You Are the Center of the Solar System

You Are The Sun is the latest space themed tee by Chop Shop Store. Following on iconic tees that collected various deep space missions and historic Earth orbit missions, this new design draws a new picture of The Solar System as we know it today, complete with Carl Sagan’s pale blue dot.

With your head as a stand-in for The Sun — the tee includes all 8 planets, 7 major moons, The Asteroid Belt and even details little Pluto lost among countless Kuiper Belt objects. We are now providing yet another link here to get it for Men on American Apparel 2001 or Tultex tees and for Women on American Apparel 2102 tees.

Could the Phoenix Rise Again?

It seems pretty unlikely to happen, but starting on January 18 the Mars Odyssey Orbiter will begin listening for signals from the Phoenix. The mission ended last November as the Sun became too dim to continue to provide the solar cells enough energy to keep Phoenix warm and operable. The lander was never intended to survive a Martian winter and has most likely been devastated by the extremes and unlike the rovers, Phoenix is in a polar region which makes those extremities of a Martian winter even greater. Now with the end of Martian winter comes the addition of more sunlight, comparable warmth and therefore a reason to think maybe we can grab enough power to wake up and resume operations. So nobody really expects a technical miracle to take place this week, but in the unlikely event that the lander has survived… the science teams already have a plan in place to take that advantage.

Above is an impressive mosaic image of the frozen water that was found beneath the lander later in the mission. It is thought that the thrusters (which enable a soft surface landing) kicked away the top soil on the way down, revealing a sheet of frozen ice water right underneath the lander’s feet.

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.

iPhone Skins Featured on

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

Martian Spiral

A Martian dust devil… or at this size, a tornado. We have seen these at much smaller scales from the rovers on the ground, but it would be exciting to see one of this size from the ground. This image was returned from the Mars Recon Orbiter from almost directly above and this spiral probably measures about 30km wide for an idea of scale.

Phoenix’s Probable Last Surface Image

One of Phoenix’s Final Images On the Phoenix Mission’s 152nd Sol (a Martian day) the lander has fallen silent and mission engineers have been unable to communicate with it for over a week. This was expected as the Martian sunlight is less and less as the season changes. The sun is simply not providing enough energy to replenish its solar batteries. There is an outside chance that communications might resume again, but it would be a fleeting opportunity at best.

In all, the mission prooved the existence of water-ice in the Martian subsurface; we saw (with our own eyes) Martian ice melting; it was the first time an atomic force microscope was used outside the bonds of Earth; the discovery that Martian soil may not be that different from the Earth’s and that growing plants in it may not be at all difficult; Phoenix found trace amounts of salt which could be nutrients for life; and finally calcium carbonate which suggests a past existence of liquid water on the surface of an anchient Mars.

And who could forget this image. Not too shabby.

What We Can Do With Old Mission Photos

Viking 2 Approaches Mars in 1976 These above images of Mars were composited by Emily Lakdawalla and display a staggering improvement over what we have seen published over and over again since the Viking missions took place in the mid-70’s (see below). You may be familiar with the bottom image as it is one of the few images of Mars taken in a crescent phase. I never would have guessed that by simply re-compiling the data with today’s everyday image software, it was possible to bring out the real beauty hidden within the data.

Mars from Viking 2 Looking Bad!

Midnight Sun in Color

Colorized Martian Sun Phases “That’s my colourized version of the already-classic “Midnight Sun” image created by the Phoenix team, showing the path of the Sun across the sky as seen by the Phoenix lander. Up near the martian north pole Phoenix is in the martian Land of The Midnight Sun, and the Sun never sets, it just dips down towards and then rolls over the southern horizon at midnight before climbing up again…”

Taken from, a nice Phoenix fan site featuring the best images of the Phoenix mission thus far.

Color of Phoenix

Phoenix Color Image of the Martian Surface at the Pole Don’t think we ever posted a true color of the Martian surface from the Phoenix mission yet. This was stitched together by James Canvin. Hopefully the next time we post this view it will be covered with Martian frost. Just in time for Christmas!

Life Online

“Many people -- including, I must admit, me -- took this sentence to mean that a special briefing had taken place, alerting the White House to some positive news about life on Mars.”

Emily Lakdawalla comments on the Phoenix hub-bub which may have been over-blown.