You need to upgrade your Flash Player The theme of this blog is not only and obviously space, but in particular “terrestrial worlds”, places that tend to have surfaces on which one could walk or at least attach oneself to. These places sometimes also have other earth-like familiar features such as atmospheres, weather, volcanos, geysers and perhaps, we are finding, even exotic oceans, rivers or lakes that are not necessarily made of familiar materials we are used to here at home. The second theme is imagery. Occasionally I do some retouching of images when needed if an image is incomplete or sometimes “dirty” or noisy. I will attempt to correct image shortcomings based upon other images or well-accepted presumed attributes. When this is done, notes will be offered as to what was added, why and sometimes how it was done. This way no one should ever wonder if something they are looking at is real or photoshop.

Archive for November, 2006

Credit Where Credit is Due

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

I recently posted the existence of this blog to another forum of serious researchers at and since have had a few terse comments posted here (which I have now edited as of July 2007). My intention in posting there was to have these people take a look and see if maybe I was getting anything wrong or taking too broad a liberty with extending some images to fill the proportions of a wallpaper image. What I have had instead is a few people angry with me that I didn’t credit certian people enough for some of the fine work they have done. The one example that I would really agree with was the Venus Projection image i colorized. Don P. Mitchell really did some extraordinary work on re-translating the old Venera data into those images used and I removed his credit from the color version which was water-marked. I left it in the original B&W image on the post, and linked to him in the text… but the wallpaper was void of any credit back to him and I have repaired that.

Some other comments have been made about other usage and I guess I am feeling like it starts to get silly. The flash thing at the top picks from about 30 random images and apparently one of them was an image that someone had worked on. Now, I can remember staring at these places when I was in Junior High School and the image I used up top was nearly identical to this image I have been told was produced by a freelancer more recently. You see, NASA image are famously copyright free as the missions are paid through government funds… or taxes. So the trick here is to know when it is NASA free and not NASA free. When I made many of these wallpaper images I was not sharing them on a blog and didn’t know I would one day. So I wasn’t taking notation on where I found the original and I wasn’t looking to see if anyone was claiming credit.

So, if you are one of these people whose materials I may have unintetionally lifted… please keep in mind this is non-profit, I do this in the interest of public interest of space exploration and that I admire the work you do very much. Just drop me a line and I will brand most anything with your credit and update the files. As a matter of fact, many of these freelancers maintain their own websites containing awesome galleries of images rarely seen by mainstream media so I am thinking adding some of these sites to a nice links page could be a great resource as well. One great example I recently found is this one for Mars Rover images: MER Imagery run by James Canvin.

From now on I will try to take note of where I am getting these things and run a credit and provide a link. The more the merrier.

Wallpaper: Opportunity at Victoria Crater

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

Wallpaper: Opportunity at Victoria Crater
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took a look at The Opportunity Rover as it approached Victoria Crater and returned these incredible images. The highest resolution images of Mars that came from any previous mission could make out details as big as a large truck. Now with MRO details as small as a sofa can be seen and to illustrate this, download the hires of this wallpaper and take a look at the tiny rover at the crater’s edge.

That’s No Moon

Saturday, November 25th, 2006

Mimas and Death Star

In 1977 George Lucas released Star Wars and in it was featured the now infamous Death Star space station which was justly destroyed in the films final scene. That same year Voyager 1 was launched from Earth on its way to the outer solar system. On its way through the Saturnian system it relayed back images of a moon that bore a striking resemblance to Lucas’s own vision of the Death Star.

The only feature that really makes the resemblance complete is the presence of the Herschel crater which, like the Death Star, occupies almost 1/3 the moon’s own diameter. The central peak, which often occurs on larger sized impacts, also makes for a good stand in for the giant laser turret that destroys planets. With results of the Voyager mission streaming in a few years after the film became a smash hit and just a few months after the release of “Empire Strikes Back” one has to wonder if anyone at mission control uttered the words, “That’s no moon”.

However, while the circular feature on the Death Star destroys other worlds, Mimas’s giant circular feature nearly destroyed its own self. The crater is so large in comparison to the size of the moon itself it is believed that it was quite close to shattering the small moon into many bits which maybe could have resulted in even more rings for Saturn. As it is there are fractures on the opposite side of the moon which some suggest may be stress lines from that same impact and show evidence that the moon did start to become unhinged. Proportional to the size of the body itself, this is the largest crater in the Solar System with only Mars’s moon Phobos coming close with its Stickney crater.

Wallpaper: Mimas Against Ring Shadows

Saturday, November 25th, 2006

Wallpaper: Mimas Against Ring-Shadows
In one of Cassini’s more surreal images, the small moon Mimas is seen floating across the ring shadows cast upon Saturn’s cloud-tops. Mimas is a rocky 400km moon whose most notable feature is a 130km crater that dominates its appearance.

IMAGE NOTE: The original image was close to a square cropping, so a large part of the 1/3 left of the image (which is mostly black space) has been extended using data from the rest of the image to duplicate details and fill out the dimensions. The rest is the real deal.

Wallpaper: Rhea and Saturn

Saturday, November 25th, 2006

Wallpaper: Rhea and Saturn
The moon Rhea is pictured drifting across Saturn’s disc. Rhea is one of 3 medium sized moons (including Tethys and Dione) which are largely composed of ice with small amounts of rock and whose features consist mostly of craters. Rhea also displays the “wispy” lines that appear on Dione, so it is assumed that these are also ice cliffs as determined to be on Dione.

IMAGE NOTE: This image was not altered other than extending Saturn’s rings to fill the page on the right side. The original image was in square format so the subtle ring outlines were more cropped than seen here.

Wallpaper: Tethys and Saturn

Saturday, November 25th, 2006

Wallpaper: Tethys and Saturn
The moon Tethys is pictured drifting across Saturn’s disc. Tethys is one of 3 medium sized moons (including Rhea and Dione) which are largely composed of ice with small amounts of rock and whose features consist mostly of craters. Tethys does have two outstanding features which are a huge 400km impact crater whose diameter is about 2/5 that of Tethys itself, as well as a giant 2000km valley that stretches across 3/4 of Tethys diameter.

IMAGE NOTE: This image was not altered other than extending Saturn’s rings to fill the page on the upper right side. The original image was in square format so the subtle ring outlines were more cropped than seen here.

Wallpaper: Iapetus Portrait

Saturday, November 25th, 2006

Wallpaper: Iapetus Portrait

Iapetus is a moon that is on one side one of the brightest objects and on the other one of the darkest objects. In addition to this oddity is the giant equatorial ridge that runs nearly complete around the whole of the moon. Neither of these features origins have been established, although many theories exist. One theory is that Iapetus at one time grazed the edge of Saturn’s rings which would have deposited a huge amount of material around its equator. But to do this it would have had to have been much closer to Saturn and have been ejected out past most of the larger moons to its present position. Another theory suggests that the materials might have come from another of Saturn’s moons, Pheobe, and spiraled in to be swept up by Iapetus. More theories involve internal heating and the movement of matrials from the interior to the surface through various means such as cryo-volcanism.

IMAGE NOTE: The image was originally black and white and has been colorized based upon other colored images.

Also see the wallpaper of Iapetus’s brighter side here added in September, 2007.

Wallpaper: Janus

Saturday, November 25th, 2006

Janus with Backdrop Saturn
A tiny moon named Janus with a back drop of Saturn’s cloud-tops. There is not much to say about this tiny place other than the odd nature of its shared orbit with another tiny moon named Epimetheus. About once every four years they approach one another and swap orbits without coming any closer than 10,000km.

IMAGE NOTE: The image original was black and white and color was added based upon numerous images of Saturn’s cloud-tops. As with many tiny moons, the black and white nature of Janus was just maintained as it is not expected to have looked any different in color.

Wallpaper: Dione and Saturn

Saturday, November 25th, 2006

Dione and Saturn
Dione’s most notable features are the wispy streaks which are seen here in the upper left-hand side. These have been determined to be “ice cliffs” and are now thought to reveal tectonic fractures just like those known on Earth to cause earthquakes.

IMAGE NOTE: One of the best images returned from Cassini is this one of Saturn’s moon Dione passing in front of its host. Nearly hard to believe this is an actual image and not a composite. All that was added, or altered to this image was the extension of left side Saturn’s rings as they were cropped off in the square format of the original.

Wallpaper: Hyperion Portrait

Friday, November 24th, 2006

Wallpaper: Hyperion
Hyperion is an irregularly shaped moon and like most of these was thought to be a “captured” moon of Saturn, which is an object that strays too close to a larger body and is pulled into its orbit. Soon other theories suggested that perhaps it was a single fragment of some larger body which was largely destroyed and perhaps is what littered Iapetus with its darker material. Now, closer observations show us that much of Hyperion’s interior is hollow space… or nothing… which could mean that Hyperion is actually a collection of smaller fragments of ice and some rock which over time pulled itself together to form Hyperion. In other words an orbiting pile of rubble.

Wallpaper: Miranda Portrait

Friday, November 24th, 2006

Wallpaper: Miranda
Of the five moons of Uranus, the only one to really stand out would be Miranda. One look at the moon suggests that some kind of cataclysmic event must have taken place in its past - huge fault canyons and ridges run across its surface. However, newer theories have replaced the idea that Miranda was shattered several times and instead suggest that somehow internal heating has caused lighter materials to rise up in various locations to the surface. Internal heating in smaller objects (Miranda is about 470km wide) is no longer an unexpected thing in the outer solar system. If it is ever confirmed that Miranda does in fact experience internal heating it will join Enceladus, Io and Europa (and possibly others) in this whole new class of body to be explored in the Solar System.

Wallpaper: Sol (the sun) Portrait

Friday, November 24th, 2006

Wallpaper: Sun
I don’t mean to go over some details that many of us already know, but just in case you don’t:

1) If you consider the manner in which the planets are named in the solar system, then the sun’s name would be “Sol” which is the root of the word “solar”.
2) The sun is a star which is neither a solid or a gas but is made of something called plasma.
3) The fusion that creates the energy the sun provides takes place in the core and it takes 170 thousand years for it to make its way out and radiating into space.
4) The sun has an eleven year cycle in which all kinds of activity such as sunspots, flares and solar storms peak and can sometimes disrupt things here on Earth.
5) It is estimated that Earth has only 5 billion years left before the sun depletes its resources and turns into a red giant and fries all things on Earth to a cinder. The image was taken from the SOHO solar observatory. This is the first spacecraft to take advantage of what is called a “halo” orbit around the sun. This involves orbiting a spot called the Lagrangian point which is a spot in between the Earth and Sun where the pull on the object is equal on each side. This means that SOHO actually orbits a space occupied by nothing, and follows inside the orbit of Earth. The advantages of this position allows SOHO to observe the sun uninterrupted by not having to pass behind the Earth which has been an issue with every previous mission to observe the sun. IMAGE NOTE: What is shown in the image above is in ultraviolet light. I make an effort to not use images in false-color and favor visible light, but the sun cannot be imaged in this way for any kind of detail (other than sunspots). So, in the case of suns and stars… I make the exception.

Wallpapers: Just a Note

Saturday, November 18th, 2006

I am reworking the wallpapers so that the labels and info parts are smaller and intrude far less on the images on the bottom. Some have been replaced already (see Mercury, Venus and a few others).
     I also expect to figure out a way to quick resize these so i can offer various monitor sizes. That might take a while though.

Wallpapers: Saturn From Above and Behind

Saturday, November 18th, 2006

Wallpaper: Saturn from Above
A new image recently returned from Cassini when passing into the dark side of the ringed giant. Seen from above the rings are being lit straight on with light reflecting off of them and captured by Cassini.

IMAGE NOTE: The image has been adjusted from the original. The lower half of the disk of Saturn was copied from the top half of the globe, flipped and darkened to hint at the lower half of the globe. Only this lower half of the globe was “faked” in the image, and is barely even visible.

Saturn Back Lit
Here the rings of Saturn are lit from behind and take on quite a different appearance as the light is now filtered through the rings instead of reflected.

IMAGE NOTE: A considerable amount of the ring details have been fabricated in this image. Unfortunately, the original cropped about 1/3 of the right side of the image. The rings were completed by referencing pixels at the edge of the original and continuing the arc around. Where no information was available to fill the frame, other images of Saturn were referenced to guess at their appearance. Again… the left 2/3 of the image is untouched.

Wallpaper: Asteroid Eros

Saturday, November 18th, 2006

Wallpaper: Eros

The NEAR spacecraft was designed to visit a few asteroids with the main target being one named Eros. This probe was meant only to orbit this object closely for a year… and it did. But as the probe ran out of feul and for lack of any reason not to, the controllers decided to attempt an impromptu landing on the surface. Even though the probe had not been designed to do this (it lacked landing gear of any kind) they managed to “rest” the probe carefully upon the surface in 2001 and it continued to transmit information back to Earth for more than 2 weeks from the surface.

Image Note: The color of the asteroid itself was enhanced to match that of the close up image included in the upper right. The original full image was black and white.