2001 QL293
Discovered 2001 Aug. 31 by W. K. Y. Yeung at Desert Eagle.
Leungkamcheung (b. 1956) is a former President of the Hong Kong Astronomical Society. He contributed to the popularization and education of astronomy in Hong Kong. He is one of the pioneers in establishing astronomical research collaborations between amateur and professional astronomers in the region.

(34995) Dainihonshi = 1977 DP2
Discovered 1977 Feb. 18 by H. Kosai and K. Hurukawa at Kiso.
The Dai Nihonshi is a historical record of Japan, comprising 397 volumes, covering the period from Emperor Jimmu (c. 650 BCE) to Emperor Go-Komatsu (1377–1433).

(34996) Mitokoumon = 1977 DH4
Discovered 1977 Feb. 18 by H. Kosai and K. Hurukawa at Kiso.
Mitokoumon is a popular name of Mitsukuni Tokugara (1628–1701), a vice Shogun of the Tokugawa family and a lord of the Mito domain.

(39734) Marchiori = 1996 XG26
Discovered 1996 Dec. 14 by F. Manca and P. Chiavenna at Sormano.
Gianpietro Marchiori (b. 1953) is the founder of EIE Group, an Italian company that has been involved in the construction of optical and radio telescopes around the world. Under his enthusiastic management, projects such as VLT, LBT, ALMA and E-ELT were developed.

(39991) Iochroma = 1998 HR37
Discovered 1998 Apr. 20 by the Lincoln Laboratory Near-Earth Asteroid Research Team at Socorro.
Named for a genus of shrubs and small trees found in the forests of South America. Their hummingbird-pollinated flowers are tubular or trumpet-shaped. Iochromas are often cultivated as flowering ornamentals.

(42566) Ryutaro = 1996 XQ25
Discovered 1996 Dec. 3 by T. Seki at Geisei.
Ryutaro Hirota (1892–1952), a renowned Japanese composer, was born in Aki city, Kochi prefecture and studied musical composition at Tokyo Music School. He composed many children’s songs, which have been enjoyed by many generations of Japanese.

(43597) Changshaopo = 2001 QT163
Discovered 2001 Aug. 31 by W. K. Y. Yeung at Desert Eagle.
Changshaopo (b. 1932) is a Marist brother who served as the principal of St. Francis Xavier’s School in Hong Kong from 1974 to 1997. He devoted himself to educating the younger generation, practicing the school’s motto “Integrity and Universal Love”.

(43935) Danshechtman = 1996 TF
Discovered 1996 Oct. 1 by V. S. Casulli at Colleverde.
Dan Shechtman (b. 1941) is an Israeli physicist who won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2011.

(44355) Thijsdegraauw = 1998 ST2
Discovered 1998 Sept. 18 by V. S. Casulli at Colleverde.
Thijs de Graauw (b. 1942) is a German astronomer who is Director of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array.

(52260) Ureshino = 1982 KA
Discovered 1982 May 22 by H. Kosai and K. Hurukawa at Kiso.
Ureshino is a city located in Saga prefecture, Kyushu island, Japan. In legend, Ureshino’s name came from the Empress Jingu, who upon seeing the wounds of her injured soldiers completely healed by its hot springs, exclaimed “Ana, Ureshi” (“I am happy”). Ureshino became famous for its natural hot springs in the 8th century.

(52261) Izumishikibu = 1982 VL4
Discovered 1982 Nov. 14 by H. Kosai and K. Hurukawa at Kiso.
Izumi Shikibu is a Japanese poet from the 11th century. She wrote “Izumi Shikibu Nikki”, which was a notable diary containing waka poems about her affairs with the Imperial Prince. It is said that she was born in Shiroishi district and spent her younger days in Shiota in Saga Prefecture, Japan.

(52558) Pigafetta = 1997 FR
Discovered 1997 Mar. 27 by V. S. Casulli at Colleverde.
Antonio Pigafetta (c. 1492—c. 1531) was an Italian navigator and geographer. He participated in the first circumnavigation of the globe from 1519 to 1522.

(53843) Antjiekrog = 2000 FG10
Discovered 2000 Mar. 30 at Colleverde.
Antjie Krog (b. 1952) is a South African writer. She has received many awards, including the South African Translators’ Institute Award for Outstanding Translation.

(58498) Octaviopaz = 1996 VF
Discovered 1996 Nov. 2 by V. S. Casulli at Colleverde.
Octavio Paz Lozano (1914–1998) was a Mexican poet and essayist, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1990.

(59389) Oskarvonmiller = 1999 FF21
Discovered 1999 Mar. 24 by L. Kornoˇs and J. T´oth at Modra.
Oskar von Miller (1855–1934) was a German engineer and founder of Deutsches Museum M¨unchen. He managed and built the then-largest high pressure hydroelectric power station and proposed the world’s first projection planetarium, MODEL I (1925). Name suggested by the Deutsches Museum M¨unchen.

(60609) Kerryprice = 2000 EA175
Discovered 2000 Mar. 2 by the Catalina Sky Survey.
Kerry Price (b. 1939) is an accomplished jazz singer who has performed with numerous dixieland jazz bands in southern Michigan over the last 50 years. She is also the music director for a church in suburban Detroit, Michigan.

(60614) Tomshea = 2000 EU198
Discovered 2000 Mar. 1 by the Catalina Sky Survey.
Thomas William Shea (1931–1982) was an American ragtime composer best known for his “prairie ragtime” style and the more than 20 “rags” he composed. He was active in ragtime and jazz in the Detroit, Michigan area throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

(66583) Nicandra = 1999 RL156
Discovered 1999 Sept. 9 by the Lincoln Laboratory Near-Earth Asteroid Research Team at Socorro.
Named for a monotypic genus of flowering plants in the nightshade family containing the single species Nicandra physalodes. While the genus is named for Greek poet Nicander, it is known by the common names “apple-of-Peru” and “shoo-fly plant.” Its flowers are bell-shaped, pale violet with white throats.

(73686) Nussdorf = 1990 TV1
Discovered 1990 Oct. 10 by L. D. Schmadel and F. B¨orngen at Tautenburg.
Named after the abundant walnut trees, Nussdorf is a village in south-western Germany’s Palatinate. Nussdorf was first mentioned in the year 802 and is well known for its wine-growing tradition and for its pursuit for harmony between nature and culture.

(73699) Landaupfalz = 1991 TH3
Discovered 1991 Oct. 4 by L. D. Schmadel and F. B¨orngen at Tautenburg.
Landau/Pfalz is a German university town in southern Rhineland-Palatinate, embedded in vineyards and surrounded by wine-growing villages. First mentioned in 1106, Landau became one of Europe’s strongest citadels under French rule in the 17th century. Landau has a rich landscape of gardens and parks.

(73701) Siegfriedbauer = 1991 TU5
Discovered 1991 Oct. 3 by L. D. Schmadel and F. B¨orngen at Tautenburg.
Siegfried J. Bauer (b. 1930) is professor emeritus of meteorology and geophysics at the University of Graz, Austria. He was Associate Director of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and is a full member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. His research focuses on the atmospheres of Venus, Mars and Titan.

(79826) Finardi = 1998 WP2
Discovered 1998 Nov. 17 by V. Goretti at Pianoro.
Eugenio Finardi (b. 1952), is a famous Italian blues and pop rock singer. He is a great lover of astronomy and he has composed many popular space-related songs.

(84015) Efthymiopoulos = 2002 PV34
Discovered 2002 Aug. 5 by CINEOS at Campo Imperatore.
Christos Efthymiopoulos (b. 1971) is Research Director at the Research Center for Astronomy of the Academy of Athens, and teaches Dynamical Astronomy at the Physics Department of the University of Athens. He has served as Vice-President of the Hellenic Astronomical Society.

(100433) Hyakusyuko = 1996 KU1
Discovered 1996 May 24 by T. Okuni at Nanyo.
Nagai Hyakusyuko is the name of the dam lake in Nagai city, Yamagata Prefecture, Japan. It was completed in March 2011 and is a popular tourist spot.

(100732) Blankavalois = 1998 DQ
Discovered 1998 Feb. 19 by M. Tich´y at Kleˇt.
Blanka (or Blanche) de Valois (1316–1348) was the first wife of Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia Charles IV. They were married as children in 1329. Blanche gave birth to two daughters. Blanche’s brother became Philip VI, King of France.

(100733) Annafalck´a = 1998 DA1
Discovered 1998 Feb. 18 by M. Tich´y at Kleˇt.
Anna Falck´a (or Anne of the Palatinate, 1329–1353) was the second wife of Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia Charles IV. In 1350 she gave birth to a longdesired son, Wenceslaus, who, unfortunately, died a year later.

(100734) Annasv´ıdnick´a = 1998 DB1
Discovered 1998 Feb. 18 by M. Tich´y at Kleˇt.
Anna Sv´ıdnick´a (or Anna Swidnicka or von Schweidnitz, 1339–1362) was the third wife of Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia Charles IV. In 1361 she bore the desired successor to the throne, later King of Bohemia Wenceslaus IV.

(120741) Iijimayuichi = 1997 UJ22
Discovered 1997 Oct. 26 by N. Sato at Chichibu.
Yuichi Iijima (1968–2012) was a Japanese aerospace system engineer of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, who was one of the key members of the Japanese lunar orbiter SELENE.

(126780) Ivovasiljev = 2002 EP7
Discovered 2002 Mar. 10 by KLENOT at Kleˇt.
Ivo Vasiljev (b. 1935) is a Czech linguist, translator, teacher and orientalist dealing with the Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese languages. He co-authored The Czech-Vietnamese Learner’s Dictionary, and he participates in the work of the Linguistic Circle of Prague.

(126888) Tspitzer = 2002 EO100
Discovered 2002 Mar. 5 by the Catalina Sky Survey.
Thomas J. Spitzer (b. 1957) was the Electrical Power Systems Engineer on more than a dozen Goddard missions, including the highly successful Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter that re-mapped the moon, as well as the NASA OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission.

(129187) Danielalfred = 2005 LB50
Discovered 2005 June 11 by the Catalina Sky Survey.
Daniel Alfred (b. 1985) was the lead thermal engineer on OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission OCAMS camera system. He also worked as a Honeywell Aerospace mechanical engineer.

(134134) Kristoferdrozd = 2005 AU21
Discovered 2005 Jan. 6 by the Catalina Sky Survey.
Kristofer Drozd (b. 1993) is a systems engineering graduate student at the University of Arizona. On the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission, he was on the team tasked with testing the performance of the stereophotoclinometry software used for mapping and optical navigation.

(136432) Allenlunsford = 2005 EW20
Discovered 2005 Mar. 3 by the Catalina Sky Survey.
Allen Lunsford (b. 1968) is the OSIRIS-REx Visible and near InfraRed Spectrometer (OVIRS) algorithm lead, developing all instrument operation and calibration software, as well as leading testing. He also had roles on the New Horizons Ralph, Landsat 8 TIRS and Landsat 9 TIRS instruments.

(157693) Amandamarty = 2006 AB
Discovered 2006 Jan. 2 by A. Lowe at Mayhill.
Amanda Nicole Zawada (b. 1987) and Martin Peter Mackinlay (b. 1988) are geologists in Brisbane, Australia. Their engagement occurred on January 2, 2016, the ten-year anniversary of the discovery of this minor planet.

(175152) Marthafarkas = 2005 ET37
Discovered 2005 Mar. 3 by T. Glinos and D. Levy at the Jarnac Observatory, Vail.
Martha Farkas (b. 1959) is one of Canada’s most experienced amateur astronomers. Farkas prefers traditional visual observing of solar system and deep sky objects using small telescopes. She is an active participant in Ottawa area astronomy events and an enthusiastic promoter of the Adirondack Astronomy Retreat.

(175730) Gramastetten = 1998 DM1
Discovered 1998 Feb. 18 at Linz.
Nestled in the beautiful landscape of Muehlviertel (Upper Austria), Gramastetten is a resort for relaxing and for pleasure trips. Gramastetten is the site of an observatory outpost of the Linz public observatory.

(176014) Vedrana = 2000 RS106
Discovered 2000 Sept. 3 by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey at Apache Point.
Vedrana Ivezic (b. 2000), is an American amateur astronomer, oboe player and the daughter of SDSS team member Zeljko Ivezic.

(187531) Omorichugakkou = 2006 UM63
Discovered 2006 Oct. 20 by Y. Sorimachi and A. Nakajima at Nyukasa.
Omorichugakkou is the name of the junior high school in Suzaka-shi, Nagano prefecture, Japan. Students discovered this minor planet during one of the commemoration events for the 60th anniversary of the school’s founding.

(213255) Kimiyayui = 2001 EZ15
Discovered 2001 Mar. 15 by A. Nakamura at Kuma Kogen.
Enthusiastic amateur astronomer Kimiya Yui (b. 1970) was selected to be an astronaut candidate by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency in 2009, and was certified as an International Space Station (ISS) astronaut in 2011. On July 22, 2015, he flew to ISS and stayed in space for 141 days.

(219067) Bossuet = 1997 JB18
Discovered 1997 May 3 by E. W. Elst at the European Southern Observatory.
Jacques-B´enigne Bossuet (1627–1704), a French bishop and orator at the Cathedral of Meaux, is famous for his Discourse on Universal History (1681), written in a masterly French style.

(227152) Shujinakamura = 2005 PJ20
Discovered 2005 Aug. 5 by V. S. Casulli at Vallemare Borbona.
Shuji Nakamura (b. 1954) is a Japanese physicist who received the 2014 Nobel Prize for Physics for his discovery of neutrino oscillations, showing that the neutrino has mass.

(239716) Felixbaumgartner = 2009 BF12
Discovered 2009 Jan. 25 by R. Gierlinger at Gaisberg.
Felix Baumgartner (b. 1969) is an Austrian skydiver, extreme athlete and BASE jumper. He is known for his record-breaking free-fall parachute jump from an altitude of 39 km in 2012

(246821) Satyarthi = 2009 QW33
Discovered 2009 Aug. 27 by V. S. Casulli at Vallemare Borbona.
Kailash Satyarthi (b. 1954) is an Indian electrical engineer who received the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for for his advocacy of children’s rights and education and for his fight against child labor.

(255598) Paullauterbur = 2006 PE1
Discovered 2006 Aug. 13 by V. S. Casulli at Vallemare Borbona.
Paul Christian Lauterbur (1929–2007) was an American chemist who shared the 2003 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for discoveries that made possible the development of magnetic resonance imaging.

(276568) Joest¨ubler = 2003 ST217
Discovered 2003 Sept. 27 at Linz.
Johannes St¨ubler (b. 1958), an active amateur astronomer for decades, has been involved in public outreach activities in many national and international astronomical organizations, including the IAU. He has been a member of the Linzer Astronomische Gemeinschaft since 1979.

(284029) Esplugafrancoli = 2004 XQ16
Discovered 2004 Dec. 10 by J. Manteca at Begues.
The Italian city of Espluga de Francoli, Tarragona province, is famous for its long and deep cave systems.

(292872) Anoushankar = 2006 VV12
Discovered 2006 Nov. 12 by V. S. Casulli at Vallemare Borbona.
Anoushka Shankar (b. 1981) is an Indian sitar musician and composer.

(314808) Martindutertre = 2006 TQ105
Discovered 2006 Oct. 15 by L. Tesi and G. Fagioli at San Marcello.
St Martin-du-tertre is a French town to the north of Paris that is twinned with the municipality of San Marcello, the discovery site for this minor planet.

(346886) Middelburg = 2009 MB
Discovered 1999 Nov. 15 by E. W. Elst at Uccle.
Middelburg is an old Dutch city on the isle of Walcheren in the province of Zeeland that was built as a fortress against the Vikings. In the Middle Ages it was an important trading center between Flanders, France and England.

(352860) Monflier = 2008 WY96
Discovered 2008 Nov. 30 by M. Ory at Vicques.
Bruno Monflier (b. 1947) is an active promoter of scientific outreach in astronomy in France and abroad. He is the founder of “La Ferme des Etoiles”, where numerous astronomy classes are held for varied audiences. Since 1991, “La Ferme des Etoiles” has been organizing the well-known Festival d’Astronomie de Fleurance.

(391257) Wilwheaton = 2006 RL1
Discovered 2006 Sept. 12 by T. Pauwels at Uccle.
Richard William “Wil” Wheaton III (b. 1972) is an American actor and writer, best known for his role as Wesley Crusher on the television series “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. He also has a long track record of supporting various charity organizations, such as the Pasadena Humane Society and Project UROK.

(398045) Vitudurum = 2009 FN19
Discovered 2009 Mar. 21 by M. Griesser at Winterthur.
Vitudurum was a Roman neighborhood that was built around 1 CE in today’s district of Oberwinterthur in the Swiss city of Winterthur. From 294 CE, a fort protected the settlement from raids by the Alemanni. Name suggested by Sina Lautenschlager.

(418891) Vizi = 2008 YK148
Discovered 2008 Dec. 31 by K. S´arneczky at Piszk´estet˝o.
Szilveszter E. Vizi (b. 1936) is a Hungarian physician, neuroscientist, pharmacologist and university professor, who served as President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences between 2002 and 2008. He is the winner of the 2016 Honoris causa science communication award of the Club of Hungarian Science Journalists.

(429084) Dietrichrex = 2009 RN27
Discovered 2009 Sept. 13 by M. Busch and R. Kresken at ESA OGS.
Dietrich Rex (1934–2016) was a German physicist, university professor and head of the Spaceflight and Reactor Technology Institute of the Technical University of Braunschweig. He pioneered space debris research in Europe and fostered world-wide cooperation in the field.

(456677) Yepeijian = 2007 RM119
Discovered 2007 Sept. 11 by PMO NEO Survey Program at XuYi.
Ye Peijian (b. 1945), an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, specializes in spacecraft and information processing. As chief designer and adviser, he made pioneering contributions to the development of remote sensing, lunar and space exploration and space science in China.

(458063) Gustavomuler = 2009 YB7
Discovered 2009 Dec. 21 by E. Schwab at Tzec Maun.
Gustavo Muler (b. 1967) is a Spanish amateur astronomer, born in Argentina. He has discovered numerous minor planets at his private observatory Nazaret on Lanzarote Island and in 2007 he confirmed the outburst of Comet 17P/Holmes. He made follow-up observations of this minor planet.


Curiosity Rover Examines Possible Mud Cracks Preserved in Martian Rock

The network of cracks in this Martian rock slab called "Old Soaker" may have formed from the drying of a mud layer more than 3 billion years ago. The view spans about 3 feet (90 centimeters) left-to-right and combines three images taken by the MAHLI camera on the arm of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

I saw this image and immediately thought: dried mud; then I saw where the image came from: the Curiosity Rover on Mars! Reports of water having once flowed in Mars' ancient past, currently flowing seasonally, and as sub-surface ices have been numerous over the past few years.

On Earth, "where there's water, there's life;" and water has been found everywhere in the solar system. The Mars 2020 rover will have scientific instruments used to search for signs of past life on the red planet.

From JPL Press Release 2017-009:

Scientists used NASA's Curiosity Mars rover in recent weeks to examine slabs of rock cross-hatched with shallow ridges that likely originated as cracks in drying mud.

"Mud cracks are the most likely scenario here," said Curiosity science team member Nathan Stein. He is a graduate student at Caltech in Pasadena, California, who led the investigation of a site called "Old Soaker," on lower Mount Sharp, Mars.

Curiosity Landing Location on Mars

The Curiosity rover landing location is directly in the center of this image of Mars - near the "U" shaped crater. Credit: NASA Eyes on the Solar System / Bob Trembley

If this interpretation holds up, these would be the first mud cracks -- technically called desiccation cracks -- confirmed by the Curiosity mission. They would be evidence that the ancient era when these sediments were deposited included some drying after wetter conditions. Curiosity has found evidence of ancient lakes in older, lower-lying rock layers and also in younger mudstone that is above Old Soaker.

"Even from a distance, we could see a pattern of four- and five-sided polygons that don't look like fractures we've seen previously with Curiosity," Stein said. "It looks like what you'd see beside the road where muddy ground has dried and cracked."

The cracked layer formed more than 3 billion years ago and was subsequently buried by other layers of sediment, all becoming stratified rock. Later, wind erosion stripped away the layers above Old Soaker. Material that had filled the cracks resisted erosion better than the mudstone around it, so the pattern from the cracking now appears as raised ridges.

The team used Curiosity to examine the crack-filling material. Cracks that form at the surface, such as in drying mud, generally fill with windblown dust or sand. A different type of cracking with plentiful examples found by Curiosity occurs after sediments have hardened into rock. Pressure from accumulation of overlying sediments can cause underground fractures in the rock. These fractures generally have been filled by minerals delivered by groundwater circulating through the cracks, such as bright veins of calcium sulfate.

Both types of crack-filling material were found at Old Soaker. This may indicate multiple generations of fracturing: mud cracks first, with sediment accumulating in them, then a later episode of underground fracturing and vein forming.

"If these are indeed mud cracks, they fit well with the context of what we're seeing in the section of Mount Sharp Curiosity has been climbing for many months," said Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. "The ancient lakes varied in depth and extent over time, and sometimes disappeared. We're seeing more evidence of dry intervals between what had been mostly a record of long-lived lakes."

A grid of small polygons on the Martian rock surface near the right edge of this view may have originated as cracks in drying mud more than 3 billion years ago. Multiple Dec. 20, 2016, images from the Mastcam on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover were combined for this view of a rock called "Squid Cove."
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Besides the cracks that are likely due to drying, other types of evidence observed in the area include sandstone layers interspersed with the mudstone layers, and the presence of a layering pattern called cross-bedding. This pattern can form where water was flowing more vigorously near the shore of a lake, or from windblown sediment during a dry episode.

Scientists are continuing to analyze data acquired at the possible mud cracks and also watching for similar-looking sites. They want to check for clues not evident at Old Soaker, such as the cross-sectional shape of the cracks.

The rover has departed that site, heading uphill toward a future rock-drilling location. Rover engineers at JPL are determining the best way to resume use of the rover's drill, which began experiencing intermittent problems last month with the mechanism that moves the drill up and down during drilling.

Curiosity landed near Mount Sharp in 2012. It reached the base of the mountain in 2014 after successfully finding evidence on the surrounding plains that ancient Martian lakes offered conditions that would have been favorable for microbes if Mars has ever hosted life. Rock layers forming the base of Mount Sharp accumulated as sediment within ancient lakes billions of years ago.

On Mount Sharp, Curiosity is investigating how and when the habitable ancient conditions known from the mission's earlier findings evolved into conditions drier and less favorable for life. For more information about Curiosity, visit:

Guy Webster
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-354-6278 / 818-393-9011

Laurie Cantillo / Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1077 / 202-358-1726 /

This view of a Martian rock slab called "Old Soaker," which has a network of cracks that may have originated in drying mud, comes from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover. It was taken on Dec. 20, 2016. The slab is about 4 feet long.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Titan: Frozen Moon of Saturn

Images taken by Huygens were used to create this view, which shows the probe's perspective from an altitude of about 6 miles (10 kilometers). Image credit: ESA/NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

It's hard to believe that it's been 12 years since the Huygens probe touched down on the surface of Saturn's moon Titan - the only moon in the solar system with a dense atmosphere and clouds. The probe returned images of rugged terrain as it descended, and revealed what appears to be drainage channels flowing down to a possible shoreline. The lander returned data for about 90 minutes after touchdown. Huygens is the most distant landing of any human-made craft.

The Huygens lander was part of the Cassini mission to Saturn; the mission was so successful, it was extended in 2008, and again in 2010. The spacecraft has flown by numerous moons, and returned a treasure trove of scientific data; it has also returned some of the most spectacular imagery ever produced by a robotic probe. Cassini is now in its final months at Saturn, with the probe slated to burn up on Saturn's atmosphere this September.

From JPL Press Release 2017-006:

2005 Historic Descent to Titan Revisited

After a two-and-a-half-hour descent, the metallic, saucer-shaped spacecraft came to rest with a thud on a dark floodplain covered in cobbles of water ice, in temperatures hundreds of degrees below freezing. The alien probe worked frantically to collect and transmit images and data about its environs -- in mere minutes its mothership would drop below the local horizon, cutting off its link to the home world and silencing its voice forever.

DOWNLOAD VIDEO Titan Touchdown

Although it may seem the stuff of science fiction, this scene played out 12 years ago on the surface of Saturn's largest moon, Titan. The "aliens" who built the probe were us. This was the triumphant landing of ESA's Huygens probe.

Huygens, a project of the European Space Agency, traveled to Titan as the companion to NASA's Cassini spacecraft, and then separated from its mothership on Dec. 24, 2004, for a 20-day coast toward its destiny at Titan.

The probe sampled Titan's dense, hazy atmosphere as it slowly rotated beneath its parachutes, analyzing the complex organic chemistry and measuring winds. It also took hundreds of images during the descent, revealing bright, rugged highlands that were crosscut by dark drainage channels and steep ravines. The area where the probe touched down was a dark, granular surface, which resembled a dry lakebed.

Thoughts on Huygens

Today the Huygens probe sits silently on the frigid surface of Titan, its mission concluded mere hours after touchdown, while the Cassini spacecraft continues the exploration of Titan from above as part of its mission to learn more about Saturn and its moons. Now in its dramatic final year, the spacecraft's own journey will conclude on September 15 with a fateful plunge into Saturn's atmosphere.

With the mission heading into its home stretch, Cassini team members and NASA leaders look back fondly on the significance of Huygens:

"The Huygens descent and landing represented a major breakthrough in our exploration of Titan as well as the first soft landing on an outer-planet moon. It completely changed our understanding of this haze-covered ocean world."
-- Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

"The Huygens images were everything our images from orbit were not. Instead of hazy, sinuous features that we could only guess were streams and drainage channels, here was incontrovertible evidence that at some point in Titan's history -- and perhaps even now -- there were flowing liquid hydrocarbons on the surface. Huygens' images became a Rosetta stone for helping us interpret our subsequent findings on Titan."
-- Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team lead at Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colorado

What is thought to be a lake of liquid methane on Titan. Image Credit: NASA

"Cassini and Huygens have shown us that Titan is an amazing world with a landscape that mimics Earth in many ways. During its descent, the Huygens probe captured views that demonstrated an entirely new dimension to that comparison and highlights that there is so much more we have yet to discover. For me, Huygens has emphasized why it is so important that we continue to explore Titan."
-- Alex Hayes, a Cassini scientist at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

"Twelve years ago, a small probe touched down on an orangish, alien world in the outer solar system, marking humankind's most distant landing to date. Studying Titan helps us tease out the potential of habitability of this tiny world and better understand the chemistry of the early Earth."
-- Jim Green, director of planetary science at NASA Headquarters, Washington

A collection of Huygens' top science findings is available from ESA at:

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter.

More information about Cassini: and

News Media Contact

Preston Dyches
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Markus Bauer
ESA Communications Office, Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain
Tel: 31 71 565 6799 / Mobile: 31 61 594 3 954

Titan and Saturn. Credit: NASA Eyes on the Solar System / Bob Trembley

Endeavour Space Academy

I cannot remember a time when I haven't been fascinated with astronomy, the space program, and science fiction. I was a child during the Apollo era, and a young man when the original COSMOS first aired. I cut my teeth on Star Trek, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Larry Niven; Carl Sagan was, and remains to this day, my personal hero.

Partial Solar Eclipse, Dec. 25, 2000 - Bob Trembley's first astrophoto. Credit: Bob Trembley.

Now that I think about it, I started doing astronomy outreach the moment I got my first cheap telescope in 1968; I showed the Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn to the neighbors, and took it with me to summer camp. I had one of those really scary green glass eyepiece solar filters - that got used a lot more than I like to think about!

My wife gave me an 8" Dobsonian telescope for my 40th birthday, that came with a not-scary-at-all solar filter; that telescope has seen a LOT of use in 16 years - so much so, it's starting to show its age.

I joined the Warren Astronomical Society in 2011, and started to volunteer for some of their public outreach events. This was the first time I'd come into contact with large groups of citizens peering through telescopes. Every single time I've set up my telescope, someone looking through it  has said "Oh WOW!" In one extreme instance, I had one young woman dancing around, flapping her arms, and yelling "Oh my God! Oh my God!" after seeing Saturn.

Bob Trembley with his 40mm PST at New Baltimore Burke Park 8/12/2012. Image credit: Bob (I didn't catch his last name)

During the Summer of 2012, I setup my solar telescope (a 40mm Coronado PST) on Sunday mornings at New Baltimore, Michigan's, Burke Park. I had a flip book with images of the Sun, and gave hundreds of quick 1 minute "This is how cool your Sun is" spiels.

Based on the questions I've been asked repeatedly over the years, it has became apparent to me that the general public's knowledge of even the most basic aspects of astronomy is astonishingly small. Having loved astronomy since my first memories, I wanted to change that.

I have been attending Midwest Science Fiction conventions since 1978; I saw Br. Guy lecture about meteorites at an SF convention in the mid-1980's, and he blew me away! The science content offered at SF conventions has grown over the years, and I really enjoyed seeing lectures about current NASA missions. I thought to myself: "I could do that." So I did.

In 2013 I became a volunteer NASA/JPL Solar System ambassador, and started lecturing and setting up telescopes at SF conventions, libraries, planetariums, etc. I've lectured several times at meetings of the Warren Astronomical Society held at the Cranbrook Institute of Science. I just LOVE it!

The Straight Wall. Credit: Bob Trembley,

During one SF Convention in Dearborn, Michigan, one young woman, looking through my telescope at craters on the Moon said "Oh wow!" Then she asked me "How'd those get there?" I stammered for a moment, and answered "asteroid impacts," not knowing how to quickly describe: lunar formation hypothesis, hypervelocity meteoroid impacts, and crater morphology.

I looked at the Michigan K-12 Science Standards, and was completely dismayed at the brevity with which astronomy is covered, and the sparseness of content required. I asked a middle school history teacher how much of the history of the U.S. space program she was required to teach. Nothing. I asked a high school principal the same question, and was told: "If astronomy or the space program gets taught at all, it only gets taught as an elective, and only if we have a teacher who knows it." I thought to myself: "I could do that." So I am.

My wife, Connie, is a fantastic middle school science teacher, and a fellow volunteer NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador; she and I are running an after-school club at her school this year called the Endeavour Space Academy.

Endeavour Space Academy T-Shirt Design. Credit: Bob and Connie Trembley

Each session starts with a 10-15 minute presentation including:

  • A topic in astronomy.
  • A constellation, and deep-sky objects within it.
  • Contributions of a noteworthy astronomer or scientist.
  • A historic mission from the early space age.
  • Current space mission and space news.

I've attended hour-long lectures on some of these topics; I feel like I'm just glossing-over them, but it's a good bit more than most students are getting...

After my presentation, students split into 2 groups: Connie takes one group and covers an astronomy topic in much more detail. I take a group down to a computer lab and have them run space and astronomy apps including: NASA Eyes on the Solar System, Universe Sandbox, Stellarium, and Kerbal Space Program.

My original goal was to have the students build and fly the historic mission I discussed at the beginning of the session; I spent the entire summer of 2016 developing a series of rockets replicating those missions. But after the club started, I learned quickly that "no syllabus withstands contact with the students," and also how to fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants.

Endeavour Space Academy Rocket Progression, Credit: Bob Trembley

I do have some students who want to recreate and fly the missions... I have others that like to build enormous rockets with hundreds of passengers, or rockets that explode upon launch... or both. I have one student who just wants to fly jets - I really need to get him a Single Stage To Orbit (SSTO) vehicle, and see if he can get it into orbit.

In the last few weeks before the holiday season, I did have several students successfully get into orbit, and some actually make a successful reentry... and some not-so successful reentries... A few students used a Hohmann transfer maneuver and got into the sphere-of-influence of the Moon (Mun, in game). Next year, I want to get more students to this point, and then have them land on the Moon.

history Hohmann Transfer. Credit: Kerbal Space Program / Bob Trembley

One constant of each session is my running from student-to-student-to-student the entire time (I don't know how my wife does it). During one session, I had a visit from Mark Muzzin, the deputy director of the local Starbase One facility, he wanted to see how the club was going; I wasn't able to speak with him! I literally had three students surround us, jumping up and down, saying "Mr. Trembley! Mr. Trembley! Come here! Look at this!" Mark commented that he "liked the enthusiasm!"

Check out the Facebook page for the club, I do regular updates there:

In the short term, I'd like to get several computers capable of running Kerbal Space Program and other space apps, and take them into schools as an in-school, hands-on space camp. Looking towards the future, I'd like to see this type of program replicated throughout Michigan schools, and across the country.

I don't know where this voyage is taking me, but the journey sure has been interesting!

Endeavour Space Academy Rocket Logo. Credit: Bob Trembley

Spacecraft 3D: NASA’s Augmented Reality Smartphone App

Spacecraft 3D Logo

Credit : NASA/JPL­Caltech

NASA has an app for smartphones that lets you learn about and interact with several different spacecraft that explore our solar system, study the Earth, and observe the cosmos. You can hold a virtual Mars rover in the palm of your hand, or watch as a rocket's boosters fall away, and its fairing separate! Seeing the Curiosity rover popup in my hand, and being able to rotate it, zoom, and deploy its mast - using my Android - just blew me away! I think students would LOVE this!

A photo target must be used for the app to generate the spacecraft model; the photo can be small enough to fit in your hand, or printed larger for use on a tabletop.

Augmented Reality (AR) target image

This Augmented Reality (AR) target image is of grains from an Oregon sand dune and was taken by a test version of the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) for the Curiosity rover. The view is about 1 inch or 2.5cm across.

Holding the Spacecraft 3D AR Target

Holding the Spacecraft 3D AR Target. Credit: Bob Trembley

Holding a virtual Curiosity Rover

Curiosity Rover rendered on top of the AR target. Credit: NASA Spacecraft 3D/Bob Trembley

The app can email you a link to the AR target ( which includes some cool Mars pics which also act as AR targets for specific spacecraft.

Pick by Marker 3D Targets

Images for use with "Pick By Marker" mode. Credit : NASA/JPLCaltech/University of Arizona/MSSS

Spacecraft 3D, and other NASA mobile apps for iOS and Android smartphones are available for free at:

"Spacecraft 3D will be continually updated to include more of the amazing spacecraft that act as our robotic eyes on the Earth, the solar system and beyond!"

Three Comet Close Encounters 2017-2018

Three comets will have close encounters with the Earth over the next 2 years; they are the subject of the 4*P Coma Morphology Campaign, an observing program being run by the Planetary Science Institute.

All three comets are very small, ranging in size from 1.2 - 1.4 kilometers in diameter, and are classified as Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) due to their proximity to the Earth. Their comas and tails may not be visible to the naked eye (I hesitate to speculate with them being comets and all...), but they will be observable with binoculars and telescopes, and should be good targets for amateurs and professionals alike.

The Planetary Science Institute is running this observing campaign nearly identically to what they carried out for Comet ISON (C/2012 S1); they are requesting un-enhanced continuum (dust) images, as well as gas (e.g., CN) images with good signal-to-noise ratio, More photography requirements and info can be found at the campaign website:

"Observations with sufficient signal-to-noise that could be used in any publication resulting from this study will be acknowledged with co-authorship for the observers similar to our publication that resulted from the Global Coma Morphology Campaign for Comet ISON." ~PSI

Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak (41P/TGK)

Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak Orbit

Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak Orbit. Credit: JPL Small-Body Database Browser/Bob Trembley

Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak will pass between Earth and Mars, closer to Earth. Due to its orbit, and position of the Earth during the encounter, this comet should be visible in the sky for months!

Imaging time interval: End-January through end-July 2017
Jan.30, 2017: 0.434 AU
Mar. 30 - April 3, 2017: 0.142 AU -Closest approach
July 31, 2017: 0.792 AU

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Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova (45P/HMP)

Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova Orbit

Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova Orbit. Credit: JPL Small-Body Database Browser/Bob Trembley

Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova will be approaching from sunward, and will be lost in the glare of the Sun until its closest approach; it will be visible for about a month.

Imaging time intervals: Mid-February through mid-March 2017
Feb. 11, 2017: 0.083 AU - Closest approach, but may be washed out by the Sun
Mar. 15, 2017: 0.456 AU

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Comet 46P/Wirtanen

Comet 46P/Wirtanen Orbit

Comet 46P/Wirtanen Orbit. Credit: JPL Small-Body Database Browser/Bob Trembley

Comet 46P/Wirtanen will pass between Earth and Mars, closer to Earth; it should be visible for several months.

Imaging desired time intervals TBD
Nov. 01, 2018: 0.265 AU
Dec. 15, 2018: 0.0701 AU - Closest approach
Jan. 30, 2019: 0.303 AU

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Comet 46P/Wirtanen

Comet 46P/Wirtanen near the Pleiades, Dec. 16, 2018. Credit: Stellarium/Bob Trembley

Cassini’s Final Months at Saturn

NASA's Cassini mission to Saturn is in its final months. The spacecraft has been put into a polar orbit which brings it over Saturn's poles, and very close to the main rings. Cassini has sent back spectacular views of  Saturn's north polar region shortly before it made its first close pass by the outer edge of Saturn's main rings.

Saturn's hexagon-shaped jet stream around the planet's north pole. Taken Dec. 3, 2016, at a distance of about 240,000 miles (390,000 kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is 14 miles (23 kilometers) per pixel. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Saturn's hexagon-shaped jet stream around the planet's north pole. Taken Dec. 3, 2016, at a distance of about 240,000 miles (390,000 kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is 14 miles (23 kilometers) per pixel. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

In late April, Cassini will again change its orbit, bringing the spacecraft between Saturn's innermost ring, and its cloudtops. These orbits send tingles through my spine when I think about them; there is a chance that a ring particle might impact the spacecraft, rendering it nonfunctional. According to NASA Eyes on the Solar System, when Cassini passes through the ring plane from now through April, it will be travelling at 21 km/sec. When it changes orbit in late April, and gets closer to Saturn, it will be passing over the cloudtops at about 34 km/sec.

If Cassini survives all its passes through the ring plane, it will scrape the top of Saturn's atmosphere in mid-September, and incinerate, becoming a brief meteor in Saturn's skies. But before that happens, you should be seeing many new images of Saturn's rings.

JPL Press Release 2016-311 by Tony Greicius Dec. 7, 2016:

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has sent to Earth its first views of Saturn’s atmosphere since beginning the latest phase of its mission. The new images show scenes from high above Saturn's northern hemisphere, including the planet's intriguing hexagon-shaped jet stream.

Cassini began its new mission phase, called its Ring-Grazing Orbits, on Nov. 30. Each of these weeklong orbits -- 20 in all -- carries the spacecraft high above Saturn's northern hemisphere before sending it skimming past the outer edges of the planet's main rings.

This graphic shows the closest approaches of Cassini's final two orbital phases. Ring-grazing orbits are shown in gray (at left); Grand Finale orbits are shown in blue. The orange line shows the spacecraft's Sept. 2017 final plunge into Saturn. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This graphic shows the closest approaches of Cassini's final two orbital phases. Ring-grazing orbits are shown in gray (at left); Grand Finale orbits are shown in blue. The orange line shows the spacecraft's Sept. 2017 final plunge into Saturn.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Cassini’s imaging cameras acquired these latest views on Dec. 2 and 3, about two days before the first ring-grazing approach to the planet. Future passes will include images from near closest approach, including some of the closest-ever views of the outer rings and small moons that orbit there.

This collage of images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows Saturn's northern hemisphere and rings as viewed with four different spectral filters. Each filter is sensitive to different wavelengths of light and reveals clouds and hazes at different altitudes. Clockwise from top left, the filters used are sensitive to violet (420 nanometers), red (648 nanometers), near-infrared (728 nanometers) and infrared (939 nanometers) light. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Dec. 2, 2016, at a distance of about 400,000 miles (640,000 kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is 95 miles (153 kilometers) per pixel. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Collage of images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft showing Saturn's northern hemisphere and rings as viewed with four different spectral filters. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

"This is it, the beginning of the end of our historic exploration of Saturn. Let these images -- and those to come -- remind you that we’ve lived a bold and daring adventure around the solar system’s most magnificent planet," said Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team lead at Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colorado.

The next pass by the rings' outer edges is planned for Dec. 11. The ring-grazing orbits will continue until April 22, when the last close flyby of Saturn's moon Titan will once again reshape Cassini's flight path. With that encounter, Cassini will begin its Grand Finale, leaping over the rings and making the first of 22 plunges through the 1,500-mile-wide (2,400-kilometer) gap between Saturn and its innermost ring on April 26.

Cassini Titan Encounter, April 22, 2017. Image credit: NASA Eyes on the Solar System/Bob Trembley

Cassini Titan Encounter, April 22, 2017. Image credit: NASA Eyes on the Solar System/Bob Trembley

On Sept. 15, the mission's planned conclusion will be a final dive into Saturn's atmosphere. During its plunge, Cassini will transmit data about the atmosphere's composition until its signal is lost.

Launched in 1997, Cassini has been touring the Saturn system since arriving in 2004 for an up-close study of the planet, its rings and moons. Cassini has made numerous dramatic discoveries, including a global ocean with indications of hydrothermal activity within the moon Enceladus, and liquid methane seas on another moon, Titan.

For details about Cassini's ring-grazing orbits, visit:

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter.

More information about Cassini is at: and

Preston Dyches
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Orbit of Cassini, December 8, 2016. Image Credit: Nasa Eyes on the Solar System/Bob Trembley

Orbit of Cassini, December 8, 2016. Image Credit: Nasa Eyes on the Solar System/Bob Trembley

Have You Seen a Satellite?

Have you ever see a satellite pass overhead? Maybe the International Space Station, or the Hubble Space Telescope?

I was at a friend's home the other day, and mentioned that it was rare for me not to see a satellite during a nighttime observing session - typically within the first half hour. My friend said he'd only seen the International Space Station, once...

I was floored! I mentioned this to my wife, and she pointed out to me what should have been obvious to me: that not everyone spends half hour sessions looking at the sky. (Actually, what she lovingly said was "You're not normal.")

So, with that… there are a LOT of man-made satellites orbiting the Earth; the United States Space Surveillance Network is currently tracking more than 8,000 objects(1). Only seven percent of those objects are operational satellites, the rest is space junk: dead satellites, rocket bodies, and miscellaneous debris.

If you go outside on a clear moonless night, in a relatively dark sky setting, and keep your eyes on the skies for even a short amount of time, it's a fair bet that you'll see a satellite. They appear almost like a jet, travelling slowly across the sky - but there are no blinking lights, and no contrail. They travel from horizon to horizon, sometimes directly overhead, sometimes so low they can barely be seen. Some satellites appear bright and fade to black as they pass into Earth's shadow, while others remain faint their entire trip across the sky. Some satellites flash like a brilliant meteor as sunlight reflects off their solar panels(2); these are always a treat at public observing sessions.

To see a representation of how much stuff is orbiting the Earth, go to:

The Heavens-Above website is a great resource for tracking satellites, and is very useful for planning what will be visible, or figuring out what satellite just passed overhead:  There is also a Heavens-Above

The International Space Stationis is by far the biggest and brightest of all the man-made objects orbiting the Earth. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The International Space Station is by far the biggest and brightest of all the man-made objects orbiting the Earth. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

(1) The United States Space Surveillance Network has tracked more than 24,500 space objects orbiting Earth since 1957.
(2) These is known as an Iridium flares: the flares are predictable down to the second.

Venus and Mars in the Evening, Jupiter in the Morning

Venus is low and bright, and Mars is high and dim in the southwestern sky after dusk. Jupiter is low in the predawn sky to the southeast.

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Venus orbits the Sun faster than the Earth, and as it catches up with the Earth over the next couple months, it will continue to appear higher in the evening sky. In mid-February, Venus will start to appear lower in the sky each evening, until it disappears into the glare of the Sun in early March. Venus will reappear in the predawn sky starting in early April.

Mars will continue to dim as the Earth puts more distance between the two planets, until it disappears into the glare of the Sun in mid-April. Mars will reappear in the predawn skies in late September.

Jupiter will be visible in the predawn skies for several months, slowly moving from east to west; it will appear high in the southern sky in January, and low in the southwestern sky in early April.

Saturn is very low in the western sky at dusk and will soon disappear into the glare of the Sun. Saturn will reappear low in the predawn in mid-January.