Around the Solar System as presented by: The Atlantic

Robotic probes launched by NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and others are gathering information all across the solar system. We currently have spacecraft in orbit around the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and Saturn, and two operational rovers on Mars. Several others are on their way to smaller bodies, and a few are heading out of the solar system entirely. Although the Space Shuttle no longer flies, astronauts are still at work aboard the International Space Station, performing experiments and sending back amazing photos. With all these eyes in the sky, I'd like to take another opportunity to put together a recent photo album of our solar system -- a set of family portraits, of sorts -- as seen by our astronauts and mechanical emissaries. This time, we have a great shot of comet Pan-STARRS between the Earth and Sun, some very sharp images from Mars rover Curiosity, a preview image of Comet ISON, potentially the "comet of the century", when it approaches in November, intriguing glimpses of Saturn and its moons, and, of course, lovely images of our home, planet Earth. ASA's Cassini spacecraft has delivered this view of Saturn, taken while the spacecraft was in Saturn's shadow, on December 18, 2012. The cameras were turned toward Saturn and the sun so that the planet and rings were backlit. This special, very-high-phase viewing geometry lets scientists study ring and atmosphere phenomena not easily seen at a lower phase. Dozens of coronal loops gyrate above several active regions of the sun, as they were rotating into view on October 17, 2012. When viewed in extreme ultraviolet light, the dancing loops of competing and connecting magnetic field lines become visible.

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