50 Years of Space Exploration Map

This is so nice, but I am furious that I didn’t get to design this. This is Information design at it’s best naturally by National Geographic. You can see 50 years of robotic planetary exploration at a glance. It even includes failed missions represented by darker desaturated lines. As far as I can tell the cream colored lines are US and the red ones are Soviet. Interesting to see how many of those lines go dark around Mars.

Now where does one purchase such a thing? Perhaps this month’s issue of NG? Here is the link to it on their site complete with zoom viewer and them some kind samaritan posted a hires version to flickr.

Jupiter Slammed Again

Barely 15 years after Comet Shoemaker-Levy slammed into Jupiter, another large object hit Jupiter this month when nobody was looking. This image was taken 4 days after the event and displays an Earth-sized scar in the upper atmosphere of the planet. The object that did the slamming is estimated to have been about the size of several football fields. This should be a fairly rare event, although twice in 15 years is literally a blip on a celestial time scale.

iPhone Skins Featured on feulyourcreativity.com

Not to re-post old material, but our iPhone planetary skins were recently posted to fuelyourcreativity.com for free download. So I thought I would just remind everyone and maybe direct a little traffic love their way. 

Outer Planets Mission Selected

It is final. NASA (and ESA) have selected the next flagship mission to the outer planets. The target is the Jupiter system, and by “system” I do mean system. NASA’s side of things will concentrate on a Europa orbiter which will observe Jupiter’s moon in details that we have never seen before. See this youTube video for a good overview. The last time we were near Europa enough to make close observation was with Galileo, but problems with that spacecraft resulted in a limited amount of data that one would expect from such a long orbiter mission such as Galileo.

Beyond Europa, the mission will also be close enough to do great observations of its closest neighbor, Io, as well – of course – as it’s host planet Jupiter. Also worth noting is the possible adoption of an Io specific orbiter as part of the New Horizons class of spacecraft whose targets for the next decade have yet to be determined.

Lastly, and certainly not at all a small thing… ESA will be running a Ganymede orbiter to work in tandem with the Europa mission. The two missions are more like partner missions such as the 2 Mars rovers than separate ones. They seem to planning for them both to arrive at the same time (or even launched from the same rocket, is that even possible?).

For those unfamiliar with these bodies, check out these links to other posts about Europa and Ganymede.

Hubble Almost Beats Voyager

Jupiter and Callisto from Hubble The two 80's Voyager missions to Jupiter were one of the highlights of the decade in planetary missions. There were some images from the two Voyagers that were closer in detail that we can hope to do from Earth orbit, but this image above comes close. You wouldn’t know this was not a Voyager, or even a Galileo mission image except for the fact its not. Hard to imagine that only 20 years ago we couldn’t see a single detail on Ganymede’s surface without actually sending a probe to the Jupiter system. This view from Hubble is, “so sharp that astronomers can see features on Ganymede's surface, most notably the white impact crater, Tros, and its system of rays, bright streaks of material blasted from the crater”.

MAD Infrared Jupiter Image

Jupiter in infrared light “Jupiter in infrared light, taken on the night of 17 August 2008 with the Multi-Conjugate Adaptive Optics Demonstrator (MAD) prototype instrument mounted on ESO’s Very Large Telescope. This false colour photo is the combination of a series of images taken over a time span of about 20 minutes, through three different filters (2, 2.14, and 2.16 microns).”

See Centauri Dreams for more.

New Horizons Opens its Vault

Jupiter, Io and Ganymede From New Horizons by Gordan Ugarkovic The New Horizons team has made all the MVIC (Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera) images as well as the LORRI (Long Range Reconnaissance Imager) images from the Jupiter encounter available for imagers to kick around. The above image is by Gordan Ugarkovic and is apparently a “colorized” version of a monochrome he created using earth based observations of the planet from around the same time. In addition to the two moons (and a shadow), also visible are both the Great Red Spot as well as the “Red Junior” spot which has in recent months has become a new notable feature of Jupiter.

The iPhone Set 01: Bodies of Major Interest

The iPhone Set 01: Bodies of Major Interest If I am going to keep making these things… I’d be a fool to not include a set for the Apple iPhone. Coincidentally, when you purchase your iPhone and do not yet have a phone service, the phone displays a full-disc image of the Earth pretty much displayed exactly as these do when uploaded to your iPhone. So in the spirit of continuity, you can now opt instead to have Mercury, Venus, Earth, The Moon (Luna), Mars, Jupiter, Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, Saturn, Enceladus, Titan, Iapetus, Hyperion, Uranus, Miranda, Neptune or Triton grace your screen instead of the default Earth.

The easiest way to install wallpapers to your iPhone is to make a special set in iPhoto and simply drag all the files to that folder. Then in iTunes have your iPhone sync that folder to your photos collection. After that it is as simple as opening the “Photos” area of your iPhone. Go to your new folder of images and open whichever image you want. Then tap on the image just once and assign it as a wallpaper using the “Use as Wallpaper” button in the lower left corner of the screen.

If you have a PC I have no idea in hell how the hell you get images into your iPhone. I would buy a Mac… you have an iPhone and use iTunes… you are half-way there.

For a version of these with no graphics see this link.

Wallpaper 2560x1600 Set 03: The Planets

The planets – the complete set for collectors! While there are literally thousands of images of the planets to choose from… full globe high resolution images are actually fairly rare. They usually require many exposures to be stitched together to make one large complete image. This is not only difficult to work out across the great distances of space, but also soaks up a large amount of valuable spacecraft time and energy. This set represents the best available images of each planet in our Solar System. Wallpaper 2560x1600 Set 03

Sorry, no Pluto for more than one reason.

New Horizons is New Again

A bunch of new data was recently released from the New Horizons encounter with Jupiter in February. Included in that was this impressive composite of Jupiter’s clouds. Jupiter Clouds 01Jupiter Clouds 02Jupiter Clouds 03The image is presented here in 3 parts as I just have not figured out how to post tall images in my build of WordPress without it scaling oddly into the page format.

The original released by NASA had an odd grey faded edge which looks fairly fake and manipulated. The description states that it was taken at the edge of Jupiter’s night-side, so we adjusted the above images to look more natural than the way it appeared here.

Wallpaper: Jupiter Clouds

Wallpapers: 1024x768 Set 05

1024x768_set05 Managed to make the more common wallpaper size 1024x768 for the 14 most recent wallpaper posts (started with set 05 images, 1-4 to come). Download zip file here. Some were not produced as they just didn’t translate so easily into the format. However, the opposite is true in some cases such as for this image of the Martian south pole. Its resolution was hopelessly low for the larger landscape format, so now with the smaller size it was possible (just barely) to get it posted as a wallpaper.

Wallpaper 1024x786: Martian South Pole

Included in the set for download are the images pictured at the top and for the sake of google search, here they are listed out:

  • 1024x768 Wallpaper of CALLISTO at half view, moon of JUPITER
  • 1024x768 Wallpaper of EARTH from APOLLO landing site
  • 1024x768 Wallpaper portrait of EUROPA, moon of JUPITER
  • 1024x768 Wallpaper portrait of JUPITER
  • 1024x768 Wallpaper of MARS region of DEUTERONILUS (not shown)
  • 1024x768 Wallpaper of MARS surface at HUSBAND HILL
  • 1024x768 Wallpaper portrait of MARS
  • 1024x768 Wallpaper portrait of PHOEBE, moon of SATURN
  • 1024x768 Wallpaper portrait of RHEA, moon of SATURN
  • 1024x768 Wallpaper of SATURN, crescent view (not shown)
  • 1024x768 Wallpaper of SATURN from above the NORTHERN POLE
  • 1024x768 Wallpaper of SATURN globe
  • 1024x768 Wallpaper of SPACE WALK
  • 1024x768 Wallpaper portrait of TETHYS, moon of SATURN

Telescopic Views of Our Moon and Other Planets

Moon and Mars

I stumbled across an image of Mars and our moon a while back, either on Universe Today or just from looking for great images of Mars on google. Anyway, it never occured to me that you can get such great detail of Mars while still being able to see a limb of the Moon in the same view. I thought it was a Photoshop job until I looked up “occult+Saturn+moon” and found similar images. For some reason, Jupiter images are more a rarity. What is unmistakable is that the above Moon/Mars image by Ron Dantowitz is pretty incredible for its clarity and detail.

Moon and Jupiter

moon and Saturn

Moon and Saturn

I couldn’t find any of the moon and a tiny blue dot of Uranus, but you can always use your imagination.

U. Gordan just sent me one of Venus too

Moon and Venus in Daylight

Io Plume and Europa Rises

Two impressive images from the New Horizons mission as it sped past Jupiter last February. Releases sure are taking time… they must be coming back in on e pixel a day!

Io Plume

Best detail yet seen on a volcanic plume on Io

Europa Rises

Europa seen rising Apollo style over the edge of Jupiter.

Active Plumes on Io

Eruption on Io 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.

2 Missions Swing by 2 Planets

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. Mars from Rosetta

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.

Jupiter from New Horizons

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Got Good Eyes

Jupiter From MarsThis 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. Wallpaper: Jupiter From Mars

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.

Image Processors on Flickr: Gordan Ugarkovic

Gordan Ugarkovic has a great collection of reworked Cassini images on Flickr. I contacted Gordan about showing some of his images here on wanderingspace and he was ever so gracious. As many people Gordan is “somewhat underwhelmed by the frequency the Cassini Imaging Team releases color composites”, so it is up to excellent freelancers like him to compile this information from the data files which are made public by NASA. Problem is that these images rarely make it to the mass media and we are stuck with the dozen or so color images the NASA imaging teams decide to produce in a year. Wallpaper: Europa and the Eye of Jupiter

Wallpaper: Saturn’s Rings and Three Moons

WALLPAPER NOTE: The left 1/3 of the “Three Moons” image was extended in Photoshop using data at the edges of the original image which was cropped to a square format. This “fake” imagery was only applied to that area of the rings and the rest of the image including the moons is actual.

Here are some other images from Gordan which are some of my favorites, but don’t trust my editing… go to the gallery and have a look yourself. For the sake of posterity I have added a permanent link to his gallery on the right side of this blog where you may note that there are already a few others linked. There were two additional ones but the sites have been taken down since I linked to them?! Hopefully the three left will stick around for a while and I will in time add more to the collection.

Tethys on a Hazy Limb

Tethys and Saturn’s Hazy Limb

Mimas and Promethius on Rings

Mimas and Prometheus on Rings

Io on Jupiters Edge

Io on Jupiters Edge

Life in the Hood: Elsewhere

When mankind set out to observe every major known body in the Solar System, we expected to find that the planets were easily the most interesting places to study. The assumption would have been that most, if not all the moons, were just like our own – cratered. Perhaps they were made of some different materials like ice, but for the most part we expected craters. Apart from that, all we knew was that Titan would be an interesting place because it had a substantial atmosphere. However, once the grand tour of the Voyager crafts were over, we wound up looking far longer and more dumbfounded at the images of a shockingly alien and volcanic Io, or the intricately cracked shell surface of Europa. Titan, it turned out, only frustrated us as Voyager was unable to make out a single damn feature on the surface due to its thick and hazy atmosphere. Few things turned out to be as expected.

As I suggest in my life-on-Titan fantasy, we really don't know what and where we may find just about anything. A few years ago we talked about water on Mars in terms of millions of years ago. Then we talked about the water on Mars scenario as being played out perhaps a few hundred-thousand years ago. Now we find out that at least part of the water on Mars story is as young as last week. Point being that we often find nothing where we expect to find something and find everything where we expected to find nothing. So maybe by these standards the only other life in our Solar System is a few thousand miles down deep in the clouds of Jupiter? Maybe we will one day find microbes in hibernation on a wayward asteroid that was blown off the surface of some fantastic planet and traveled the millennia across time and space from a wholly different star system?

Sagan’s Theoretical Life on Jupiter

I always recall the images presented in “Cosmos” of what Carl Sagan imagined beings from Jupiter might be like. He imagined they would be quite large and have a structure that would thrive in the intense pressure of the Jovian atmosphere. Looking more like some sort of massive sea creatures, they would float across a limited zone of the Jovian atmosphere and have no need of a terrestrial surface. Sagan even imagined that there might be other Jovian life-forms which could be natural predators of the floaters. These creatures looked like flying fish and seemed even more fantastic than the ones that were imagined previously. But what was exciting was that a serious mind like Carl Sagan didn't consider such possibilities complete folly… surely he was aware their likelihood was slight, but he wasn't beyond imagining the possibilities. For me a child of 8 years, that inspired me. A serious and important man like Sagan thought there could be life, not just microbes on Mars, but creatures on a place as exotic as Jupiter.