Saturn’s F ring is a fascinating structure. Made of fine icy particles — most no larger than the particulates found in cigarette smoke — it orbits Saturn just outside the A ring and is easily perturbed by the gravity of nearby moons and embedded moonlets, which create streamers and clumps that rise up in fanciful shapes.
This brief animation, made from 33 raw images captured by Cassini on December 26 (otherwise known locally as my birthday!) shows the F ring in action as it follows shepherd moons Prometheus and smaller Atlas around Saturn. Some motion is due to the orbits of the rings and moons, and some is due to the spacecraft itself.
You can watch a slower version of the animation below:
Water, methane, organic compounds, Twinkies, Amelia Earhart’s plane… there’s just so many cool things for Curiosity to find on Mars!
This little production by Seattle-based Cinesaurus may be a parody of “Dumb Ways to Die” but there’s certainly nothing dumb about the exciting things that Curiosity’s already found in its brief time in Gale Crater… and there’s undoubtedly lots more to come. So enjoy the video, let your own imagination roam — er, rove — and keep an eye out for facehuggers. They’re tricky!
(If only Curiosity really could save Spirit!!)
Yes, Mars gets eclipses too! This brief animation, made from ten raw subframe images acquired with Curiosity’s Mastcam show the silhouette of Mars’ moon Phobos (named after the Greek god of fear) as it slipped in front of the Sun’s limb on September 13 — aka the 37th “Sol” of the mission.
The animation spans an actual time of about 15 minutes.
The video reveals the dappled, variegated surface of the giant asteroid Vesta, the second most massive object in the main asteroid belt. The animation drapes high-resolution false color images over a 3-D model of the Vesta terrain constructed from Dawn’s observations. This visualization enables a detailed view of the variation in the material properties of Vesta in the context of its topography.
Can’t see the video below? Click here.
This awesome animation by the visualization folks at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center shows the phases and position of the Moon throughout 2011 – a full year of the Moon compressed into 2.5 minutes!
What’s really interesting is how you can see the wobble of the Moon in its orbit. Even though it always faces the same side toward Earth, there is a bit of variation in how it is positioned, so a bit more or less of the regions along the limb angle into view over the course of a year.
And just in case you were wondering, yes, the Moon does rotate. It rotates at the same rate as it orbits Earth, so as to remain tidally locked with our planet. This is a common feature of many moons in our solar system.
Read more on Universe Today.
Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio
Can’t see the video below? Click here.
This mesmerizing animation by Scott Manley illustrates the procession of asteroid discoveries from 1980 – 2010, illuminating each as they were spotted and categorized. The colors indicate how closely the asteroids come to the inner solar system… Earth-orbit-crossers are red, Earth-approachers are yellow and all the others are green.
The date counter runs in the lower left of the video.
A couple of interesting things to notice: one, most discoveries occur in groups as the asteroids are on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun (which makes sense considering the lighting achieved) and two, as new methods of locating asteroids are developed (such as automated scanning systems in the 90s and the WISE infrared telescope in early 2010) the incidence of new discoveries rises dramatically.
The video runs at a scale of 60 days per second, and at 1080p resolution it corresponds to about 1 million km per pixel.
This shows that there are quite a lot of smaller worlds in our solar system…over half a million at current count! And it’s estimated that there may be a billion asteroids larger than 100 meters orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. Still, the image of the sci-fi “asteroid belt” filled with tumbling rocks in space isn’t accurate… these worlds are still very far apart, and although they do occasionally collide with each other it’s very likely that if you were to stand on the surface of an asteroid you wouldn’t even be able to see the next closest one!
As NASA’s Dawn spacecraft closes in on the asteroid Vesta – the second-largest one in the entire belt – we are getting a better look at these ancient worlds, each a new discovery in itself! And as this animation shows, there’s lots to be discovered.
Credit: Scott Manley. Orbital elements were taken from the ‘astorb.dat’ data created by Ted Bowell and associates at ftp://ftp.lowell.edu/pub/elgb/astorb.html. Music is ‘Transgenic’ by Trifonic.