Sunday was the fifth anniversary of Curiosity’s landing on Mars. Like its predecessors, Curiosity has gone on to exceed all of its expectations, and is still going strong despite considerable wheel tread damage. In honor of the occasion, NASA has released this time-lapse video (with a relaxing musical accompaniment) of all five years, as seen by the rover’s hazard avoidance cameras. Note the times when it switches to driving backwards, to spread out the wear on its wheels. 😉
Juno has completed yet another perijove, the fifth in the science phase of the mission, and NASA has released the first batch of findings from the mission. Some of the findings are no surprise, while others show there’s a lot still to learn about the giant of the solar system:
- The planet’s enormous and powerful magnetic field is surprisingly lumpy, suggesting it may not be generated in the core after all, but rather closer to the surface or even throughout the planet, above the core that is presumed to be made of liquid metallic hydrogen.
- Also, the field is a great deal stronger than previously estimated — 7.766 Gauss, ten times stronger than the strongest naturally-occuring field found on Earth.
- The two poles of Jupiter look very different. This echoes what Cassini found on Saturn, except that Jupiter’s poles not only look dissimilar to each other, they also look dissimilar to Saturn — four poles that look nothing alike. One feature the two poles have in common is that they are densely peppered with cyclonic storms bigger than the Earth, so close they sometimes appear to be rubbing against one another. It is unclear how stable these are; they have never before been visible to a camera.
- The equatorial belt appears to extend deep into Jupiter, making it exceptionally stable over long periods of time — but the same is not true of some of the other bands, where storms appear to be more dynamic and the belts themselves can evolve into other structures.
- Jupiter’s auroras remain mysterious — although the basic process that causes them is the same as on Earth (charged particles slamming into the atmosphere), it doesn’t appear to have the same origin as auroras on Earth. One longstanding mystery is why they seem to track the Galilean satellites around; so far, this remains unanswered.
The next pass is particularly exciting — it will be the first to give Juno a good look at the Great Red Spot. The microwave sounder on board has revealed some intriguing things about the cloud bands; hopefully we will soon have answers to basic questions such as how deep the Great Red Spot goes. It has been raging on Jupiter for at least three centuries, having been first observed in 1665 (and continuously monitored since 1830). Other storms come and go, but that one stays, and it’s one of Jupiter’s oldest and most enduring mysteries.
In the meantime, enjoy this gorgeous time-lapse showing the view from JunoCam during the fifth science pass (sixth orbit, seventh perijove if you count the original orbital capture):
This one’s been floating around the Internet for a bit now, but I figured I should finally share it here. It’s not the first scale model of the solar system, but it’s the first that also depicts their orbits — and they found an intriguing way of doing that, out in the solitude of the desert.
I love these time-lapse videos shot with a moving rig. Previously, though I’d seen them mostly of places out on the prairie or up in the mountains or deep in the desert. This one is right in my hometown, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul. Both cities are represented here; have fun watching and, if you’re local, spotting local landmarks. 😉 For astrophotography afficiandos, there’s also a lovely sequence of the aurora borealis shot over boats docked at a marina somewhere in the Twin Cities.
The European Space Agency recently released this video from Mars Express’ low-resolution Visual Monitoring Camera, covering 10 orbits of the red planet. It’s quite beautiful.
But it got me thinking — surely there are videos of other planetary approaches, right? But of course! I’m quite fond of this video made out of selected Cassini images from an eight-year period, and set to the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata:
Go back a bit further, and here’s Cassini’s encounter with Jupiter:
Both animations are in black and white, because the images returned by Cassini are all black and white; to get color, the same image is shot three times through different filters, and then a technician has to manually colorize and assemble them.
This next video is in color, but over a shorter period of time so you don’t get that sense of approach. It’s of Jupiter, created from images taken by Voyager 1. Each frame corresponds to one revolution of the giant planet (or 10 hours) so you’d never see it like this really; the time-lapse has frozen the planet’s rotation so we can clearly see the motion of the clouds. But it’s cool:
To get more of an idea of its rotation, here’s New Horizons’ take on it:
This one’s shorter, but the amount of motion visible is amazing. It’s Io from New Horzions:
And now I’ll finish with another Cassini timelapse at Saturn, because Saturn is the most visually dramatic planet for this sort of thing. This one shows the approach and orbital capture, and it’s basically the same concept as the one above, except they’ve done the postprocessing to convert the images to color, and further cleaned them up to get the best quality possible: