Solar System: 2016 Preview


What do we have planned for 2016? A return to the king of planets. A survey of mysterious Ceres. More postcards from Pluto. Anyone who follows solar system exploration in 2016 is in for quite a ride. Last year was one for the record books – and now here are 10 things to look forward to in the new year. See also: what we have planned agency wide for 2016.

Juno Arrives at Jupiter

July 4, 2016 is arrival day for the Juno mission, the first sent expressly to study the largest planet in the solar system since our Galileo mission in the 1990s. Humans have been studying Jupiter for hundreds of years, yet many basic questions about the gas world remain: How did it form? What is its internal structure? Exactly how does it generate its vast magnetic field? What can it tell us about the formation of other planets inside and outside our solar system? Beginning in July, we’ll be a little closer to the answers.

OSIRIS-REx Takes Flight

The OSIRIS-REx mission, short for Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer, sets sail for an asteroid in September. The spacecraft will use a robotic arm to pluck samples from the asteroid Bennu to help better explain our solar system’s formation and even find clues to how life began.

Dawn Sees Ceres Up Close

After an odyssey of many years and millions of miles, in December the Dawn spacecraft entered its final, lowest mapping orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres. The intriguing world’s odd mountains, craters and salty deposits are ready for their close-ups. We can expect new images of the starkly beautiful surface for months.

Cassini Commences Its Grand Finale

In late 2016, the Cassini spacecraft will begin a daring set of orbits called the Grand Finale, which will be in some ways like a whole new mission. Beginning this year and extending into next, the spacecraft will repeatedly climb high above Saturn’s poles, flying just outside its narrow F ring 20 times. After a last targeted Titan flyby, the spacecraft will then dive between Saturn’s uppermost atmosphere and its innermost ring 22 times. As Cassini plunges past Saturn, the spacecraft will collect rich and valuable information far beyond the mission’s original plan.

New Horizons Sends More Postcards from Pluto

We have stared slack-jawed at the images and discoveries from last year’s Pluto flyby, but the fact is that most of the data that New Horizons collected remains on board the spacecraft. In 2016, we’ll see a steady release of new pictures — and very likely some expanded answers to longstanding questions.

Mars Missions March Forward

With five of our missions continuing their Martian quests, 2016 should be a good year for discoveries on the Red Planet.

Mercury Transits the Sun

A transit is a very rare astronomical event in which a planet passes across the face of the sun. In May, Mercury will transit the sun, on of only thirteen Mercury transits each century on average.

LRO Keeps an Eagle Eye On the Moon

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) will extend its run in 2016, scanning the moon’s surface with its sharp-eyed instruments, investigating everything from lava tube skylights to changes at the Apollo landing sites.

Spacecraft Fly Under Many Flags

Our partner agencies around the world will be flying several new or continuing planetary missions to destinations across the solar system:

Technology Demonstration Missions Push the Envelope

We’re always looking for new frontiers on distant worlds, as well as the technology that will take us there. This year, several missions are planned to take new ideas for a spin in space:

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space:

The government rejected their own committee’s advice on flood preparedness


Reports have emerged that the Government’s own climate change advisers warned comprehensive action was required to protect homes from flooding, but ministers rejected their advice.

The Committee on Climate Change published a report in June naming the government’s failure to act against the danger posed by extreme flooding as their worst failing. The report advised that the government “develop a strategy to address the increasing number of homes in areas of high flood risk”.

The Independent reports that a decision was made in October not to invest in a strategy to combat the increased risk, starting it would “not be appropriate at this time” - just weeks before flooding in Cumbria.

Daniel Johns, the CCC’s head of adaptation, told the Guardian that “the CCC made a very clear recommendation in its statutory advice, but the government rejected it”.

The government rejected their own committee’s advice on flood preparedness

Here’s another favorite Overview from 2015. Greenhouses - also known as plasticulture - cover approximately 20,000 hectares of…


Here’s another favorite Overview from 2015. Greenhouses - also known as plasticulture - cover approximately 20,000 hectares of land (more than 75 square miles) in Almeria, Spain. The use of plastic covering is designed to increase produce yield, increase produce size, and shorten growth time. For a sense of scale, this Overview shows roughly eight square miles.

36.715441373°, -2.721484966°

Here’s another favorite Overview from 2015. The Forbidden City in Beijing, China was built from 1406 until 1420 by more than one…


Here’s another favorite Overview from 2015. The Forbidden City in Beijing, China was built from 1406 until 1420 by more than one million workers. The palace complex, which contains 9,999 rooms, is surrounded by walls and a moat that are 26 feet high and 171 feet wide, respectively.

39°54′53″N 116°23′26″E

James C. Scott reviews ‘The World until Yesterday’ by Jared Diamond

review, history, violence, statecraft, capitalism, tribalism, slavery

The fact is that slaving was at the very centre of state-making. It is impossible to exaggerate the massive effects of this human commodity on stateless societies. Wars between states became a kind of booty capitalism, where the major prize was human traffic. The slave trade then completely transformed the non-state ‘tribal zone’. Some groups specialised in slave-raiding, mounting expeditions against weaker and more isolated groups and then selling them to intermediaries or directly at slave markets. The oldest members of highland groups in Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and Burma can recall their parents’ and grandparents’ memories of slave raids. The fortified, hilltop villages, with thorny, twisting and hidden approaches that early colonists found in parts of South-East Asia and Africa were largely a response to the slave trade.

Blue evaporation ponds are visible at the Intrepid Potash Mine in Moab, Utah, USA. The mine produces muriate of potash, a…


Blue evaporation ponds are visible at the Intrepid Potash Mine in Moab, Utah, USA. The mine produces muriate of potash, a potassium-containing salt used widely by farmers in fertilizer. The salt is pumped to the surface from underground brines and dried in massive solar ponds that vibrantly extend across the landscape. As the water evaporates over the course of 300 days, the salts crystallize out. So why are you seeing such vibrant colors? The water is dyed bright blue to reduce the amount of time it takes for the potash to crystallize; darker water absorbs more sunlight and heat.

38.483377775°, -109.681333272°

Charisma and Causality

Art Review, Timothy Morton, Art, causality, OOO, appearances

Things are exactly what they are, yet never as they seem. We live in a world of tricksters. We never left the pre-Neolithic. It was all a nightmare that went viral. And we know this, because we have modern science. And this is the world described by object-oriented ontology. Which is why OOO is so great, and the real reason why it comes in for such hostile fear and rage. According to this view, an artwork cannot be reduced to its parts or its materials, nor can it be reduced to its creator’s life, nor to some other context, however defined (the last decade, the current geological era, the economic structure of human society, art discourse, power-knowledge – anything). And art has an actual causal effect. Art just is tampering directly with cause and effect, because art is what cause and effect actually is. Art is charisma, pouring out of anything whatsoever, whether we humans consider it to be alive or sentient or not.

How Daniel Rigmaiden discovered Stingray spying technology

surveillance, fraud, investigation, stingray, NDA, evidence, ACLU

Daniel Rigmaiden is the man who first discovered Stingray while he was in prison facing charges of tax fraud. In an attempt to live off the grid, Rigmaiden had concocted a scheme where he would file tax returns for dead people. He did so for quite a while — making sure to cover his tracks — and was able to rake in thousands of dollars. Despite his intense meticulousness to details, Rigmaiden was ultimately caught by the authorities. Yet he didn’t understand how they became hip to his ways. He used a slew of fake IDs, maintained almost no public identity, and even lived in the woods. The only weak link, he thought, was the cellular AirCard he used to access the internet. But, given that he only used fake identities and anonymized his web browsing, Rigmaiden did not understand how they tracked him down. And so he began to research.–2015–6?op=1?r=US&IR=T