Archive for February, 2008
Also in the department of older images never posted here is this revision of the Titan “shoreline” image returned by the Huygens probe which landed on the moon in January 2005. It is referred to as a shoreline image largely because of its appearance and the fact that scientists actually anticipated seeing either lakes or oceans from the Huygens landing. Despite the fact that this image is not an actual shoreline where land meets liquid, you can easily see multiple drainage channels cutting through the land masses leading up to the “edge”. Easily the most “Earthlike” image of another planet/moon ever taken in my opinion.
We did later find that Titan does host a large amount of hydro-carbon lakes in it’s northern polar regions (and a smaller amount in the south) but unfortunately for us, we were not aware of that fact and Huygens did not land in that region.
In addition to the above work René Pascal also generated many fantastic views of what the surface of Titan may have actually looked to Huygens during its descent based upon the data sent back. They appeared in Le Figaro magazine and I am trying to get my hands on a copy before posting more on those images. They are really gorgeous.
The newest image released from the Messenger flyby of Mercury features two craters with dark halos surrounding them. The dark material was either generated by heat from the impact or was just below the surface and brought up by the impact. Either way, the assumption is that these are “newer” features since what ever process removed the dark halos from the rest of the craters — seemingly has not had the time needed to complete the process on these.
Check out this great animation found on the internet a while back that was compiled from images taken by the Cassini probe as it flew by Jupiter at the tail end of 2000. It used to be hosted at a U.S. astrogeology site which no longer exists and the animation was credited to Paul Geissler. Those glowing dots are active volcanoes. At the very end there is a blast of light from a crescent Io coming into view. The features are strikingly similar to those of the “dark side” image of Io published here during the New Horizons encounter, including the “auroral displays in Io’s tenuous atmosphere interacting with Jupiter’s magnetosphere”.
NOTE: The animation was cleaned up a bit by wanderingspace.net just for presentation purposes. This mostly included increasing the canvas size, removing all the surrounding noise and darkening the disc of Io itself.
Just looking at the New Horizon images of Io from last year. There were a bunch Io images posted here during that flyby… but i like especially the tiny small plume you can see sharply on the left edge of Io (seen blown out on this post). Most images placed an emphasis on the larger Tvashtar Volcano seen top, left of center.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day… a ménage à tous! Aricebo captured this radar image of asteroid 2001SN263 which turned out to be a triple asteroid. This is the first near-Earth object found to have more than one moonlet. Is it just me or does that main asteroid seem orb-like?
Seemed about time to update the old Mercury “portrait” wallpaper to the new Messenger Mercury “portrait”. It seems possible this color view of Mercury may be replaced again by a better view from the coming October Messenger flyby of Mercury (or perhaps by yet unreleased images from the January flyby), but for now this sure does it.
NOTE: This is a re-post, the image has been updated with Gordan Ugarkovic’s colors as the official NASA version had a good amounf of false colors which gave many details a blueish hue that would not be visible to human eyes.
Wallpaper image made from previous post.
NOTE: The rings to the right of the terminator were sampled from actual images and rendered out in 3-D software to fill the page. The dark outline of the right side of the globe is artificial. Everything to the left of center is actual image. See previous post for unadulterated version of the image. Color composite and rings are by wanderingspace.net.
The northern region of Saturn is starting to come to light as a 15 year-long winter is slowly making its transition to spring. This means the northern pole of Saturn which has remained in darkness since Cassini’s arrival will eventually be exposed to natural light. Don’t forget that this is the pole that sports the oddly hexagonal structure which we have yet to see in high detailed natural light.
Go over and check out the interactive Cassini simulator at saturn.jpl.nasa.gov. Shown above is the simulator’s view of Cassini’s upcoming Enceladus flyby. Scale at this view is not terribly accurate as when you spin the view around — it will seem as if the spacecraft is the same size as the moon. However, it is pretty cool watching the mission in high speed with the labels and orbit trails turned on as seen below.
You will probably have to install a plug-in to use this, but it is quite simple. It should take care of itself for PC users, for MAC users you only need to download the installer and execute the installation from wherever your downloaded files reside. Some platforms may require restarting the browser should the plug-in appear to not be working after installation.
If this isn’t impressive enough for you and you want to go hard-core, try downloading CELESTIA. This is an application based simulator of our galaxy that is supported by a community of users which expand the program’s capabilities by keeping the surface maps of all the planets and moons up to date. There are even mission simulators you can download and ride shotgun along with historic missions such as Voyager and many others. Even more impressive is flying to other star systems where astronomers have discovered exo-planets and discovering that someone has already added a hypothetical model of that new world to the data set. A fair warning is in order — installing this is and then expanding the program through use of the Celestia Motherlode may result in hours worth of unproductive time.
Here is what an Enceladus flyby looks like in Celestia with updated skins. This is an actual screengrab from the application.