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MGS Mars Orbiter Camera: 10 Years In Space December 1, 2006

Posted by jtintle in Planets, Space Fotos.
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Color view of martian north polar cap and two nearby, white, circular cloud formations.
Credit:

NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems

Explanation:

Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) was launched 10 years ago today, on 7 November 1996. The spacecraft reached Mars on 12 September 1997, and has been observing the ever-changing red planet over the course of the past 5 martian years.

The Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) has spent 10 years in the near vacuum of spaceā€”not bad, considering that the Primary Mission, at the time of launch, was expected to end in early 2000. Since September 1997, MOC has been acquiring new images that highlight the geology and meteorology of Mars; more than 240,000 images have been returned to Earth. A recent example, from 15 October 2006, is shown here.

Two annular (i.e., somewhat circular) clouds are seen in the upper left corner of this mosaic of MOC wide angle camera daily global mapping images. To the right of the picture’s center is the martian north polar cap. The image has a scale of about 7.5 kilometers (4.7 miles) per pixel. Annular clouds are common in mid-northern summer in the north polar region, and may result from eddy currents in the lower atmosphere. The appearance of such clouds happens every year; this year they came like clockwork within a two-week forecasted period, based on the previous 4 martian years of experience gained from MGS MOC daily global imaging.

Despite their superficial resemblance to Earth-orbiting satellite views of hurricanes, these cloud features are not the result of strong winds, and they typically dissipate later in the day. The pictures used to make this mosaic were acquired less than 2 days before the MOC was turned off for MGS’s fifth Mars-Earth Solar Conjunction period. During Conjunction, Mars was on the other side of the Sun, relative to Earth, and thus MGS could not transmit data (through the Sun) during the second half of October.

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Swirling With Shadows December 1, 2006

Posted by jtintle in Planets, Space Fotos.
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This spectacular image of Saturn's clouds looks obliquely across the high northern latitudes. The Sun is low on the horizon here, making the vertical extent of the clouds easier to see. Cloud bands surrounding the vortex

Image Credit:

NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Explanation:

This spectacular image of Saturn’s clouds looks obliquely across the high northern latitudes. The Sun is low on the horizon here, making the vertical extent of the clouds easier to see. Cloud bands surrounding the vortex at lower left rise above their surroundings, casting shadows toward the bottom of the image.

Some motion blur is apparent in this view.

The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera using a spectral filter sensitive to wavelengths of infrared light centered at 938 nanometers on Oct. 30, 2006. Cassini was then at a distance of approximately 1.2 million kilometers (700,000 miles) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 142 degrees. Image scale is 7 kilometers (4 miles) per pixel.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

A Pelican in the Swan December 1, 2006

Posted by jtintle in Deep Space, Space Fotos.
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See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Image Data:

Digitized Sky Survey,

Color Composite:

Charles Shahar

Explanation:

The Pelican Nebula lies about 2,000 light-years away in the high flying constellation Cygnus, the Swan. Also known as IC 5070, this cosmic pelican is appropriately found just off the “east coast” of the North America Nebula (NGC 7000), another surprisingly familiar looking emission nebula in Cygnus. The Pelican and North America nebulae are part of the same large and complex star forming region, almost as nearby as the better-known Orion Nebula. From our vantage point, dark dust clouds (upper left) help define the Pelican’s eye and long bill, while a bright front of ionized gas suggests the curved shape of the head and neck. Based on digitized black and white images from the Samuel Oschin Telescope at Palomar Observatory, this striking synthesized color view includes two bright foreground stars and spans about 30 light-years at the estimated distance of the Pelican Nebula.

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