Bye bye, Kodachrome, but "Kodak moments" will live on in space
This week is the end for Kodachrome film. It's a casualty of the digital revolution. Kodak announced in June of 2009 that it would stop manufacturing Kodachrome film, the color film that once captured snapshots and professional color prints alike. Even if you kept some, after Friday, December 31, 2010, you won't be able to get it developed anymore, because the last photo shop that had a supply of the chemicals necessary for its development will run out. Why am I noting this story on the blog? Because Kodachrome is the film for which the advertising phrase "Kodak moment" was coined, and even after the end of Kodachrome film there will be lots and lots of Kodak moments yet to come -- in space.
As an example of what I'm talking about, I'll remind you of this great composition from the New Horizons flyby of Jupiter:
NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI
In this dramatic shot from the New Horizons flyby of Jupiter, it observed Europa, the smallest of the four Galilean moons of Jupiter, rising above the vast limb of Jupiter. This was one of seven observations made by New Horizons for primarily aesthetic rather than scientific reasons.
Space missions from New Horizons to Cassini use the term "Kodak moment" to describe pictures that they take primarily for their aesthetic value, knowing how useful it is for public outreach to have beautiful photos for people to share.
New Horizons' camera was black-and-white; Cassini's color camera takes lots of color Kodak moment photos. For science purposes, Cassini most often shoots images through filters that cover a range of the electromagnetic spectrum broader than the human eye can see, but Kodak moments always seem to contain images shot through red, green, and blue filters so that we can make images that approximate what a person with could see if they were there.
NASA / JPL-Caltech / SSI
Titan and Saturn
This view of smoggy Titan against the limb of Saturn is composed of photos taken by Cassini on 1 August 2007 through red, green, and blue filters, so it shows the moon and planet approximately as they would appear to the human eye. Titan's absorbing atmosphere is much darker than Saturn, whose light shines through Titan's upper haze layers, particularly the north polar hood.
The "Kodak moment" term isn't just a conversational slang on missions; it's enshrined in image metadata. You can go into the Planetary Data System for the New Horizons Jupiter and Europa image, for instance, and read the attached "header" file that tells you all the information that they recorded along with the photo, and you'll see the following bunch of technical text:
MISSION = 'New Horizons' / Mission name HOSTNAME= 'NEW HORIZONS' / Host name (PDS terminology) HOSTID = 'NH ' / Host ID (PDS terminology) INSTRU = 'lor ' / Instrument APID = '0x630 ' / Application ID of science dat MET = 34969214 / First packet MET (from instrument or HS bus) METEND = 34969214 / Last packet MET (from instrument or HS bus) MET_HK = 34969213 / MET from housekeeping used in header HSCOMPR = 'LOSSLESS' / High-speed compression mode OBSCOMPL= 'COMPLETE' / Observation completion status MISSPACK= 0 / Missing CCSDS packets (-1 = N/A) STARTMET= 34969213.976 / Actual start time (in MET seconds) STOPMET = 34969213.98 / Actual stop time (in MET seconds) DURMET = 0.004000000655651093 / Observation duration (in MET seconds) METSRC = 'HK_Info ' / Source of above three times EXPTIME = 0.004 / Exposure time ARCHDATE= '2007/104' / Date of MOC archive file GRT = 18000.506311096 / Ground receipt time from STP DATE = '2007-09-01T07:09:35' / Time file was created by SOC SOCVER = 1.0 / SOC pipeline software version SOCLOC = 'TSOC ' / SOC location where processed (TSOC or CSOC) REQID = 'JELR_EKODAK01' / Request ID TARGET = 'EUROPA ' / Target object TARGTYPE= 'Not defined' / Target object type CB1LOAD = 'JUPITER ' / Central Body 1 loaded CB2LOAD = 'IO ' / Central Body 2 loaded CB3LOAD = 'EUROPA ' / Central Body 3 loaded REQDESC = 'Europa emerging from Jupiter occn' / Sequence description / notes REQCOMM = 'Timing from -6 to -6.5 days,' / Sequence Comments
Look in that text for a line that begins "REQID," which is a line that contains information about the scientific observation being performed. In this case, it's "JELR_EKODAK01."