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See other posts from April 2013

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In a New Light

Posted By Bill Dunford

2013/04/15 02:08 CDT

Topics: Jupiter's moons, Cassini, pretty pictures, amateur image processing, Saturn, Saturn's rings, Jupiter

The robotic spacecraft we send into the Solar System show us places we could never see with our own eyes. This is not just because these machines travel through the dark and deadly emptiness of space. It's also because their sensitive cameras see the worlds they visit in ways that go beyond the capacity of our own vision.

A good example is the spacecraft Cassini, which has spent 15 years on an odyssey that took it past Jupiter and other planets before it began its main mission, a detailed survey of the Saturn system. It's equipped with a range of sensitive instruments, including cameras that can take in light through a variety of interchangeable filters. Those filters allow Earth-bound explorers to examine the ringed giant and its jewel box of icy moons not only in the reds, greens and blues we're familiar with, but also in infrared and ultraviolet light.

Cassini's cameras even have filters that are particularly sensitive to wavelengths that are absorbed by methane, an important component in the atmospheres of the outer planets. Seeing the swirling clouds of those worlds in that light brings out details that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Following are some images of Jupiter and Saturn seen in a way they're not commonly shown: as imaged through those methane band filters.

Jupiter & Moons Seen Through Methane Band Filter

NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Jupiter & Moons Seen Through Methane Band Filter
Jupiter and moons as seen by the Cassini spacecraft. The image was taken using a filter sensitive to light absorbed by methane.
Jupiter Seen Through Methane Band Filter

NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute/Bill Dunford

Jupiter Seen Through Methane Band Filter
Jupiter and moon as seen by the Cassini spacecraft. The image was taken using a filter sensitive to a frequency of light absorbed by methane. This is a composite shot with enhanced contrast and reduced noise.
Jupiter Receding

NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Jupiter Receding
Jupiter as seen by the Cassini spacecraft. The image was taken using a filter sensitive to light absorbed by methane.
Saturn Seen Through Methane Band Filter

NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute/Bill Dunford

Saturn Seen Through Methane Band Filter
Saturn as seen by the Cassini spacecraft using a filter sensitive to a frequency of light absorbed by methane. I've removed digital noise and enhanced the contrast.
Saturn Storms Seen Through Methane Band Filter

NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute/Bill Dunford

Saturn Storms Seen Through Methane Band Filter
Saturn's atmosphere as seen by the Cassini spacecraft. The images were taken using a filter sensitive to light absorbed by methane.
 

Read more blog entries about: Jupiter's moons, Cassini, pretty pictures, amateur image processing, Saturn, Saturn's rings, Jupiter

Comments:

Mike Martinez: 04/15/2013 04:14 CDT

In many of the cloud shots---the physical look of some of those clouds remind me of several colors and densities of liquids trying to be mixed & first ending up with different color swirls in various curved & wavy patterns before being fully mixed. The Saturn images of giant swirls of the different gases. What is the reason for not mixing thoroughly into a homogenous color?

northcup: 04/16/2013 04:20 CDT

Hello Mike, the gases have different weights and layers again. In zones where the winds are not as strong, the gases come to rest. To layers again and then be taken up by the strong winds again. That would be my theory.

Andrew R Brown: 04/19/2013 03:32 CDT

Hi northcup, Yes that is it, differing densities & also differing temperature profiles, hense pressure differentials & therefore powerful winds. Saturn & Neptune have the fastest windspeeds in the solar sysem, Jupiter has the most energetic, slower actual speeds & more turbulent. Andrew R Brown.

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