Exploration Images
Mars Orbiter Mission: "A shot of Martian atmosphere. I’m getting better at it. No pressure." (posted to the probe’s Twitter account, @MarsOrbiter)

Mars Orbiter Mission: "A shot of Martian atmosphere. I’m getting better at it. No pressure." (posted to the probe’s Twitter account, @MarsOrbiter)

Mars Orbiter Mission:  First image released from India’s new Mars probe.
The view is nice up here. pic.twitter.com/VmAjNI76lm— ISRO’s Mars Orbiter (@MarsOrbiter) September 25, 2014
Mars Orbiter Mission: First image released from India’s new Mars probe.
MAVEN:  First images from Mars, taken with the IUVS instrument.

NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft has obtained its first observations of the extended upper atmosphere surrounding Mars.

The Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) instrument obtained these false-color images eight hours after the successful completion of Mars orbit insertion by the spacecraft at 10:24 p.m. EDT Sunday, Sept. 21, after a 10-month journey.

The image shows the planet from an altitude of 36,500 km in three ultraviolet wavelength bands. Blue shows the ultraviolet light from the sun scattered from atomic hydrogen gas in an extended cloud that goes to thousands of kilometers above the planet’s surface. Green shows a different wavelength of ultraviolet light that is primarily sunlight reflected off of atomic oxygen, showing the smaller oxygen cloud. Red shows ultraviolet sunlight reflected from the planet’s surface; the bright spot in the lower right is light reflected either from polar ice or clouds.

The oxygen gas is held close to the planet by Mars’ gravity, while lighter hydrogen gas is present to higher altitudes and extends past the edges of the image. These gases derive from the breakdown of water and carbon dioxide in Mars’ atmosphere. Over the course of its one-Earth-year primary science mission, MAVEN observations like these will be used to determine the loss rate of hydrogen and oxygen from the Martian atmosphere. These observations will allow us to determine the amount of water that has escaped from the planet over time.

MAVEN is the first spacecraft dedicated to exploring the tenuous upper atmosphere of Mars.

Credit: Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics /University of Colorado and NASA

MAVEN: First images from Mars, taken with the IUVS instrument.

NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft has obtained its first observations of the extended upper atmosphere surrounding Mars.

The Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) instrument obtained these false-color images eight hours after the successful completion of Mars orbit insertion by the spacecraft at 10:24 p.m. EDT Sunday, Sept. 21, after a 10-month journey.

The image shows the planet from an altitude of 36,500 km in three ultraviolet wavelength bands. Blue shows the ultraviolet light from the sun scattered from atomic hydrogen gas in an extended cloud that goes to thousands of kilometers above the planet’s surface. Green shows a different wavelength of ultraviolet light that is primarily sunlight reflected off of atomic oxygen, showing the smaller oxygen cloud. Red shows ultraviolet sunlight reflected from the planet’s surface; the bright spot in the lower right is light reflected either from polar ice or clouds.

The oxygen gas is held close to the planet by Mars’ gravity, while lighter hydrogen gas is present to higher altitudes and extends past the edges of the image. These gases derive from the breakdown of water and carbon dioxide in Mars’ atmosphere. Over the course of its one-Earth-year primary science mission, MAVEN observations like these will be used to determine the loss rate of hydrogen and oxygen from the Martian atmosphere. These observations will allow us to determine the amount of water that has escaped from the planet over time.

MAVEN is the first spacecraft dedicated to exploring the tenuous upper atmosphere of Mars.
Credit: Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics /University of Colorado and NASA

MAVEN: News conference following yesterday’s orbital insertion.

A NASA news conference was held to announce the arrival of the MAVEN spacecraft into Mars’ orbit at 10:24 p.m. EDT Sunday, Sept. 21, where it now will prepare to study the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere as never done before.

MAVEN is the first spacecraft dedicated to exploring the tenuous upper atmosphere of Mars. After a 10-month journey, confirmation of successful orbit insertion was received at 10:24 p.m. from MAVEN data, observed at the Lockheed Martin operations center in Littleton, Colorado, as well as from tracking data monitored at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) navigation facility in Pasadena, California. The telemetry and tracking data were received by NASA’s Deep Space Network antenna station in Canberra, Australia.

Following orbit insertion, MAVEN will begin a six-week commissioning phase that includes maneuvering into its final science orbit and testing the instruments and science-mapping commands. MAVEN then will begin its one Earth-year primary mission, taking measurements of the composition, structure and escape of gases in Mars’ upper atmosphere and its interaction with the sun and solar wind.
(Video credit: NASA)

SDO: "Extensive Arch" (September 19th 2014)

A giant arch of plasma rose up out of the Sun and then stretched itself until it had reached back to a point behind our view of the Sun (Sept, 17-18, 2014). Since it emerged from a magnetically intense active region, the arch is likely connecting to another active region over the Sun’s horizon. We rarely see material extend this distance. The images were observed in the extreme ultraviolet wavelength of 171 Angstroms. Credit: Solar Dynamics Observatory/NASA.

Launch of Apollo 17, the only night launch of a Saturn V rocket. NASA estimated at the time that the launch would be visible from 500 miles away.

"Star Tracker" Tracks Comet ISON (UW-Madison, December 2013)

Curiosity:  Rover wheels & a little scenery, September 9th 2014

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity acquired this image using its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm, on September 9, 2014, Sol 744 of the Mars Science Laboratory Mission, at 15:36:15 UTC.

When this image was obtained, the focus motor count position was 12582. This number indicates the internal position of the MAHLI lens at the time the image was acquired. This count also tells whether the dust cover was open or closed. Values between 0 and 6000 mean the dust cover was closed; values between 12500 and 16000 occur when the cover is open. For close-up images, the motor count can in some cases be used to estimate the distance between the MAHLI lens and target. For example, in-focus images obtained with the dust cover open for which the lens was 2.5 cm from the target have a motor count near 15270. If the lens is 5 cm from the target, the motor count is near 14360; if 7 cm, 13980; 10 cm, 13635; 15 cm, 13325; 20 cm, 13155; 25 cm, 13050; 30 cm, 12970. These correspond to image scales, in micrometers per pixel, of about 16, 25, 32, 42, 60, 77, 95, and 113.

Most images acquired by MAHLI in daylight use the sun as an illumination source. However, in some cases, MAHLI’s two groups of white light LEDs and one group of longwave ultraviolet (UV) LEDs might be used to illuminate targets. When Curiosity acquired this image, the group 1 white light LEDs were off, the group 2 white light LEDs were off, and the ultraviolet (UV) LEDS were off. 

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity: Rover wheels & a little scenery, September 9th 2014

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity acquired this image using its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm, on September 9, 2014, Sol 744 of the Mars Science Laboratory Mission, at 15:36:15 UTC.

When this image was obtained, the focus motor count position was 12582. This number indicates the internal position of the MAHLI lens at the time the image was acquired. This count also tells whether the dust cover was open or closed. Values between 0 and 6000 mean the dust cover was closed; values between 12500 and 16000 occur when the cover is open. For close-up images, the motor count can in some cases be used to estimate the distance between the MAHLI lens and target. For example, in-focus images obtained with the dust cover open for which the lens was 2.5 cm from the target have a motor count near 15270. If the lens is 5 cm from the target, the motor count is near 14360; if 7 cm, 13980; 10 cm, 13635; 15 cm, 13325; 20 cm, 13155; 25 cm, 13050; 30 cm, 12970. These correspond to image scales, in micrometers per pixel, of about 16, 25, 32, 42, 60, 77, 95, and 113.

Most images acquired by MAHLI in daylight use the sun as an illumination source. However, in some cases, MAHLI’s two groups of white light LEDs and one group of longwave ultraviolet (UV) LEDs might be used to illuminate targets. When Curiosity acquired this image, the group 1 white light LEDs were off, the group 2 white light LEDs were off, and the ultraviolet (UV) LEDS were off.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
MESSENGER: "Staring at the Sea, Staring at the Sand" (September 8th 2014)

Of Interest: The smooth, rolling terrain in this high resolution image looks almost like sand dunes or ripples on a beach. The smooth texture of this region is due to a blanket of pyroclastic material from the volcanic vent located about 85 km to the south of it. To put the size of this image into perspective, a human could run the length of this image in less than an hour (if they could breathe on Mercury, that is!).

This image was acquired as part of the MDIS low-altitude imaging campaign. During MESSENGER’s second extended mission, the spacecraft makes a progressively closer approach to Mercury’s surface than at any previous point in the mission, enabling the acquisition of high-spatial-resolution data. For spacecraft altitudes below 350 kilometers, NAC images are acquired with pixel scales ranging from 20 meters to as little as 2 meters.

The MESSENGER spacecraft is the first ever to orbit the planet Mercury, and the spacecraft’s seven scientific instruments and radio science investigation are unraveling the history and evolution of the Solar System’s innermost planet. During the first two years of orbital operations, MESSENGER acquired over 150,000 images and extensive other data sets. MESSENGER is capable of continuing orbital operations until early 2015.

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

MESSENGER: "Staring at the Sea, Staring at the Sand" (September 8th 2014)

Of Interest: The smooth, rolling terrain in this high resolution image looks almost like sand dunes or ripples on a beach. The smooth texture of this region is due to a blanket of pyroclastic material from the volcanic vent located about 85 km to the south of it. To put the size of this image into perspective, a human could run the length of this image in less than an hour (if they could breathe on Mercury, that is!).

This image was acquired as part of the MDIS low-altitude imaging campaign. During MESSENGER’s second extended mission, the spacecraft makes a progressively closer approach to Mercury’s surface than at any previous point in the mission, enabling the acquisition of high-spatial-resolution data. For spacecraft altitudes below 350 kilometers, NAC images are acquired with pixel scales ranging from 20 meters to as little as 2 meters.

The MESSENGER spacecraft is the first ever to orbit the planet Mercury, and the spacecraft’s seven scientific instruments and radio science investigation are unraveling the history and evolution of the Solar System’s innermost planet. During the first two years of orbital operations, MESSENGER acquired over 150,000 images and extensive other data sets. MESSENGER is capable of continuing orbital operations until early 2015.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington