Silhouettes by Mario Moreno
Jason Hatfield and Colleen Pinski
Eclipse by Phil Hart
A multi-image mosaic of the moon. Even a telescope with low magnification will only show a small part of the moon’s surface at a time, so composite images such as this are needed to show large areas of its surface
Most Spectacular Shots From 50 Years of Robotic Solar System Exploration
A New View Of The Solar System by Michael Benson
1. Mists of Mars
The Valles Marineris on Mars is the largest canyon in the solar system: 2,500 miles long and up to four miles deep. In this image, based on 18 photographs taken by the ESA orbiter Mars Express in 2004, morning fog fills one of its western arms. Benson combined the photos into six composites, then composed them together into a single image.
2. Jovian Moon
In January 2001, Cassini swept past Jupiter en route to Saturn. As it did, scientists directed the unmanned craft to take a series of photos, some of which captured the transit of the volcanic moon Io at Jupiter’s limb. Benson combined 27 frames into nine composites, which he then stitched together.
3. Night on Saturn
This image, a mosaic of photographs captured by the Cassiniorbiter in 2006, shows the dark side of Saturn. The planet’s rings, made mainly of ice, are thousands of miles wide but only a mile deep; here they are shown from below. Sunlight filtering through the rings faintly illuminates Saturn’s lower hemisphere, while the upper one is brightly lit by sunlight reflected off the rings’s surface.
4. Solar Flare
This set of images, also based on the SDO, show a coronal mass ejection. The SDO uses a UV filter. UV light is invisible to the eye, so NASA translated the different wavelengths into colors, which Benson enhanced.
Triton is the largest moon of the planet Neptune, discovered on October 10, 1846, by English astronomer William Lassell. It is the only large moon in theSolar System with a retrograde orbit, which is an orbit in the opposite direction to its planet’s rotation.
1. Triton’s bright south polar cap above a region of cantaloupe terrain
2. Dark streaks across Triton’s south polar cap surface, thought to be dust deposits left by eruptions of nitrogen geysers
3. Artist’s impression of Triton, showing its tenuous atmosphere just over the limb.
4. Neptune (top) and Triton (bottom) three days after Voyager 2’s flyby
A geyser sprays water vapor from the surface of Saturn’s moon Enceladus
We’ve known for some time that geysers on Saturn’s moon Enceladus sprays water vaporthat eventually finds its way to Saturn. But this striking image lets us see that water vapor spilling into space.
Michael Benson composited this image from image fragments sent by the Cassini spacecraft, just one of the incredible bits of space porn from his upcoming book Planetfall: New Solar System Visions. The Enceladus geysers can blast 500 pounds of water vapor per second, and some of that water finds its way into Saturn’s atmosphere. It’s also believed that the vapor helps form one of Saturn’s outer rings, the “E” ring, in the form of ice. So far, this relationship of a satellite feeding materials into its planet, is unique to Enceladus and Saturn. We don’t know yet of other moons and planets with a similar relationship. (Note: Moralltach notes in the comments that materials from Io’s volcanic eruptions form the Io torus, a gas ring around Jupiter. Enceladus is believed to be responsible for the water that exists in Saturn’s atmosphere as well as around the planet, which is what makes it so unusual.)
For now, though, we can just focus in on the incredible beauty of Enceladus itself, and the glow of water vapor shooting into space. To see an enormous, detailed version of this image (and for details on how Benson assembled the image), head over to North Country Public Radio.
Blue Moon of August 2012