Emily Lakdawalla • Apr 01, 2020
Video Chat From Outer Space With These Custom Wallpapers
With much of the world now stuck at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems like the whole world — adults, kids, babies, cats, and dogs — is now using video-conference software to stay connected. Since some services like Zoom allow you to create virtual backgrounds, I thought I might offer you the opportunity to take your home office to Mars, or the Moon, or other fun places in space.
Here’s a collection of images sized and cropped specifically for use as backgrounds for video. They’ll work as desktop and phone backgrounds as well. Have fun with them! Make your colleagues guess where you are! If you have requests for other backgrounds, ask me on Twitter. I’ll probably add to this collection as time goes on.
I’m providing these backgrounds in UHD (3840 by 2160, the size of many new monitors these days), HD (1920 by 1200, which is what you need for Zoom), and in a vertical crop for phones (9:16 ratio, 1215 by 2160).
Let’s start at Mars, where Opportunity once spent months stuck in the same spot, called Rub Al Khali for its resemblance to the Arabian desert. I’ve always found this panorama very peaceful, even though getting stuck was mildly scary to me at the time that it happened.
If you’d like to have a rover peeking over your shoulder like a pirate’s parrot as you speak, try out this view of Curiosity atop Vera Rubin Ridge.
If you’re a Spirit fan and want to broadcast from the flank of the highest mountain a rover has (yet) climbed on Mars, here you go.
Okay, let’s go to the Moon. I just love the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter oblique shots of lunar landscapes, like this one across part of Orientale basin.
This panorama from Apollo 17 is one of my favorites. Most of the Moon is very gray, but here at Shorty crater, Schmitt and Cernan found colorful orange soil.
More recently, human exploration has been closer to home. Float in low Earth orbit with the Space Shuttle Atlantis on the final Shuttle flight as it gased pon the Space Station with the Moon looming beyond:
Or you could keep up-to-the-minute with human spaceflight technology development and pose in front of a Crew Dragon docking with the Station:
Let’s go farther into the outer solar system. If you are in a Mood, this Juno image of a swirling oval storm in Jupiter’s northern hemisphere might be a compatible background choice.
You could position this iconic view of Saturn (taken from within its shadow by Cassini) behind you as though it were an angelic halo, or perhaps a broad-brimmed hat.
You could leave the solar system entirely and broadcast from a nearby cluster of youthful stars, the Pleiades, as seen in infrared wavelengths by the WISE mission.
Let’s go deeper into space. It’s hard to know where to begin with Hubble images, but I liked this one because if you position yourself right, you can make it look like your head’s exploding with profound insight. (It’s actually M82, otherwise known as the cigar galaxy.)
I hope these images provide some inspiring views or levity in your telecasts in the coming weeks! If you use any of the photos, The Planetary Society could be thanked with a shout-out to our website. Whether or not you can do that, I hope you enjoy them.
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