Archive for July, 2007
The above image was generated by “hortonheardawho” for unmannedspaceflight.com and represents some of the earlier days of the Martian dust storm currently enveloping the planet. This is Mars as seen from the Opportunity Rover who seems to be suffering under the storm worse than Spirit on the opposite side of the globe. While these skies are somewhat dark take a look at what it might have looked like around July 15 (or Martian day #1235 of the mission since arriving).
Using an image developed by Jim Bell to show the relative brightness of the dust storm at Opportnity’s position, the above image was artistically re-interpreted to show what that same scene might have looked like a few weeks later. The rovers have since been shut-down almost completely to try and conserve power and word has it that at present it is even darker than suggested here. The loss of light reaching the surface of Mars at Opportunity’s position is currently more than 99% and should these storms go on for too long the rovers will run out of energy with no light reaching their solar panels and that would finally spell the end of these long-running missions. Even though all operations that use any kind of power have been shut-down, the rovers do need to constantly use enough power to stay warm. As of this time, there is so little energy being replenished that just running the heaters is using up more energy than can be regenerated from the solar collectors.
While the situation does seem dire, most specialists expect the rovers to make it through this situation and expect to carry on after the storm dissipates. Coincidentally, Opportunity was just about to enter the Victoria crater and thankfully it had not as that would have surely spelled doom for that mission. The solar energy collectors would not only have had to deal with the low-light situation, but would have suffered under crater wall shadows as well.
Another Saturnati, also with camera artifact. Another U. Gordan image, see Gordan Ugarkovic’s Flickr Page for hi-res version.
Not totally sure what this film will be like, but the potential of someone using the best imagery of the Cassini mission to create 3 dimensional environments set to music seems quite exciting. There’s not a ton of animation on the site, but what there is seems pretty good (despite the numerous screen shots of the back of someone’s head watching various pop stars?!). The above image is a still sample of what one would hope would represent the majority of what might be coming. Go to outsideinthemovie.com and check out the clips in the WATCH section, especially the “Basement IMAX” one which explains part of what he is attempting. But in order to make it happen, it seems donations are in order. Open up your wallet and help make it happen or take part in the process by submitting some images of yourself as requested by the creator (see the SUPPORT section).
Image Note: According to the film maker, “There is no computer-generated imagery in the film. No 3D models, no texture-mapping or any other rendered data. The only thing that has been done is taking many actual photos (including some high resolution mosaics) and using some very special and computer-intensive processing to create the feeling of depth and movement”.
The Dawn mission to the 2 largest asteroids in our Solar System was supposed to have been launched this week, but has been postponed until September of this same year. Apparently due to Dawn’s repeated launching schedule delays it could have interrupted the launching schedule for the Mars Pheonix lander which has a less flexible launch window.
The above images are the best taken thus far of both objects by the Hubble Space Telescope (images not to scale). Vesta appears to be similar to most objects of its type with one exception… We most likely have samples of this body here on Earth as meteorites. It seems the composition of a bunch of meteors known as HED class meteors match that of observations made of Vesta. The theory is that at some point a huge impact took place on Vesta which shattered it into many fragments. Some of these Vesta originating fragments are orbiting the sun in the Asteroid belt to this day while smaller bits of this collision were thrown inward toward the sun (likely through disturbances coming from Jupiter) and some wound up landing here on Earth as meteors. If this turns out to be true, then Vesta would be one of only 5 bodies that we currently have confirmed samples of. Those additional bodies being our own moon, Mars (also through a similar natural meteoric process), Wild 2 and Earth itself.
Ceres on the other hand is the largest Asteroid in the Solar System and for a few days was considered a planet in 2006 until the definition of “planet” was fine tuned a few days later to exclude not only Ceres, but famously Pluto as well. However, an upgrade was in order and Ceres is now officially a Dwarf Planet as it maintains its own spherical shape, orbits the Sun and is not itself a moon of any other body. More interesting than its definitive status in the Solar System is the fact that it is relatively warm, may have a tenuous atmosphere and frost on the surface. Some surface features have also raised many questions about the nature of Ceres such as the dark spot that was imaged in 95 and later disappeared. Then there is the recently observed white spot which has no theoretical identity at all. Hopefully, this may mean that in 2015 we may discover that Ceres is not just another heavily cratered inactive grey body in our Solar System but another enigmatic body like Io and Enceladus that defies preconceived notions of what to expect. Who knows what processes might cause Ceres to be active on any level, but surely we have been surprised before.
Rather than waiting for NASA or U. Gordan to colorize this recent image of Enceladus against Saturn, I took it upon myself to fake it myself. I usually do not like to do it this way as it potentially misrepresents what the actual colors may look like, but I really think that these faked versions (also referred to as artistic representations) are likely pretty close. What was done was to add colors to the image based upon what other color images of similar conditions have looked like. The only thing that may be off is that the ring shadow colors may have been that Saturn peach (which in shadow looks brown) rather than the blue-green used here. Since other images of Dione shot against Saturn ring-shadows had the blues in them, I thought there was a pretty good chance this did as well. In the interest of telling the truth the originals have also been included.
Turns out U. Gordan did do one as well here.
Of the recent raw images of Enceladus, these had some interesting qualities I thought worth posting. They are more of the over-exposed variety for the purpose of exposing the geysers that have been discovered in the southern regions. I just thought at this further distance some of the images had a different feel to them. I highly recommend clicking on them for the high-res versions as nothing can be seen from the above thumbs.
Additionally, not sure… but I am thinking that third image may include the torus generated by the geysers or is that just a lens distortion of some kind?… anyone? I am thinking it is not an artifact as you can see a shadow of enceladus cutting through it diagonally in the upper-left.
And the wallpaper.
Ted Stryk, over at unmannedspaceflight.com (see “imager portfolios” in the right hand column), performed some handy work on these old Mariner 7 images on its approach to Mars. After the image clean-up work was completed he posted the files for download on the forum and wanderingspace worked the animation so that the trip to Mars would appear smoother. The result is very much as Ted describes as having, “a turn-of-the century nickelodeon look”, which is a pretty cool effect for an actual trip to Mars clip.
Mariner 7 was launched in March of 1969 and arrived in August of that same year. Shortly before arriving a battery exploded on board Mariner 7 and despite this near disaster, the Mariner team managed to get the spacecraft in fine working order just in-time for the encounter. A sister craft, Mariner 6, had flown by Mars only days before 7’s encounter and I intend to take a shot at arranging those frames for animation as well.