Archive for February, 2007
As New Horizons makes its closest approach to Jupiter, we are already seeing considerable activity from a volcano known as Tvashtar. This comes of no surprise as this was detected a few weeks back when scientists maintained observations of Io through the Hubble Space Telescope in preparation for this event. This is already the best image of an active volcano eruption on Io since the Voyager flybys in 1975 (revealed through over-exposure). Details here are somewhat greater than those taken by Galileo or Cassini and are expected to only get better before all the data is in.
This gorgeous true color full globe of Mars may become the definitive Mars portrait image for the planet. For those may not have noticed, I have tried to apply a “portrait” label on at least one image per body as being the best representative full globe image of that world. The image I currently have tagged for Mars is that great image of Valles Marineris cutting across a near full disc of Mars taken by Viking.
Also worth posting is this semi-color image of Mars seen from behind the solar panels of the probe itself. It was taken by the lander attached to Rosetta which will one day detach itself from the parent probe and make an attempt to actually land on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014. It looks as if it was originally a black and white image and someone at ESA just applied a color tone to the Mars globe, although I could be wrong.
The previous Europa portrait posted here, is the most commonly seen image of the full globe of Europa. Even though there have been multiple missions to Jupiter and its system of moons (including an orbiter which stuck around for quite a while)… there are surprisingly few full globe images of Europa. The one used in the previous post mentioned was compiled through several filters but due to some incomplete data, an artificial green haze appears at the right edge of the disc. Considering the scientific importance of Europa and its unique appearance makes a full globe view of this world highly desirable in my mind.
Enter Tayfun Öner who is the author of the above render. This model was created by stitching together a map of the Europan surface from a multitude of images. At this point in history, a good amount of Europa has been photographed and allows one to make an almost complete surface map as seen below. The clearest and best resolved regions of the map are likely from the Galileo mission and where gaps appeared from that mission the spaces were filled in with images taken by Voyager. I usually prefer straight photography for the puposes of this site, but this is one of the most impressive renders I have ever seen of any body in the solar system. Seeing as how data sets for full global images of Europa are flawed at best… this render does the job most impressively. The full hi-res set of Europa maps by Tayfun can be found here for the curious.
The month of February is treating us to two gravity-assists and a chance to do some observations on the way to their primary objectives. On the 25th the ESA Rosetta probe, on its way to a comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko landing in 2014, will swing by Mars and momentarily join the gaggle of various probes currently studying Mars. Still a small disk in its view, this is how Mars looks to Rosetta set against the Milky Way.
Then on the 28th, New Horizons on its way to Pluto will swing by Jupiter and conduct the first up close observations of the gas giant since the demise of Galileo. Jupiter at current already fills New Horizon’s full view.
Contrary to popular belief, the first man-made object to enter space was not Sputnik. An amazing factoid considering that the space race was a major battleground in the Cold-War between the Soviets and America. Oddly, very little information about these first rockets into space can be found almost anywhere. One of the best references is this article from Air & Space magazine’s web site. The article is centers around the fact that, in addition to being one of the first man-made objects in space (the first was actually German!), the V2s also returned the first images of Earth from space.
On October 24, 1946, a V2 rocket was blasted off from White Sands Missile Range and climbed about 65 miles straight up. There it began snapping images until minutes later it fell back to Earth with no parachutes. The cannister containing the camera was smashed, but luckily the film itself was unharmed and was later developed revealing to us Earthlings a glimpse of our own world from higher up than we had ever seen before.
While the above image is fascinating enough… that image was shot on V2 #13 and later experiments also took cameras along for the ride. Considering how long ago these were taken, another image from V2 #21 taken in 1947 is even more impressive in its detail and clarity.
Seeing the size of Earth as it really appears from the surface of the moon reminds me of this wallpaper that I grew up with in my room as a child. I always assumed it was an actual image, but in reality the Earth appears about 1/20 the size and Earth would never phase in shadow from north to south under any circumstance! (I missed that obvious flaw as pointed out by Paul Neave). I beleive they still sell this wallpaper as I still see it around occasionally at stores and other public spaces (no pun). In addition to this image, you also see the Earth from moon shots taken while in- moon-orbit which also gives the Earth a far larger appearance… but I suspect that some good zoom lenses were likely utilized to get those looks as well.
I’m beginning to feel like this isn’t my blog anymore… I keep finding images processed by Gordan Ugarkovic to be among the very best out there. This is definitely the best color image I have seen of details in Saturn’s cloud tops. If you haven’t perused his flickr account, I’d avise you to do so. Go there to see the hires of this image and many others. It is a one-stop-shop for anyone longing to see more color from the Cassini mission http://www.flickr.com/photos/ugordan/
Rhea is the second largest of Saturn’s moons but lacks any of the exciting features of some of the others. It has some of the “wispy” features that have been determined to be ice cliffs on Dione, but they are far less prominent here. Just another big ball of water ice for future earth visitors to mine for resources!
One of the mid-sized moons of Saturn, Tethys, is thought to be composed almost entirely of water ice. Its most remarkable features are Odysseus, a 400 km wide crater and the Ithaca Chasma a 2,000 km long valley that runs across 2/3 of Tethy‘s globe. Those features are not visible in this image, but what is visible is the slight color variation which almost appears as a “dusting” of color on a largely grey body. A curious feature especially considering the radical color variation found at Iapetus. Perhaps this discoloring is a more subtle result of the same event which caused the strange color variation on Iapetus?
This is a great way to truly understand the capabilities of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. This image of Jupiter is taken from Martian orbit which is 357 million miles away. It is comparable to the what the New Horizons is seeing as it actually approaches Jupiter, which is currently 38 million miles away. So if you were wondering how MRO can get those incredibly detailed images of rovers and landers on the surface from orbit… now you can scratch your head and wonder how it can see Jupiter as good as a probe that is actually approaching a flyby in a few weeks.
Okay, so not as exciting a wallpaper as most… but it was taken from Mars and you can see (i’m guessing) is Europa, Ganymede and Callisto in the same shot.