Monday, February 05, 2007

Pics In Space--The Late Edition

I must now repent before you all, and seek your forgiveness. I've been so busy vacationing, post-vacationing, and posting my own pictures of Disney World that I forgot all about the traditional monthly Meow diversion of MSNBC's space slide show!! I could spend a lot of your time and mine now, concocting elaborate and flowery apologies, begging for you to overlook my neglect of my Meowly duties, and generally being goofy, but I'm sure you'd rather I simply give you the link and get on with it. This wasn't the most spectacular set of photos, comparative to recent months, which have been outstanding, but this month's slide show has a few gems.

Those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere have mostly missed out on Comet McNaught, but they've been getting a visible-to-the-naked-eyeful down South, and such a sight could hardly escape being caught on film. There's a gorgeous shot of Saturn's rings, all back-lit by the Sun, with a little glimpse of a tiny blue Earth thrown in for good measure. We get to see mission specialist Christer Fuglesang (say that five times fast) taking a space-walk, and the camera angle, catching him suspended above Earth, is enough to make me both happy and very sad that I couldn't swap places with Christer for the mission. There are some false-color images of the Sun that view like a print by Andy Warhol, and of course, Mars and a few distant galaxies get into the act, as usual.

One of the pics that really drew my notice this time around was a very monochrome image of Jupiter, captured by the New Horizons probe's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager. The probe is on it's way out to hook up with poor demoted Pluto sometime in 2015, but on the way it's taking in the sights. There are a couple of Jupiter's moons, Ganymede and Io, that wrangled their way into the spotlight with the largest planet in our solar system, and the cool thing is that you can see where Ganymede's shadow is just a blemish on the surface of the giant planet. What's really amazing about that is that Ganymede is big--big enough that if it were orbiting the Sun, instead of Jupiter, it could be classified as a planet in its own right (unlike the aforementioned Pluto, demoted to dwarf status by the important and powerful people who decide such things), yet the shadow looks completely insignificant on the surface of granddaddy Jupiter. Some of that stuff out there in space is just plain huge.

Well, that's the slide-show run-down for this month. Hope you enjoy it, and I'll try to remember to get it to you on time next month, otherwise I'll have to actually write that flowery apology, and none of us really want that, now do we?