My Correct Views on Everything
↳ Astronomy & Space
- Dawn’s first colour map of Ceres: map-projected false-colour images of the dwarf planet taken as the spacecraft approached, assembled from images taken through blue, green and infrared filters. (Previously: At Ceres.)
- An elevation map of the Ares Vallis region of Mars (above) from the DLR, the German space agency (via io9).
- A map of known exoplanets in the Milky Way; most of them were found during the Kepler mission, which pointed at a a particular region of space.
Last Saturday, the Rosetta spacecraft passed within 14 kilometres of the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The above mosaic was assembled from imagery taken from an altitude of 19.9 kilometres, and depicts the comet’s Imhotep region. (Here’s a map of Churyumov-Gerasimenko’s named regions. We’re mapping the surfaces of comets now. Let that sink in.) Image credit: ESA/
As of today the Dawn spacecraft is now in orbit of Ceres. Because Dawn’s trajectory puts it in the dwarf planet’s shadow, it’ll be the middle of next month before se start seeing better-resolution images than we’ve seen so far as it approached. The above images were taken from 40,000 km away on February 25.
Meanwhile, early images of Ceres have already been assembled into a preliminary equirectangular mosaic:
No labels yet, because nothing’s been named yet: this is the first time we’ve seen these features. But Gazeteer of Planetary Nomenclature says that, in keeping with Ceres’ origin as the name for the Roman goddess of agriculture, Ceres’ craters will be named for “[g]ods and goddesses of agriculture and vegetation from world mythology”; other features will be named for agricultural festivals.
A newly reprocessed view of Jupiter’s moon Europa, based on images from the Galileo mission, has been released. “To create this new version, the images were assembled into a realistic color view of the surface that approximates how Europa would appear to the human eye.” Image credit: NASA/
Geologic maps of Vesta, the asteroid visited by the Dawn spacecraft between July 2011 and September 2012, have been produced for a special issue of the planetary science journal Icarus. Above, a global geologic map of Vesta, compiled from 15 individual quad maps and using a Mollweide projection (Vesta itself is decidedly non-spheroid, but still). Image credit: NASA/
Previously: Atlas of Vesta.
Maps of planets, moons and other objects in our solar system always get me excited, though truth be told they were among the less popular posts on my old Map Room blog. Here are a couple of rather colourful recent examples:
- Above left, a preliminary map of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the subject of a visit by the Rosetta mission, that colour-codes several morphologically different regions.
- Above right, a topographical map of the Moon’s surface based on laser altimeter data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Image credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/
As I said during the Q&A part of my fantasy maps presentation at Readercon (see previous entry), maps of other worlds in the solar system are usually images from space probes that have been set to a map projection. The key word is usually. On Monday the U.S. Geological Survey released a geologic map of Mars that “brings together observations and scientific findings from four orbiting spacecraft that have been acquiring data for more than 16 years.” Via io9 and Wired.
Whatever the quality of the Pontiac’s roads, its skies are very good for astronomical observing — especially when you consider how close we are to Ottawa. From my backyard, which is not well shielded from porch and street lighting, I’ve gotten magnitude-five views with the naked eye — suffice to say, the Milky Way is in fine form during the summer. (Clouds are a wrinkle, though: they never fail to turn up during neato ephemeral events.)
In that vein I note with interest a group called AstroPontiac, and its Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to buy a roll-off roof observatory and a couple of telescopes. They’re trying to raise $12,500, which seems modest, but their goal of providing a site for amateur observing is fairly low-cost, considering. Ottawa Citizen coverage.
The USGS has published a geologic map of Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon and the largest moon in the Solar System, based on imagery from the Voyager 1, Voyager 2 and Galileo probes. Via Centauri Dreams, Sky and Telescope.
Meanwhile, Sky and Telescope has produced a Mercury globe based on MESSENGER imagery. They already produce both visual and topographic globes of the Moon and Mars, as well as a globe of Venus coloured for elevation. (I’m crossing my fingers for globes of the outer moons, myself.)
Today was a good day on the astronomy front. Data from the Herschel space observatory has revealed the presence of water vapour around Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt (this is even more cause to look forward to the arrival of the Dawn spacecraft there next year). And a supernova has been detected in M82, a galaxy close enough and bright enough to be seen through amateur telescopes (I’ve done so on more than one occasion). So: lots of awesome. (Photo credit: UCL/
The USGS has released quad maps of the planet Mercury as a set of PDF files: “The 1:5 million-scale series of Mercury maps divides Mercury into 15 quadrangles, H-1 through H-15 (five Mercator, eight Lambert Conformal, and two Polar Stereographic quadrangles). The base mosaic was produced with orbital images by the MESSENGER Team and released by NASA’s Planetary Data System on March 8, 2013. This new global mosaic includes 100% coverage of Mercury’s surface.”
At 4.24 light years away — only 40 trillion kilometres! — Proxima Centauri is the second-closest star (after the Sun, of course). Even so, most people have never seen it, because it’s ridiculously hard to see. Due to its position in the sky it cannot be seen north of 27° N latitude, and even then you need a telescope because even the closest red dwarf cannot be seen with the naked eye. And even through the telescope I don’t think Proxima stands out from the rest of the starfield. (“Which pinpoint is it? This one? Oh. That’s nice.”) But! The Hubble to the rescue! Here it is, in red and infrared light. Image credit: ESA/
Croatian software developer Gordan Ugarković plays with NASA imagery in his spare time, processing colour composites from raw data, mostly from the Cassini mission. The results are stunning, and can be seen on his Flickr photostream. His latest, a jaw-dropping wide-angle mosaic of Saturn, is getting all sorts of raves. Image credit: NASA/
The above image is not the best picture of the Andromeda Galaxy ever taken, not by a long shot. It is, however, a significant one. It’s a test image taken by the 8.2-metre Subaru Telescope’s Hyper-Suprime Cam, an 870-megapixel, three-ton imager mounted on the telescope’s f/2 primary focus. Which is to say that it produces absurdly high-resolution images (here’s a 35-megapixel, 6000×5957 version).
But what raised my eyebrows and dropped my jaw was the field of view: 1.5 degrees of sky is just preposterous on a telescope with a 15-metre focal length. This image of the Andromeda Galaxy was taken in a single shot. How do I explain how freaky that is? My 80-mm refractor, with its 500-mm focal length, could get the entire Andromeda Galaxy in the eyepiece, but not my larger scopes. Most amateur photography of this galaxy involves photographing pieces of the galaxy (in, say, a 2×3 grid) and assembled into a final mosaic. A single shot on a telescope that size? The mind boggles.
We’re still two years from the New Horizons flyby of Pluto, but the cartography of the solar system’s most famous dwarf planet — based on Hubble imagery — is already several kinds of problematic, as Emily Lakdawalla explains in a post that also explains how the cartography of other worlds is done. (Key challenges include defining the north and south pole — which one is which? — as well as a prime meridian.)
The European Southern Observatory, one of my favourite sources of open-licence astrophotography, marked the 15th anniversary of its Very Large Telescope by releasing this new image of IC 2944, a stellar nursery some 6,500 light years away in the constellation Centaurus. The picture combines visible light with narrowband hydrogen-alpha and oxygen-III emissions. Check out all the Bok globules! Image credit: ESO.
Today a new Hubble image was released that promises “the most detailed observations ever” of the Ring Nebula (Messier 57), a planetary nebula about 2,300 light years away. It’s easily spotted in backyard telescopes (I’ve seen it many times myself). This image, taken through a combination of regular red, green and blue filters along with narrowband filters that reveal specific emissions, is good enough to form the basis of a 3D model. And if that’s not enough Ring Nebula for you, here’s another image combining Hubble narrowband data with ground-based infrared observations that reveals the nebula’s outer halo. Image credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/
The Cassini team has released a global topographic map of Saturn’s moon Titan. What makes this map interesting is the fact that, due to its thick atmosphere, Titan can only be mapped by radar during Cassini’s close flybys. As a result, only half of its surface has been imaged, and only 11 percent has topography data. For this map, the remainder was, well, extrapolated:
Lorenz’s team used a mathematical process called splining — effectively using smooth, curved surfaces to “join” the areas between grids of existing data. “You can take a spot where there is no data, look how close it is to the nearest data, and use various approaches of averaging and estimating to calculate your best guess,” he said. “If you pick a point, and all the nearby points are high altitude, you’d need a special reason for thinking that point would be lower. We’re mathematically papering over the gaps in our coverage.”
Image credit: NASA/
Last week, the European Southern Observatory released this image of NGC 6559, a nebula some 5,000 light years away in the constellation Sagittarius. This image combines visible light with the hydrogen-alpha emission band (also visible, but specific) and was taken by the Danish 1.54-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla observatory in Chile. Image credit: ESO.
The Sun never looks like this. This is a composite image, assembling 25 separate observations by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory in the extreme ultraviolet wavelength of 171 ångströms (17.1 nm) over an entire year (April 2012 to April 2013). It reveals where the active regions on the Sun (sunspots, solar flares) are most commonly found. For something even more neat, follow this link and watch the video showing the Sun over a three-year period, two frames per day. Image credit: NASA/
A magnificent new infrared image of the iconic Horsehead Nebula from the Hubble Space Telescope has been released to mark the 23rd anniversary of its launch (NASA, ESA). The false-colour image takes observations in the near infrared wavelengths of 1.1 and 1.6 µm and assigns them to the red and green channels, respectively. Image credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/
The Kepler mission has discovered two new star systems with planets in the stars’ habitable zones. Two of the five planets detected in the Kepler-62 system, 62e and 62f, and one of the two planets detected in the Kepler-69 system, 69c, orbit at a distance where surface water is possible. These are the smallest habitable-zone planets to be discovered to date: 62f is only 40 percent larger than the Earth, 62e is 60 percent larger, and 69c is 70 percent larger.
Kepler-62 is a K2 orange dwarf some 1,200 light years away; 62e and 62f have orbital periods of 122 and 267 days, respectively; the three other detected planets orbit very near their sun. Kepler-69 is a G-type star similar to (but a little smaller than) the Sun, 2,700 light years away; 69c’s orbital period is 242 days. Kepler uses the transit method to detect extrasolar planets.
Image credit: NASA Ames/
Previously: First Habitable-Zone Planet Confirmed.
Here’s a look at the tip of the “wing” of the Small Magellanic Cloud — more precisely, a group of open clusters known collectively as NGC 602, surrounded by a nebula known as N90. It’s a composite image combining visible-spectrum light from the Hubble telescope, infrared light from the Spitzer telescope (in red) and X-ray light from the Chandra telescope (in purple); visit the image’s page on the Chandra website to see each separately. The X-ray observations reveal stellar formation in areas that did not turn up in visible or infrared light. Image credit: NASA/
I have a weakness for pretty pictures of spiral galaxies. This Hubble image of Messier 77, a barred spiral 47 million light years away in the constellation Cetus, more than qualifies. It’s a somewhat false-colour image, combining hydrogen-alpha (red), infrared (814 nm) and blue light. Image credit: NASA, ESA and A. van der Hoeven.
Or if star-forming regions are your thing the way spiral galaxies are mine, how about this Herschel image of molecular cloud W3?
We just found another star system in the neighbourhood. Say hello to WISE J104915.57-531906, a brown dwarf binary star system recently discovered by astronomer Kevin Luhman only 6.5 light years away. That makes it the third-closest star system, after the Alpha Centauri trinary (AB plus Proxima) and Barnard’s Star. Don’t be surprised it’s taken so long to find. Close stars aren’t always visible: even the closest red dwarfs — Proxima Centauri and Barnard’s Star — can’t be seen without a telescope, and brown dwarfs are fainter still; they’re pretty much infrared-only. WISE 1049-5319 (for short!) was detected by its rapid motion relative to background stars in Wide-field Infrared Survey (WISE) imagery, which suggested that it was close by. Checking older sky survey images confirmed its distance; subsequent observations by the Gemini Observatory (above) confirmed that it was a brown dwarf binary. Article (PDF). Image credit: NASA/
Mercury isn’t normally this colourful. This is a false-colour mosaic built from images taken by the MESSENGER probe through several different narrowband filters during its colour base map imaging campaign. The colours accentuate differences in the composition of Mercury’s surface rocks. Caloris Basin is at the upper right in this view. Here’s the other side of the planet. More information here. Image credit: NASA/
NASA has released a free-air gravity map of the Moon: “If the Moon were a perfectly smooth sphere of uniform density, the gravity map would be a single, featureless color, indicating that the force of gravity at a given elevation was the same everywhere. But like other rocky bodies in the solar system, including Earth, the Moon has both a bumpy surface and a lumpy interior. … The free-air gravity map shows deviations from the mean, the gravity that a cueball Moon would have.” Gravity data comes from the GRAIL mission, with the digital elevation model provided by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter laser altimeter. Image credit: NASA’s Goddard Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio.
- Messier 106
- Space Pictures for the New Year
- Tau Ceti
- Overhead, Without Any Fuss
- Alpha Centauri Bb: Closest. Exoplanet. Ever.
- A Catalogue of Dying Stars
- Elsewhere in the Universe
- Coronal Mass Ejection, August 31
- The View from Bradbury Landing
- U Camelopardalis and Other Space Pictures
- Messier 10 and Other Space Pictures
- The Life and Death of Planet Earth
- Ceci n’est pas une collision
- Transit of Venus
- Andromeda: It’s Coming Right for Us!
- The Ultraviolet Universe
- Messier 78 and Other Space Pictures
- The Protoplanetary Egg Nebula
- The Tarantula Nebula Again
- Tarantula Nebula Panorama
- Today’s Coronal Mass Ejection
- New Moon Globe Released
- Messier 9
- 100 Super-Earths Within 30 Light Years
- Unveiled in Ultraviolet
- Geologic Map of Io
- Atlas of the Galilean Satellites
- How Iapetus Got Its Ridge
- More Moon Maps
- Mercury’s Hovnatanian Crater
- NGC 3324
- Radio Waves
- The Helix Nebula in Infrared
- The Eagle Nebula in Infrared and X-Ray
- M82 Detail
- Comet Lovejoy Lives!
- Deep Sky Roundup
- Cassini’s Dione Close-Up
- Mercury’s Bartok Crater
- Jupiter Rotation
- First Habitable-Zone Planet Confirmed
- Orthographic Mercury
- Cygnus X
- A New Lunar Topo Map
- Space Station Time Lapse Video
- A Near Miss That’s Hard to See
- Solar Active Region 1339
- Astrophotography and Copyright
- Messier 96
- A Supernova Remnant in Infrared and X-Ray
- How Uranus Got Its Tilt
- Vesta’s South Pole
- Holmberg II
- An Aurora from Orbit
- Cassini’s Hall of Fame
- Mercury’s North Pole
- Uranus and Neptune in Infrared
- NGC 2100
- Are Rocky Planets Downsized Gas Giants?
- The Moon’s North Pole
- The Dumbbell in Infrared
- Purple Galaxies
- Stars and Storms
- Vesta’s Cratered Landscape
- NGC 3521
- The Necklace Nebula
- Five Moons
- Magellanic Superbubble
- The Moon and the Earth’s Axial Tilt
- NGC 634
- Full-Frame Vesta
- Vesta’s Northern Hemisphere
- Orbiting Vesta
- Neptune’s Anniversary
- Davide de Martin, Astroimage Processor
- Saturn’s Encircling Storm
- The VLT Survey Telescope and the Omegas
- Tycho Crater Close Up
- Mercury’s Terminator
- Chez Helene
- Approaching Vesta
- A Closer Look at Centaurus A
- Crescent Mercury
- Centaurus A
- NGC 4214
- El Cielo de Canarias
- Messier 5
- NGC 2174 in Infrared
- Arp 273
- Observing on Ellesmere Island
- NGC 3582
- Messier 12
- Rho Ophiuchi in Infrared
- NGC 5882
- Habitable Worlds Around White Dwarf Stars?
- NGC 371
- Orbiting Mercury
- Mars Mosaic
- Tycho’s Supernova in X-Ray
- Sharpless 284 in Infrared
- A Hubble Image in Two Minutes
- Solar Prominence Eruption
- NGC 5584
- NGC 6729
- Tarantula Nebula
- Farside Mosaic
- Outside In: An IMAX Fly-Through of the Saturn System
- Hot Enceladus
- NGC 247
- Christian Constellations
- Messier 15
- Rhea, Dione and the Rings
- Sidereal Motion
- Review: Gas Giants
- Nearside Mosaic
- NGC 6384
- Nostalgia for the Light
- NGC 2841
- M78 Image Wins ESO Contest
- Rendezvous with Tempel