America In Space:
Amazing Photographs of the Solar System
& Thoughts for the Young or Amateur Astronomer
21 AUG, 2017. A solar eclipse over America. The Moon at approx. 250,000 miles from Earth and the Sun at approx. 90 million miles from Earth appear to be the same size. Simply miraculous.
A Sunset on Mars; taken by a Rover. Mars is at a greater distance from the Sun than Earth is so the Sun appears smaller.
Jupiter here appears to have geological features (like mountains) but it is actually a “gas giant”. Jupiter is entirely gas and liquid surrounding (we believe) a solid core.
The surface of Mercury is littered with impact craters. Using the measurement as a guide you can see that some of the craters are about 50 km across. That could be an imaginary one-hour car ride across. The objects that hit Mercury were lucky; next stop was the Sun.
Jupiter features storms that rage and rage for centuries (that data supports) and probably longer. On Earth we have geological features that impede storms. Jupiter, being made of mostly gas lacks these features.
Mars is so much like Earth in so many ways. These geological features look exactly like their counterparts in the American West and Southwest. I still cannot believe that America landed rovers on Mars!
Geological features on Mars (and other planets and moons in our solar system) tend to resemble Earth’s but are intensified. This is due to gravitational and sometimes atmospheric differences during the feature’s formation.
Pluto is unimaginably cold because, being so far from the Sun, it receives such little light and therefore heat (although it does become warmer when its elliptical orbit brings it closer). It has beautiful features: Mountain ranges of perhaps ice, wide expanses of frozen plains, and impact craters.
To the right we see half of an impact crater on Pluto. It sure is beautiful. Using the measurement we can make an estimate that the one visible slope is about 5 miles long. Can you imagine the size of the rock that created that crater? Imagine the explosion upon impact?
Mercury’s surface features more than just impact craters. What an interesting formation that we see here. It appears to contain right angles and flat surfaces.
Neptune. An enormous, beautiful, blue gas giant (evidently). Another planet that we believe is made entirely of gas and liquid; A core or a surface is still a mystery. Neptune was named for the Roman sea god.
Pluto was considered a planet for decades. In recent years it had its planetary status revoked and was relegated to "dwarf planet". It is very small, true, but it will always be a planet to me.
Knowing very little about Pluto’s moon Charon I would be better off speculating in the hope of raising questions for readers. Charon is even smaller than Pluto. The dark spot in the north could be a dried lava bed. If so, it would mean that Charon once had, or still does have, a somewhat molten interior.
Saturn; a gas giant. The hexagon at its North Pole is a storm (perhaps the greatest feature in our solar system). Could the cause of the geometry be that Saturn emits sound waves that resonate with the gases? Experiments with sound and sand on Earth produce similar results.
Saturn’s rings are made of ice particles. These particles orbit Saturn at more than 40,000 miles per hour. The diameter of the rings is more than 150,000 miles.
Dione; a moon of Saturn. Some moons are made of materials from the planet that they orbit. Others are captured by their planet’s gravity.
Enceladus; a moon of Saturn. The youngest impact craters are the ones that can be seen fully. The older craters will be partially obscured.
An amazing photo of Saturn’s non-spherical moon Epimetheus. Look in the background! It’s Saturn!
Saturn’s moon Mimas. How can one object get hit by so many projectiles when it orbits an object as big as Saturn. The gravity of Saturn can clear the area of many objects.
Mercury’s beautiful surface. The Sun’s gravity pulls projectiles toward it, sometimes causing the pummeling little Mercury. Mercury has no moon.
The dark sections of the Moon are dried lava beds. The Moon was molten at its formation. It is fully cooled now.
This footprint on the Moon has the potential to last for millions or even billions of years because the Moon has no atmosphere that could produce destructive winds or rain. This footprint will most-likely be obliterated by an asteroid or a spacecraft.
How lucky are we to live in a day when we can see pictures of Pluto’s surface? Flat surfaces like this expanse are relatively young because they lack impact craters.
Our home, as seen from a lunar orbiter.
An impact crater on Mars that is about 3 miles across. The markings denote gullies that could have been made by liquid water.
A hot as Mercury is (days are about 900 degrees Fahrenheit) night at a pole is believed to be more than two hundred degrees below 0.
A large hill at the South Pole of Mars. The features seem quite peculiar. There is clearly a five-sided, symmetrical shape at its top.
Venus captured by an orbiter. A filter was used that enhanced the visibility of the clouds in its harsh atmosphere.
An expanse on Mars. The temperature on Mars at certain latitudes during certain times of the Martian year is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit; very comfortable.
A meteorite on Mars; made of metal. Early man on Earth would find metal before they could forge metal.
Mimas is a moon of Saturn. Let’s use our imagination since the solar system is magical and wonderful too. Doesn’t Mimas resemble an eyeball? Or even the Death Star from the movie Star Wars?
The South Pole of Jupiter. Think about being underneath a planet and looking up at it.
The photo is segmented but this is an impact crater on Mercury. The ejecta in the center stems from the initial blast.
The most amazing things about Mars to me are that it has a sky and that we are seeing it!
An overhead view of past volcanic activity on Mars. Do you see the cooled flows?
Photographed decades later by another mission is the mark left by the propulsion system of an American lunar lander.
Saturn’s moon Titan is a real beauty like all things involving Saturn. Titan is larger than the planet nearest the Sun. Its surface features springs and what are believed to be ice dunes.
In certain photos Pluto resembles our Earth. Scientifically-speaking the two have little in common, but it is awfully fun to let your imagination roam.
Jupiter’s South Pole in infra-red (which images heat).
Pluto is/was the Roman god of the underworld. Most of the planets and moons in our solar system have mythological names.
A close-up of rocks on Mars. Even though Mars is made of the same elements that Earth is made of, and even though they share a solar system, geographical features on Mars look just a bit different. Mars and Earth want to appear identical but they cannot due to the circumstances of their formation.
This is not a photograph of Martian rocky terrain taken by an orbiter high above the surface. It is a close-up of a crack in rock. Did man ever expect to see such photographs of Mars?
A nighttime photograph from Mars; a close-up of black sand. Not all space photographs are from a great distance. You cannot get much closer than this!
More than 60 Earths could fit inside of this planet: Uranus. Only Jupiter and Saturn are larger.
This looks like a body of water, a lake perhaps. However it cannot be because this is a photograph of Mars (where there are presently no bodies of water). This is a black sand dune.
Beneath Jupiter’s gases is an ocean of hydrogen in liquid form.
A Sunspot: Magnetic storms that are hundreds of times, thousands of times the size of Earth. Not to be confused with a Black Hole (which do not exist in a solar system.)
If the Sun’s charged particle ejections were ever to hit Earth dead-on and overrun its protective magnetosphere, humans could see their systems of electricity fail.
Our Sun. One million Earths could fit inside of it.
Captions by American Creative LLC, Science Division..
Certain facts checked with The World Almanac And Book Of Facts 2017.
Photographs used by permission courtesy of NASA.
The producers would like to thank NASA.