Melissa McGrath presented the Gerard P. Kuiper Prize to Jeffrey N. Cuzzi (NASA/ARC) for his pioneering work on rings and disks.
WISE guys James M. Bauer and Amy K. Mainzer (both JPL) gave journalists a peek at some of the interesting solar-system objects being picked up during the mission’s all-sky infrared survey. At the same briefing, Alex H. Parker (Univ. of Victoria) showed how the prevalence of wide binaries in the trans-Neptunian region constrains the dynamical history of the Kuiper Belt.
Incoming DPS chair Melissa A. McGrath (NASA/MSFC) presented longtime IRTF chief Alan T. Tokunaga (IfA) with the Harold Masursky Award for Meritorious Service to Planetary Science.
William J. Merline (SwRI) and Sarah Hörst (Univ. of Arizona) joined DPS press officer Sanjay Limaye (Univ. of Wisconsin) for Thursday’s press conference. Merline compared his ground-based images of asteroid 21 Lutetia with close-ups from the Rosetta flyby, while Hörst described her thesis research showing that the building blocks of life might arise naturally in Titan’s atmosphere. Hörst’s work got more media coverage than anything else at the meeting.
The Harold C. Urey Prize for outstanding achievement in research by a young scientist went to Jonathan J. Fortney (UCSC) for his work on planetary atmospheres.
Seen at night from Griffith Observatory’s hilltop perch, the lights of Los Angeles are as beautiful as they are bad for astronomy.
Outgoing DPS chair Candice Hansen (PSI) presented the Jonathan Eberhart Planetary Sciences Journalism Award to George Musser (Scientific American).
Europe’s Venus Express has been orbiting our sister world for more than four years. Hakan Svedhem (ESA/ESTEC) briefed reporters on the mission’s latest discoveries, including new evidence of recent volcanism. At the same press conference, Stephen C. Tegler (Northern Arizona Univ.) showed that the surface of Eris, like that of Pluto, appears to be dominated by nitrogen ice.
For his last official duty after six years as DPS press officer, Sanjay Limaye presided over a briefing by Humberto Campins (Univ. of Central Florida), who told reporters about his detection of water ice on asteroid 65 Cybele and his determination that 2 Pallas is the parent body of asteroid 3200 Phaethon as well as the Geminid meteors.
During a tour of JPL, attendees got to watch as “bunny-suited” technicians worked on assembling the Curiosity rover. If all goes according to plan, the robotic arm at right will be examining the Martian surface up close beginning in August 2012.
Inside the aircraft, SOFIA chief scientist Eric E. Becklin (UCLA) described the observatory’s 2.5-meter telescope, situated behind the cabin’s aft bulkhead and instrument interface.
Things got off to a flying start with a tour of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) at its home base in Palmdale—though the plane remained in its hangar.
At the first of five daily press conferences, Linda J. Spilker (NASA/JPL/Caltech) presented stunning images from Cassini’s ongoing exploration of the Saturn system. Philip D. Nicholson (Cornell) showed evidence for a narrow “crack” in Saturn’s C ring, and Dennis L. Matson (JPL) showed how bubbly subsurface seawater helps account for the plumes erupting from Enceladus.
Carolyn C. Porco (CICLOPS/SSI) shows off the Carl Sagan Medal she just received from Candy Hansen for her outstanding communication with the public.