Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something . . .

. . . blue!

Blue, blue Neptune.  The close-up pictures we have of it are all old.  But NASA lets anyone freely borrow them for the sake of science, and in that people occasionally turn up something new, or at least something nobody else has spotted before.

A few years ago, Ted Stryk (an amateur, not a professional), stumbled upon something new in Voyager 2’s 1989 images of Neptune: the tiny moon Despina transiting the face of Neptune.  He composited these together into a beautiful single image showing Despina’s motion, and also its shadow across the most distant of the gas giants.

His composite image isn’t exactly new anymore, but APOD showcased it today, which got me thinking about the amazing new discoveries that can be made even from old data.  I wouldn’t be surprised if new discoveries are being made from Voyager data long after the probes have fallen silent sometime in the next decade.   It’s amazing, and it also serves as a reminder of how democratic this process really is.  Stryk didn’t do this with the resources of a university’s astronomy department, or a grant, or anything like that; he did it for fun.  😉  And if you are so moved, you can do it too!





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