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Joseph O'Rourke

Joseph O'Rourke has written 19 posts for astrobites

Instruments selected for Mars 2020, NASA’s latest rover

NASA recently revealed the scientific instruments for Mars 2020, the next Mars rover and the first step in an ambitious sample return campaign.

Searching for Signs of Plate Tectonics in Polluted White Dwarfs

Astronomers hope to get lucky and discover the first evidence of plate tectonics on a planet besides Earth: remnants of continental crust in the rocky material that pollutes some white dwarfs.

Albedo as a quick proxy for asteroid compositions

Obtaining high-resolution spectra of asteroids is challenging. Measuring asteroid albedos in broad photometric wavebands is relatively easy, and potentially provides useful information about surface composition.

Why isn’t Iapetus inclined to be eccentric?

The unexpectedly large inclination of Iapetus may result from close encounters between Saturn and an interloping ice giant planet during the early evolution of the Solar System.

Will we find signs of tectonics on Pluto? And what would that mean?

New Horizons will arrive at Pluto in mid-2015. Images of ancient tectonic features on its surface may provide evidence for the existence of an ancient, subsurface ocean.

First look at NASA’s FY2015 Budget Request

The White House just released its budget request for FY 2015. Looks like NASA will continue supporting its main priorities, but will they sacrifice SOFIA to fund other missions?

Was Mars’ ancient magnetic field global or localized?

Strongly magnetized rocks on Mars are primarily concentrated in the southern hemisphere. This paper raises a serious objection to the hypothesis that localized dynamo action in the ancient martian core explains this puzzling observation.

Science, Still the Endless Frontier

In the final months of World War II, Vannevar Bush, director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, prepared a report that would forever shape federal support of scientific research.

Prevalence of Planets that Might be “Earth-like”, Maybe

A headline-grabbing paper calculated the prevalence of Earth-sized planets with long orbital periods around Sun-like stars. But are these planets anything like Earth?

50 Years of Planetary Science at Caltech

Lots of people said lots of interesting things during the anniversary celebration for Caltech’s planetary science department.

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