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 'portrait' Category

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: 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.

Wallpaper: Triton Portrait

Thursday, October 12th, 2006

Wallpaper: Triton Portrait

Another big surprise of the Voyager mission was the discovery that the coldest place in the solar system is also home to a considerable amount of geological activity. The moon appears to be widely populated by a large amount of cryovolcanos which were observed directly by Voyager in 1989. These volcanos can be seen in this image as small black smudges mostly located running across the center of the disk. It also has a tenuous atmosphere almost entirely composed of nitrogen.

One of the most interesting bits of information about Triton to me is that the orbit runs in the opposite direction of Neptune’s rotation. This suggests that at one time, Triton may have been a dwarf planet captured by Neptune’s pull. This would also explain the lack of numerous moons which we see at many of the other gas giant planets. Triton would have swept through the Neptune system and probably either collided with or ejected whatever moons may have existed in the system. Triton also has a very slowly decaying orbit and will likely collide with Neptune or shatter into pieces to form a new ring system in 3.6 billion years.

Wallpaper: Triton

Image Note: This is the orignal Triton portrait image that was posted to this site. The newer and improved main top image was recently generated by Ted Stryk and posted to unmannedspaceflight.com.

Wallpaper: Titan Portrait

Thursday, October 12th, 2006

Wallpaper: Titan
Titan is without a doubt, not only one of the most interesting moons, but it is easily one of the most interesting places in all the solar system. It has been determined that Titan is host to the only other lakes ever to be discovered off Earth! Data also supports the idea that Titan has rain and other kinds of weather as well as cryovolcanism (a type of cold volcano). Even with all this, it is near impossible to eek out an interesting image of the place as its thick atmosphere hides everything taking place on the surface. Additionally, similar to Venus and Uranus, the clouds fail to show much in the way of structure or detail as well.

Wallpaper: Ganymede Portrait

Thursday, October 12th, 2006

Ganymede
The largest of all the moons in the solar system is actually larger than the planet Mercury. The moon also shows evidence to tectonic plates (the same process that causes earthquakes on Earth) and there may even be some underground ocean as on Europa though it is less likely to be nearly as extensive. Recent observations from the Hubble Space Telescope suggest that there may be a tenuously thin atmosphere of pure oxygen at Ganymede due to the radiating of water ice into oxygen and hydrogen. In this scenario the hydrogen is lost to space while the oxygen (being a heavier element) is retained at the surface.

Wallpaper: Io Portrait

Thursday, October 12th, 2006

Io
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.

Wallpaper: Luna Portrait

Monday, October 9th, 2006

Wallpaper: Luna
Galileo, on its way to the Jupiter system, looked back at the moon (Luna) and returned this image which largely shows the side of the moon we never see from Earth. The far side of the moon was first photographed by the Soviets in 1959 with the Zond-3 spacecraft.

Wallpaper: Neptune Portrait

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Wallpaper: Neptune

Neptune is the newly designated last “planet” in the solar system. It is the fourth gas giant and like Jupiter, it has its own “Great Red Spot” only in the case of Neptune it has been referred to as the “Great Dark Spot”. Like the other giants it also has a tenuous ring system and a system of moons. Only one of those moons, Triton, stands apart in size and characteristics and is one of the more interesting places to see in the solar system.

Wallpaper: Uranus Portrait

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Wallpaper: Uranus

Second only to Mercury, Uranus tends to get the “boring” award from most due to its lack of almost any kind of cloud details. Among its five moons, there also isn’t really that much going on beyond what one might expect from such medium to small sized moons (with the possible exception of Miranda). However, there are a few things about Uranus that strike interest in it like the ring system, its axis is turned to about 98 degrees and more recently Hubble observations suggest that Uranus does have periodic cloud details not seen when Voyager flew past. As fate would have it, Uranus was in an unusually quiet mood in 1986.

Wallpaper: Saturn Portrait

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Saturn Portrait

Usually the favorite of most due to its fabulous ring system which easily makes Saturn the most picturesque bodies in the solar system. It also has an extensive system of moons which makes Saturn, like Jupiter, almost a mini system within our Solar System. One of its moons, Titan, is more of a planet than some planets are in that it has a thick atmosphere, is large in size, has weather and recent radar images suggest an extensive system of methane/ethane rivers and lakes.

Wallpaper: Jupiter Portrait

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Wallpaper: Jupiter Portrait

Jupiter is a mini system within our solar system. Had it become considerably more massive during the formation of the solar system, it may have ignited and given us a binary star system. It is quite large in comparison to the other planets and its mass is 2.5 greater than the combined mass of all the other planets in our system. The best feature of all is Jupiter’s system of four large moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. These moons are in their own right, more fascinating than many planets happen to be. For example, one of its moons (Europa) has become what many scientists are calling our Solar System’s “most likely place to currently harbor life”, other than Earth.

Wallpaper: Mars Portrait

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Wallpaper: Mars Portrait

Mars is historically the most popular planet in our system. It has been the subject of many science-fiction stories as well as legitimate scientific investigation in the search for life outside of our own home. Recent missions to Mars have all but confirmed the idea that Mars was at one time a wet Earthlike place, covered rivers, seas and even oceans. Where all that water has gone is the subject of great interest and many have not given up the idea that we may one day still find some kind of life there if not the remains of life that had at one time thrived on the surface.The below wallpaper was the previous “portrait” image of Mars, but I have decided that the new Rosetta image of Mars captured during its gravity assist in 2007 is a better full globe image of the red planet. Notice the color variation… which is true? Well, the newer one from 2007 looks closer to Hubble views as seen from Earth orbit and unless they are manipulating colors from Hubble it would lead me to think that the Rosetta image is more honest.

Mars

Wallpaper: Venus Portrait

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Wallpaper: Venus

Venus may be the most inhospitable place in our solar system to be or consider going. Its atmospheric pressure at the surface is 90x that of Earth and the temperature hovers around 400ºC. The extreme temperature on Venus is due to a greenhouse effect which is generated by its unusually dense atmosphere of CO2 which makes it actually hotter than Mercury. It seems to me more likely that astronauts might one day visit Pluto before they ever attemp any kind of mission to the hell that is Venus.

The image itself is Venus in true color. Rarely are images shown of Venus as it actually appears due to the small amount of details available. Very minor manipulations were applied to this image including some brightening of the full disk and contrast which helped bring out a bit more of the natural color. Also the image has been scaled up which would normally result in some blurring, but with venus… who can tell?