The Most Expensive Photos in the World
It is practically impossible to observe much detail of other (than Earth and Moon) planets with naked eye and even with a telescope.
The bright white star is actually the planet Venus. Picture: Bjorn Jorgensen / National News & Pictures
In this article we present examples of images that would be impossible to capture (create) just 50 years ago*, because such images require space flight and computer assisted imaging technologies.
* The Mariner program was a program conducted by the American space agency NASA in conjunction with Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) that launched a series of robotic interplanetary probes designed to investigate Mars, Venus and Mercury from 1962 to 1973.
Space technology is one of the most expensive ventures of human kind… For example, Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is a robotic space probe mission to Mars launched by NASA on November 26, 2011, which successfully landed Curiosity, a Mars rover, in Gale Crater on August 6, 2012.
The Mars Science Laboratory mission is part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort for the robotic exploration of Mars that is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of California Institute of Technology. The total cost of the MSL project is about US$2.5 billion.
BTW, this is “a drop in a bucket” when compared with military spending; the world spends some $1,500 billion (1.5 trillion) annually on the military (the United States accounts for 47 percent of the world’s total military spending.)
The Four Rocky Planets of the Solar System
The Solar System consists of the Sun and its planetary system of eight planets, their moons, and other non-stellar objects. It formed 4.6 billion years ago from the gravitational collapse of a giant molecular cloud. The vast majority of the system’s mass is in the Sun, with most of the remaining mass contained in Jupiter. The four smaller inner planets, Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, also called the terrestrial planets, are primarily composed of rock and metal.
Illustration showing relative sizes of the planets compared to the sun (above) and each other (below)
The four outer planets, called the gas giants, are substantially more massive than the terrestrials. The two largest, Jupiter and Saturn, are composed mainly of hydrogen and helium; the two outermost planets, Uranus and Neptune, are composed largely of substances with relatively high melting points (compared with hydrogen and helium), called ices, such as water, ammonia and methane, and are often referred to separately as “ice giants”. All planets have almost circular orbits that lie within a nearly flat disc called the ecliptic plane.
The Solar System also contains a number of regions populated by smaller objects. The asteroid belt, which lies between Mars and Jupiter, is similar to the terrestrial planets as it mostly contains objects composed of rock and metal. Beyond Neptune’s orbit lie the Kuiper belt and scattered disc, linked populations of trans-Neptunian objects composed mostly of ices. Within these populations are several dozen to more than ten thousand objects that may be large enough to have been rounded by their own gravity.Such objects are referred to as dwarf planets. Identified dwarf planets include the asteroid Ceres and the trans-Neptunian objects Pluto, Eris, Haumea, and Makemake.
In addition to these two regions, various other small-body populations including comets, centaurs and interplanetary dust freely travel between regions.
Six of the planets, at least three of the dwarf planets, and many of the smaller bodies are orbited by natural satellites, usually termed “moons” after Earth’s Moon. Each of the outer planets is encircled by planetary rings of dust and other small objects.
Mercury is the second smallest planet (0.38 Earth’s diameter) in the Solar System, the closest planet to the Sun, and the richest in iron. Its surface has been churned up by meteoritic bombardment and is dark and dusty.
The plane of Mercury’s equator coincides with the plane of its orbit (in other words its axis of rotation is almost vertical). This means that the planet has no seasons.
The orbit is inclined at 7° to the plane of the Earth orbit. Because Mercury orbits inside the Earth’s orbit, is displays phases, just like the Moon.
Mercury rotates three times in two orbits (in other words, there are three mercurian days in two mercurian years). This unusual spin-orbit coupling means that for an observer standing on Mercury there would be an interval of 176 Earth days between one sunrise and the next.
Rotation period: 59 Earth days. Orbital period (length of year): 88 Earth days.
Mariner 10’s first image of Mercury acquired on March 24, 1974.During its flight, Mariner 10’s trajectory brought it behind the lighted hemisphere of Mercury, where this image was taken, in order to acquire important measurements with other instruments.
This picture was acquired from a distance of 3,340,000 miles (5,380,000 km) from the surface of Mercury.
The diameter of Mercury (3,031 miles; 4,878 km) is about 1/3 that of Earth. Images of Mercury were acquired in two steps, an inbound leg (images acquired before passing into Mercury’s shadow) and an outbound leg (after exiting from Mercury’s shadow). More than 2300 useful images of Mercury were taken, both moderate resolution (3-20 km/pixel) color and high resolution (better than 1 km/pixel) black and white coverage.
Crater Chain Groves Inside Larger Craters
The craters in this image (128 km diameter and 195 km diameter) have interior rings of mountains and ejecta deposits which are scarred by deep secondary crater chain groves. This image (FDS 150)was taken during the spacecraft’s first encounter with Mercury.
The Mariner 10 mission, managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA’s Office of Space Science, explored Venus in February 1974 on the way to three encounters with Mercury-in March and September 1974 and in March 1975. The spacecraft took more than 7,000 photos of Mercury, Venus, the Earth and the Moon.
The Moon is the only natural satellite of the Earth, and the fifth largest satellite in the Solar System. It is the largest natural satellite of a planet in the Solar System relative to the size of its primary, having 0.27 the diameter and 0.6 the density of Earth, resulting in 1?81 its mass. The Moon is the second densest satellite after Io, a satellite of Jupiter.
The Moon is in synchronous rotation with Earth, always showing the same face (image above) with its near side marked by dark volcanic maria that fill between the bright ancient crustal highlands and the prominent impact craters.
The far side of the Moon, sometimes called the “dark side of the Moon”, is the lunar hemisphere that is permanently turned away, and not visible from the surface of the Earth.
Notice this side has many more impact craters than the side always facing the Earth.
The far hemisphere was first photographed by the Soviet Luna 3 probe in 1959, and was first directly observed by human eyes when the Apollo 8 mission orbited the Moon in 1968.
An Apollo 16 partial panorama showing the Lunar Roving Vehicle parked next to a small crater. Click to Enlarge.
Venus is the brightest planet in Earth sky and surpassed in brightness only by the Sun and the Moon. Venus is the second planet from the sun and Earth’s inner neighbour. The two planets are virtually identical in size and composition but these are very different worlds. An unbroken blanket of dense clouds permanently envelops Venus.
Orbit. Venus’s orbital path is the least elliptical of all planets. It is almost a perfect circle so there is little difference between the planet’s aphelion and perihelion distances. Venus takes 224,7 Earth days to complete one orbit. As it orbits the Sun, Venus spins extremely slowly on its axis – slower than any other planet. It takes 243 Earth days for just one spin, which means that a Venusian day is longer than a Venusian year. However, the time between one sunrise and the next on Venus is 117 Earth days. This is because the planet is traveling along the orbit as it spins, and so any one spot on the surface faces the Sun every 117 Earth days. Venus’s slow spin is also in the opposite direction from most other planets.
Rotation period: 243 Earth days. Orbital period (length of year): 224.7 Earth days. Mass (Earth = 1): 0.82.
Radar has penetrated the clouds and revealed a landscape dominated by volcanism.
If the thick clouds covering Venus were removed, how would the surface appear?
Using an imaging radar technique, the Magellan spacecraft was able to lift the veil from the Face of Venus and produce this spectacular high resolution image of the planet’s surface. Red, in this false-color map, represents mountains, while blue represents valleys. This 3-kilometer resolution map is a composite of Magellan images compiled between 1990 and 1994. Gaps were filled in by the Earth-based Arecibo Radio Telescope. The large yellow/red area in the north is Ishtar Terra featuring Maxwell Montes, the largest mountain on Venus. The large highland regions are analogous to continents on Earth. Scientists are particularly interested in exploring the geology of Venus because of its similarity to Earth.
Image credit: Magellan Team, JPL, NASA.
Above: Venus – Computer Simulated Global View of the Northern Hemisphere. Magellan mission with Radar System.
Venus – Eistla Region
Venus – Volcanic Domes East of Beta Regio
Venus – Lavinia Region. Source: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/searchwp.php?category=venus
These incredible picture from the USSR’s Venera program show first-hand its hot, flat, volcanic surface.
Surface of Venus from Venera 13 – Perspective Mosaic Image.
Mars is the outermost of the four rocky planets.
Mars is a small rocky body once thought to be very Earth-like. Like the other “terrestrial” planets – Mercury, Venus, and Earth – its surface has been changed by volcanism, impacts from other bodies, movements of its crust, and atmospheric effects such as dust storms.
Like Earth, Mars rotates on its axis from west to east. The Martian solar day is 24 hours 39 minutes 35 seconds long. This is the length of time that Mars takes to turn around once with respect to the sun. The Earth day of 24 hours is also a solar day.
The axis of Mars is not perpendicular to the planet’s orbital plane, an imaginary plane that includes all points in the orbit. Rather, the axis is tilted from the perpendicular position. The angle of the tilt, called the planet’s obliquity, is 25.19¡ for Mars, compared with 23.45¡ for Earth.
Note: Click to enlarge images!
The Valles Marineris system of valleys is about 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers) long — roughly one-fifth the distance around the planet Mars. Parts of the system are 6 miles (10 kilometers) deep. Image credit: NASA/National Space Science Data Center.Click to Enlarge.
Shalbatana/Simud Vallis Junction. The sinuous channels and streamlined islands at the junction of Shalbatana and Simud Vallis present an erosional history of the catastrophic floods that scoured the Martian surface hundreds of millions of years ago. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University.
This unnamed channel is located east of Baetis Chaos. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University.
Heart-Shaped Feature in Arabia Terra
The heart-shaped feature is about 1 kilometer (0.6 mile) long and is centered at 21.9 degrees north latitude, 12.7 degrees west longitude.
This picture of a heart-shaped feature in Arabia Terra on Mars was taken on May 23, 2010, by the Context Camera (CTX) on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. A small impact crater near the tip of the heart is responsible for the formation of the bright, heart-shaped feature. When the impact occurred, darker material on the surface was blown away, and brighter material beneath it was revealed. Some of this brighter material appears to have flowed further downslope to form the heart shape, as the small impact occurred on the ejecta blanket of a much larger impact crater.
Phobos is one of the two moons of Mars.
The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took two images of the larger of Mars’ two moons, Phobos, within 10 minutes of each other on March 23, 2008. This is the first.
Phobos from 6,800 Kilometers (Color)
Phobos – Detail.
Mars Panoramas taken on the surface of Mars:
Mars, Columbia Hills at Gusey Crater.
Dunes on Mars. Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech
Mars, Opportunity. Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech
Mars. Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech
4-Billion-Pixel Panorama From Curiosity Rover Brings Mars to Your Computer Screen
For best experience, select Full Screen mode!
NOTE: All Space Images in this article
Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech