Review: The Year in Space 2016 Wall Calendar

The beautiful new Year in Space calendar for 2016.

The beautiful new Year in Space calendar for 2016.

Every year at this time there are a lot of new calendars to choose from, but only a few that are space or astronomy-related, or visually stunning or unique enough to stand out from the crowd. If that is what you are looking for, then look no further. The new 2016 edition of The Year in Space Wall Calendar is now available! This beautiful calendar is published in cooperation with The Planetary Society.

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First high-resolution images released of Ceres from Dawn’s new lowest orbit

One of the first new images taken in Dawn’s lowest orbit around Ceres, showing the crater chain called Gerber Catena. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

One of the first new images taken in Dawn’s lowest orbit around Ceres, showing the crater chain called Gerber Catena. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

NASA has released the first images of the dwarf planet Ceres from the Dawn spacecraft’s new lowest orbit. This is the closest view that Dawn will have of Ceres and its intriguing white spots, providing an unprecedented look at this small but fascinating world.

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NASA’s InSight mission to Mars suspended due to vacuum leak in critical seismometer instrument

Artist’s conception of the InSight lander on Mars. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Artist’s conception of the InSight lander on Mars. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA officially announced at a media teleconference yesterday that the InSight mission to Mars has now been postponed, for at least two years, due to a leak in a seismometer instrument which cannot be repaired in time for the planned launch in March 2016. The lander had just been delivered to Vandenberg Air Force Base on Dec. 16 to be prepared for launch when the announcement was made.

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New 2016 NASA budget fully funds Europa mission, including lander

A view many have been waiting for – artist’s concept of the surface of Europa. The new NASA budget brings this closer to reality, with funding for not only a flyby probe, but also a lander. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A view many have been waiting for – artist’s concept of the surface of Europa. The new NASA budget brings this closer to reality, with funding for not only a flyby probe, but also a lander. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This was an exciting and very important week for NASA and planetary exploration: the new NASA budget from Congress is better than expected and, in the words of The Planetary Society, “extraordinary.” There is a healthy increase for planetary science, and one new mission in particular which a lot of people have been waiting for: a new mission to Europa. Not only is it now fully funded, the Congressional plan goes further than the initial mission concept in calling for not just multiple flybys, but also a lander.

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Welcome to Bagnold: Curiosity rover reaches massive dark sand dunes near Mount Sharp

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View overlooking part of High Dune, which is covered in smaller sand ripples. The image is white-balanced, to show how the scene would look under more Earth-like conditions. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Since landing in 2012, the Curiosity rover has seen a lot of varied terrain within Gale crater, including ancient riverbed gravel, sandstone and mudstone rock outcrops, sand ripples finely sculpted by the Martian wind, and, of course, Mount Sharp looming above. Now the rover has reached a new type of landform previously only seen from orbit: a field of huge sand dunes.

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Cassini prepares for last epic flyby of Saturn’s ocean moon Enceladus

Cassini’s final close flyby of Enceladus will be on Dec. 19, 2015. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Cassini’s final close flyby of Enceladus will be on Dec. 19, 2015. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Cassini spacecraft’s discoveries about the tiny moon Enceladus have been some of the most exciting of the entire mission at Saturn. What was once thought to likely be little more than a frozen ice world has turned out to be one of the best places in the Solar System to search for evidence of possible life, with its subsurface salty ocean and huge geysers of water vapor. Now, Cassini is preparing for its last close flyby of this intriguing moon and has also made new findings regarding the potential habitability of the ocean below as well as the nature of the geysers.

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Mystery solved? odd bright spots on Ceres explained as salt deposits

False color view of Occator crater on Ceres, showing the unusual bright spots. The image was taken by the framing camera on NASA’s Dawn spacecraft from a distance of about 2,700 miles (4,400 kilometers). Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

False color view of Occator crater on Ceres, showing the unusual bright spots. The image was taken by the framing camera on NASA’s Dawn spacecraft from a distance of about 4,400 kilometres (2,700 miles). Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

There now might be a definitive answer to a puzzle which has intrigued both scientists and the public for some time: What are those odd bright spots on the dwarf planet Ceres? A new study suggests they are a type of salt, originating from a subsurface layer of briny water-ice. Another study points to the existence of ammonia-rich clays on Ceres.

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Stunning new images of Pluto’s surface are best yet from New Horizons mission

New high-resolution image of Pluto from New Horizons, showing jumbled blocks in the water-ice crust, which border the smooth nitrogen-ice plains. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

New high-resolution image of Pluto from New Horizons, showing jumbled blocks in the water-ice crust, which border the smooth nitrogen-ice plains. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

The New Horizons mission has already sent back phenomenal images and data from Pluto, but it keeps getting better. New images released today are the first in a series of the highest-resolution photos taken of Pluto’s surface during the flyby last July, showing mountains, glaciers, and craters in unprecedented detail.

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Drones on Mars? small ‘helicopter-like’ scout could be added to Mars 2020 rover mission

Artist’s conception of the helicopter-like drone which could accompany the Mars 2020 Rover. Image Credit: NASA

Artist’s conception of the helicopter-like drone which could accompany the Mars 2020 rover. Image Credit: NASA

Over the past few years, numerous orbiters, landers, and rovers have been sent to Mars, revealing the world as never before. There is, however, something else which hasn’t been done yet: a helicopter, airplane, or balloon. An airborne probe could provide stunning views of the Martian surface between those of a lander/rover and an orbiter at much higher altitude. The concept has been considered and tested to some degree, and now it may be moving closer to becoming a reality. The latest studies involve the possibility of sending a small helicopter-like drone along with the Mars 2020 Mission rover.

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NASA developing new ‘Chemical Laptop’ to search for evidence of alien life

The “Chemical Laptop” being designed by NASA to help search for evidence of alien life elsewhere in the Solar System. Photo Credit: NASA

The “Chemical Laptop” being designed by NASA to help search for evidence of alien life elsewhere in the Solar System. Photo Credit: NASA

One of NASA’s primary objectives, and the one which most excites the general public, is the search for evidence of life elsewhere, whether in our own Solar System or on some distant exoplanet. However, the best way to go about that is a subject of much debate. Now, researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have come up with a new proposal: a “Chemical Laptop,” a miniaturized portable laboratory which would look for signs of materials associated with life (at least as we know it), such as amino acids.

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