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 the 'Artistic Imaging' Category

Mars: Basal Unit and Dunes

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

Mars: Basal Unit and Dunes

A recent post on inquired “What’s your favorite view of the poles?” and Philip Descarfino (who did the colorization work) responded with the above image. According to Philip, “I find this image one of the best of HiRise so far. You really get the feeling of staring off into the distance from just above the surface instead of looking directly downward. It’s mostly an illusion, but it works quite well in this image.”

NOTE: Technically the image itself is interpretive in that it is not an RGB composite but instead a colorized black and white image based upon other color images from the same region. Usually you can almost tell from a glance when this is done, but this one looks spot on.

The Regan Saturn Portrait Extended Mix

Friday, November 2nd, 2007

Ian Regan Saturn Portrait

The one Saturn image that we keep coming back to at wanderingspace seems to be the Ian Regan portrait of Saturn. The composition, angle and color captured in the shot somehow seem to be better than any other. While there are a few other full Saturn images now available from the Cassini mission, none seem to have captured the drama that this one does. The angle that the ring shadows fall on Saturn’s disc, the phase that Saturn happened to be in at the time and the color available as the shot was taken from a more northern position. However, trying to apply the image to larger scale resolutions was not possible as the resolution in the orignal would require that the rings be extended to fill the frame on the left, right, bottom and potentially the top as well (I was also curious to see if the image was just as impressive if it was not angled and cropped as it is in the original). Extending the rings in one direction is easy enough, but doing it on all sides is near impossible to try to do in any image editing software such as Photoshop.

Ian Plus WS

Instead, a one pixel wide swash of the rings was sampled and turned into vectors using Adobe Illustrator. This further allows Illustrator to stretch and curve the ring information captured without having to worry about resolution or pixel distortion. The row of rings was then applied to a brush pattern and applied and wrapped to a simple circle shape. Now the rings are in full circle and the proportions are adjusted. That full set of rings was then rendered in 3-D software and the correct angle as well as perspective was applied and matched with the original Ian Regan image underneath the render for reference.

Regan and Wanderingspace Saturn Portrait

After that, all that is left to do is merge the Regan image to the rings (and maintain as much of the original image as possible) and artificially add the disc shadow that would fall upon the rings behind the planet iteself.

To see the image in hi-res use check out the 2560×1600 wallpaper sets for The Planets and Saturn Scenes

The Carnival of Space 22: The Art of Space

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

Carnival of Space Logo 22I am honored to be the host of The Carnival of Space’s 22nd edition with a focus on the art of space. Wanderingspace considers images of our Solar neighborhood to be art in their own right, so here the line between art and science is thinly drawn to begin with. Enjoy the links!

Recently artist Bettina Forget had one of her creations featured on the back cover of a recent Planetary Society periodical. She posts at her Inside the Artist’s Studio blog and recently mused on sketching at the eyepiece of a telescope and its benefits. Be sure to also take a look at her Moon Series, which is where the previously mentioned Planetary Society featured painting of Io and Europa can also be viewed.

Another fine arts bit of space creativity can be found in the recent work of artist Robert Whitman. Pixel Pusher has an introduction to his show “Turning” which features glowing, spinning sculptures of such moons as Europa and Ganymede while another installment involves a projection of Io. The show is currently on exhibit at the Pace Wildenstein Gallery in New York City. So hop on the subway, it closes on September 29!

If you don’t just want to look at space art but actually create it, Artsnova Digital Art and Space has a few words on a new NASA Space Art Contest whose theme is “Life and Work on The Moon”.

Still feeling creative? The Wired Science Blog is hosting a NASA Slogan Contest where we all have an opportunity to come up with our own slogan and submit it. This contest is only open to entries for about another 24 hours after this goes live, so hurry over!

In the strange category, The Podcast Troubadour offers up two Carnival of Space Themes for your listening pleasure. One is more theatrical and breaks into what can only be described space carnival music while the other will shake your descent stage thrusters. Yes… theme music for The Carnival of Space. The internet is a place where anything can happen and usually does.

If you are unfamiliar with the work of IMAX in a Basement you need to take a look at what exactly is coming out of that basement. The film “Outside In” is entirely made of Cassini still images and is somehow made into what feels like a 3-dimensional voyage to Saturn without the use of any 3-d modeling software. Check out his new offering of 100 Megapixels of Saturn Ring Magnificence with both a hires still and a sneak-peek video segment.

Bridging the gap between art and pure space science, I feel the need to link to Don Mitchell’s Mental Landscapes site for his Soviet Venus Images collection. This is not a blog… i know… but if you scroll about half-way down the page you will see his re-worked Soviet Venera images of the surface of Venus which is just about the most incredible feat i have seen by any freelance imager. Maybe you are familiar with his work already, but if not… every fan of space exploration needs to know that these images now exist thanks to Don.

Riding with Robots reflects on that recent Hubble image of Ceres in, “The Clear Power of a Fuzzy Image” which according to the author “embodies his fascination with space exploration”.

While we are in a reflecting mood Cumbrian Sky compares the 1981 experience of images of Iapetus coming from Voyager to the 2007 experience of images of Iapetus coming directly to our computer screens from Cassini. Space exploration has certainly changed in 25 years. If you want to see more about the recent Iapetus flyby be sure to check out Emily Lakdawalla’s post on the Voyager Mountains and her most excellent link at the end of the article to the full set of images and metadata from the event.

For some off topic posts, A Babe in the Universe offers a new video Images of a New Space Age. Sorting Out Science considers the recent meteorite impact in Peru. Unenumerated has some real options analysis for space projects and takes a fresh look at risk evaluation for deep space missions. Robot Guy posts a whole episode of The Universe’s Mars Episode. Astroblogger captures the ISS whiz past Jupiter. Hobbyspace is telling us about how Google Moon is getting sharper as well as a new 3-D Hubble IMAX movie in the works. And Mr. Gerhards is hoping to record the goings on in going to see Shuttle launches before its too late.

Finally, some posts on two books from completely opposite ends of the spectrum. Lunar Photo of the Day takes a peek into the book-by-committee publication, “The Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon” which is apparently the kind of book that may hold some sway in terms of Lunar decision making over at NASA. On the other hand, Music of the Spheres blogs on “Cosmos for Beginners” which, unlike the previous title, could be a nice purchase for children of all ages between 12 and 90.

Well, thats all for now. Make sure you bookmark some of these excellent blogs and maybe even subscribe to their RSS feeds. Remember, its the internet… all the planetary love you can ever ask for and its all for free!

Io Aglow

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

Io Night Side Eruption Map

This is a bit old taken from February 2007’s New Horizons encounter at Jupiter. A very noisy image was released of Io on the dark side of Jupiter that illustrated the glowing lights of lava flows and auroral displays in Io’s tenuous atmosphere interacting with Jupiter’s magnetosphere. Original Noisy Image of Io AglowNoise always bothers me and there has been a desire to somehow clean up the presentation of this fantastic image.

The process was simply to blur the image, layer highlight information a few times with varying degrees of sharpness or blur and to simply hand remove what would seem to be simply noise artifacts. The problem is that some of this information wasn’t just noise, but is actually auroral glow (especially at the disk edge). So after some of the noise was removed it was softened and re-introduced selectively around active areas where the assumption is that the glow near these spots is more intense. The final step was to simply reduce the file size so that it became sharper.

This presentation is purely artistic although it does come from real image data… I just wouldn’t use it to support any scientific papers. The items marked simply as “volcano” were newly discovered by New Horizons.

What Might the Dust Storm Look Like on Mars?

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

Martian Dust Storm 01

The above image was generated by “hortonheardawho” for 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).

Martian Dust Storm 02

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.

What Is “Outside In” the Movie?

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

Titan from Saturn’s Rings from “Outside In”

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 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”.

Various Recent Enceladus Images

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

Enceladus on Saturn

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.

Multiple Enceladus Geyser Images

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.

Wallpaper: Enceladus Geysers in 3 Frames

And the wallpaper.

Life in the Hood: Enceladus

Thursday, December 14th, 2006

When the Voyagers sped through the outer Solar System in the 1980’s they returned the first images of the smaller moons of the Solar System, those of Saturn and Uranus. These bodies are large enough to maintain a spherical shape – but are considerably smaller than the junior planet sized class of moons which would include Titan, our own moon and a five others. At these smaller sizes (ranging from around 400 km to 800 km in diameter) the gravity is expected to be too weak to hold down any kind of atmosphere and the mass too small to generate any kind of internal heating. These are two factors that usually result in any kind of intriguing features like weather, volcanos, tectonics, geysers or more simply – anything that is not just another crater or the result of some kind of an impact. Nobody was expecting to find anything of interest which could be dated as any newer than from the time around which the Solar System was formed. Even our own moon, at its much larger scale, is for the most part “dead” and has been unchanged since it cooled off millions of years ago.

Enceladus from Voyager

Well, whenever making assumptions about what one might expect to find upon exploring the Solar System, we are always prepared to be delightfully wrong. One the smaller moons of Saturn, named Enceladus, did turn some heads when the Voyagers sped by in the early 80’s (see above), but it wasn’t until Cassini arrived that it turned out to be an unexpected jewel in Saturn’s crown. From some vantage points, looking at Enceladus you might note the “muddy” looking impact craters on the surface and the unusually smooth surface in some regions, but apart form that – you would think that Enceladus was much like the other smaller moons of Saturn and Uranus – cold, cratered and frozen to the core. There didn’t seem to be anything going on around this tiny world any newer than perhaps a few tens of millions of years.

Enceladus from 172km

In 2005, the Cassini spacecraft got a better look at Enceladus and in particular noted a large area somewhat devoid of impact craters with unusually smooth ridges or “tiger stripes” (see above image of Enceladus from 172km) in a large southern region of the small moon. A lack of impact craters usually tells us that what we’re looking at is geologically active and depending on how few there are, tells you how young the surface is. The lack of almost any kinds of craters in this southern region led some to wonder if there may be some kind of unexpected activity going on, namely geysers (see below).

Enceladus Geysers

so in 2006, Cassini took an over-exposed look at a thin crescent Enceladus and there it was… a number of active geysers spewing out water ice miles into the space around Enceladus. Suddenly this tiny cold dead world leapt to life and is even rivaling Europa at Jupiter in terms of generating excitement for possibilities of finding life. Here on Earth we have come to expect life to rise anytime you have water in some fashion available. Life forms it seems, especially ones called extremophiles, seem to figure out a way to survive without sunlight, oxygen and nearly every other element larger animals like us need to survive. The only one thing that seems to always need to be present though is water. So whenever scientists find water in some form on another world, speculation starts to rise in the possibilities that life may have taken a foothold there and could possibly have survived and evolved to the present day.

Theories are still being drawn up to explain the activity on a world that should be frozen solid to the core and as “dead” as an asteroid. A likely guess is that something akin to what is happening on Europa is also happening at Enceladus. Its proximity to Saturn and the fact that it is largely made of something more easily melted such as water ice instead of rock (as Mimas is, which is actually in even closer to Saturn). What is curious is why the activity is isolated to the southern region? Up north the moon looks almost as battered as any other which establishes that these regions are fairly old.

Wallpaper: Cryo-Geysers on Enceladus

For some years now a Europa Orbiter mission has be on the drawing boards at NASA, but many have begun to challenge the idea that the next Cassini/Galileo class mission to the outer Solar System should be to Enceladus instead of Europa. While Europa is active in some form, it is unclear what one may find at the surface. The meat of what we’re looking for may be miles below the icy crust and nobody is sure what kind (if any) of access there may be even at places where the ridges seem fresh and recently broken. Whereas, on Enceladus, there are active geysers currently releasing materials into space which makes capturing some of the materials much easier if not actually having access through some form of cryo-caldera. One attractive idea is to have some form of mission to Saturn/Enceladus that works similarly to the way Stardust worked. Simply fly in close to the active region, open up the collector and return it to earth. This worked fantastically at the comet Wild 2 and there is no reason to believe that it couldn’t work just as well at Enceladus.

NOTE: At the time of this writing, some questions have been raised about the nature of the geysers on Enceladus. A new model proposes that these fountains may not be composed of water ice.

WALLPAPER NOTE: the wallpaper image above is a composite image where the overall scene is actual, but the details of Enceladus’s geysers are from actual images of the geysers laid over the top of the background image. In actuality, the details of the geysers are only visible with over-exposed images which would make the relatively well exposed background scene impossible to image in the same exposure.

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: 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.

The Surface of Venus Revealed

Saturday, November 11th, 2006

Color Image from Venera 13

Color Image from Venera 14

During the cold-war between America and the Soviets the real race was to the moon, but once that race was won a lesser race began to see who would master Mars exploration. After an unbelievably long series of failed Soviet missions to Mars — America managed to take the lead position in Mars exploration as well, with the Mariner and Viking missions. So the Soviets turned their eyes to our other neighbor, Venus, which seemed to garner very little attention from America apart from a few flyby missions. The Russians had Venus all to themselves and really didn’t have to be too concerned with anyone beating them to the punch.

So during the early 70’s the Soviets managed to be quite successful with multiple Venera missions to Venus which included various flybys, orbiters, radar mapping of the surface and even multiple landings on the surface. Some of the missions had failed, but most completed their missions and we have the above color images to prove it. Recently though, I stumbled across these projections of the above images which I have never seen before.

The Surface of Venus Revealed

Someone who knows about such things, Don P. Mitchell (see more on his blog had returned to the original data sent to us by the Venera spacecraft from over 30 years ago and with new computing techniques, managed to reveal to us Venus anew. Instead of just looking at some stones and tiny hints at what a Venusian sky might look like, these projections show what it might actually look like walking on the surface of Venus. The main part of the image above is a composite from spherical projections, which are seen at the top-right, remapped to perspective projections. The way the projection works is the closer you get to the very center of the image, the less accurate the representation may be. However, there is evidence in the data to assume most of what you see here even at the very center where the data was at most thin, is still fairly accurate.

Unfortunately the new projection images were only in black and white and i really missed what seemed to be really fascinating color from the original Venera images… so I tried to colorize it to match the originals.

This interpretation is artistic and not based upon any data other than looking at the original images and trying to assume some of those colors back into Don’s black and white image.

The Surface of Venus Revealed

Wallpaper: Io Portrait

Thursday, October 12th, 2006

Io is the first large moon of Jupiter and is the most geologically active body in the solar system. Its close proximity to Jupiter and tidal forces from the giant and its 3 other giant moons push and pull the moon apart internally. This causes Io to turn itself inside out and fuels its many active volcanos. Due to this constant volcanic activity the surface of Io is quite young, continually being reshaped with not a crater to be found.

Image Note: The image itself is largely original and complete. I added the “dark side” details and completed disk. The the two plumes showing at the edges of the dark side of the disk are also additions. The plumes are taken from other real images and they do appear in true scale, however some brightening of these plumes were likely applied to these original images to show detail, so I darkend them a bit and reduced the color saturation that usually results from these manipulations.