Clementine: Back From the Dead!
There's good news coming out of the Bat Cave, which is what everyone calls the center used to control the Clementine mission. According to Trevor Sorenson, ground controllers regained full control of the spacecraft on April 10th. All the systems and sensors seem functional despite having a dead battery and being in deep freeze for 8 months. On the 15th the solar panels were pointed toward the Sun and some test images taken. "So far," Sorenson says, "we have not found anything broken." The mission team estimates that the spacecraft has enough thruster gas on board to change velocity by about 200 meters per second, and various options for an extended mission are being explored.
New Weather On Neptune
The weather forecast on Neptune calls for changeable skies, according to astronomer Heidi Hammel. She has been using the Hubble Space Telescope to monitor the distant planet, and its appearance has changed radically since Voyager 2 flew by in 1989. The Great Dark Spot in Neptune's southern hemisphere is no longer, but a new dark spot has appeared in the north. And huge, bright clouds appear, evolve, and disappear from week to week. Sunlight is about 900 times weaker on Neptune than here on Earth, so it probably has little effect on the planet's weather. Instead, the cloud systems may be spawned by heat rising from the planet's interior, which radiates twice as much energy to space as Neptune receives from the Sun.