The little rover that can

While recent attention for Mars exploration has been focused on the Mars Phoenix Lander, we shouldn't forget that we also have the Mars rovers roaming around the planet. Nearing their fifth year on the planet, the rovers are still operational. In fact, the Opportunity rover has just climbed back out of Victoria Crater that it went in to study nearly a year ago. As it left the crater, it took one last look at the way it came from.

Opportunity looking back

With Phoenix expected to be encased in carbon dioxide ice during the Martian winter, it will probably be outlived by the much older rovers.

The photograph of the tracks Opportunity made as it climbed out of Victoria Crater is courtesy of NASA and JPL-Caltech.

Did Russia shoot itself in the foot?

China is wisely refraining from taking Russia's side in the Georgia - South Ossetia - Russia conflict. Unlike Russia, China realizes that supporting a separatist faction on foreign soil would provide fodder for their own domestic separatist factions. If push comes to shove, China will be acting against Russia.

I wonder, does the Russian government know what it did to itself? If and when the next Chechnya shows up, Russia will have a real hard time justifying why other nations shouldn't intervene in favor of the separatists. They'll probably see how lackluster their justifications for suppressing the separatists will be, the same way the United States has been utterly unconvincing as it chastises Russia for invading a foreign nation.

First light from "GLAST"

First light all sky map from GLAST

"GLAST", a space-based gamma-ray observatory launched this June, has collected enough data for us to see what the entire sky looks like in gamma-rays. The impressive thing is that it was able to get a map of the entire sky with less than a hundred hours of data collection, which is staggeringly short when compared with how it took years for the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory to collect enough data to construct a similar map.

You can see what the sky looks like in gamma-rays in the video that follows, which when unrolled and flattened becomes the image above.

You might have noticed that I've put "GLAST" between quotation marks. This is because the gamma-ray observatory has also been renamed to the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. It's named after Enrico Fermi, a physicist whose accomplishments include overseeing the construction of the first nuclear reactor, which was almost literally a pile of bricks.

Bad little North Korea

North Korea is yet again balking at dismantling its nuclear program. Given the constant hostile threats the country makes and the way they marginalize human life, they're really trying hard to make people think that they don't deserve humanitarian aid. It almost makes me wish that all aid is halted so that the current North Korean government could collapse the way their incompetence deserves.

On the other hand, withholding aid could result in thousands or even millions starving to death, so I can't quite be vocal about halting humanitarian aid to North Korea. And of course, there's the specter of war if things get too bad in the country. It's a messy dilemma they're putting the rest of the world in.