Tag Archives: planet

Behold: Pluto, but not as it’s normally seen. To wit:

Colour data and high-resolution images of our Solar System’s most famous dwarf planet, taken by the robotic New Horizons spacecraft during its flyby in 2015 July, have been digitally combined to give an enhanced-colour view of this ancient world sporting an unexpectedly young surface. The featured enhanced color image is not only aesthetically pretty but scientifically useful, making surface regions of differing chemical composition visually distinct. For example, the light-coloured heart-shaped Tombaugh Regio on the lower right is clearly shown here to be divisible into two regions that are geologically different, with the leftmost lobe Sputnik Planitia also appearing unusually smooth. After Pluto, New Horizons continued on, shooting past asteroid Arrokoth in 2019 and has enough speed to escape our Solar System completely.

(Image: NASA, Johns Hopkins Univ./APL, Southwest Research Inst.)


Behold: an only slightly exaggerated view of what one would see if hovering close to the ringed gas giant. To wit:

The image was taken in 2005 by the robot Cassini spacecraft that orbited Saturn from 2004 to 2017. Here Saturn’s majestic rings appear directly only as a curved line, appearing brown, in part, from its infrared glow. The rings best show their complex structure in the dark shadows they create across the upper part of the planet. The northern hemisphere of Saturn can appear partly blue for the same reason that Earth’s skies can appear blue — molecules in the cloudless portions of both planet’s atmospheres are better at scattering blue light than red. When looking deep into Saturn’s clouds, however, the natural gold hue of Saturn’s clouds becomes dominant. It is not known why southern Saturn does not show the same blue hue — one hypothesis holds that clouds are higher there. It is also not known why some of Saturn’s clouds are coloured gold.

(Image: NASA, ESA, JPL, ISS, Cassini Imaging Team; Processing & License: Judy Schmidt)


Bit windy round your way? Count yourself lucky.

Behold: one of the largest and longest-lived storms ever recorded in our Solar System. To wit:

First seen in late 2010, the above cloud formation in the northern hemisphere of Saturn started larger than the Earth and soon spread completely around the planet. The storm was tracked not only from Earth but from up close by the robotic Cassini spacecraft, then orbiting Saturn. Pictured here in false coloured infrared in February, orange colours indicate clouds deep in the atmosphere, while light colours highlight clouds higher up. The rings of Saturn are seen nearly edge-on as the thin blue horizontal line. The warped dark bands are the shadows of the rings cast onto the cloud tops by the Sun to the upper left. A source of radio noise from lightning, the intense storm was thought to relate to seasonal changes when spring emerges in the north of Saturn. After raging for over six months, the iconic storm circled the entire planet and then tried to absorb its own tail — which surprisingly caused it to fade away.

(ImageCassini Imaging TeamSSIJPLESANASA)


Wel, as you can see, it’s a little beige in places but it’s taken a long time to find that out.

In 2015, multispectral images were sent back to Earth by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft as it shot by Pluto at 80,000km/h. But processing these (in order to approximate what the human eye might see) took time. To wit:

The result featured here, released three years after the raw data was acquired by New Horizons, is the highest resolution true colour image of Pluto ever taken. Visible in the image is the light-coloured, heart-shaped, Tombaugh Regio, with the unexpectedly smooth Sputnik Planitia, made of frozen nitrogen, filling its western lobe. New Horizons found the dwarf-planet to have a surprisingly complex surface composed of many regions having perceptibly different hues. In total, though, Pluto is mostly brown, with much of its muted colour originating from small amounts of surface methane energised by ultraviolet light from the Sun.

Full sized image here.

(Image: NASAJHU APLSwRIAlex Parker)


German educational design studio Kurzgesagt explores the many, many obstacles in the way of a functioning human base on the Red Planet. Lethal radiation, minimal energy sources, pesky dust clouds. Those kinds of things. To wit:

Humans love to explore. Strangely enough even horrible places – like Mars. Let’s see how building a Mars base could work and how insanely nerve-wracking exactly it would be.

Previously: In Fareness