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We are all roughly familiar with the largest objects of the solar system - the Sun, its eight planets, and a few of the vast number of objects either orbiting those planets or drifting oddly about the Sun.  But I thought it would be fun to offer a more comprehensive tour, to give folks an intimate understanding that these aren't just metaphors or specks of light in the sky, but places with characters of their own - and the Earth containing all our memories, hopes, and dreams is just one among them.  So strap in and start the countdown, it's launch time.

If possible, the first images in each set will be true-color, as you would see them with your own eyes.  Most images will either be true-color or monochrome (black and white), unless stated otherwise.  Many images can be vastly enlarged by clicking on them and choosing a larger size from the Flickr page.  Downloading them may allow even larger sizes.  

It appears there's a limit to the size of diaries, so this first part of the tour ends about 3/4 of the way through the Saturn system (which is quite extensive).  

I.  Mercury

You might be tempted to think Mercury is very similar to the Moon, but compare and contrast them, and think about what the differences might mean.

Mercury4

Mercury1

Mercury2

Mercury3

Mercury5

Mercury6

Mercury7

Mercury8

Mercury9

---

II.  Venus

Venus1

Through UV and orange filters:

Venus2

From the Soviet Venera 13 lander:

Venus3

From Venera 14:

Venus4

This is a perspective mosaic of Venera images put together by Don P. Mitchell, which shows roughly what a human being would see on the surface of Venus:

Venus5

---

III.  Earth

Apollo 13 Return

ig214_06_02

Apollo 11 Earth Orbit

ig214_15_02

Earth6

Earth8

Earth5

Earth7

Earth from Far

Can you spot Earth in this Voyager 2 image taken beyond Pluto?

Earth9

  • Luna
  • moon-sfl_large

    SD5265

    Sabine and Ritter Craters from Apollo 11 (Orbit)

    Apollo 14 LM with Wires, Sun

---

IV.  Near-Earth Objects (NEOs)

There are only two NEOs that have clear, interesting, photographic images at the moment.  There are tons more that either have blurry, mundane images, computer-generated images based on radar data, or just specks on a starfield.

  • 25143 Itokawa
  • Asteroid Itokawa

    Itokawa 2

  • 433 Eros
  • (No, this is not a joke - an asteroid named Eros looks like this...)

    433 Eros

    433Eros2

    433Eros3

    433Eros4

    433Eros_rotation_Dec._3-4_2000

---

V.  Mars

mars

Northern ice cap:

bestgalactic_mars_np_02

mars_atmo

Mars1

Mars3

Mars2

Mars4

Mars5

Either sunrise or sunset (sources differ):

Mars6

Earth from the Martian surface:

Earth from Mars

Mars3

  • Phobos
  • Phobos

    Phobos2

    phobos3

    phobos4

  • Deimos
  • Deimos

    Size comparison of Phobos and Deimos (this is not one photo, but two separate ones scaled and joined):

    phobos-deimos

---

VI.  Main Asteroid Belt & Comets

Some of these images are marginal, because we have not yet sent dedicated probes to Main Belt objects and have to rely on the Hubble Space Telescope and other observatories in most cases.  Superior images were obtained only by probes destined for outer planets passing through the Main Belt.  In the case of comets, they may have been imaged from a point closer than the Main Belt, but I include them arbitrarily because their orbits are usually too eccentric to categorize regionally.  There are tens of thousands of cataloged objects for which there are no clear, close-up images.  

  • 243 Ida (and its satellite Dactyl, in first image)
  • 243_ida_crop

    Ida1

    Ida-approach

    • Dactyl
    • Dactyl

  • 951 Gaspra
  • 951Gaspra2

    951 Gaspra

    Size comparison of 951 Gaspra, Phobos, and Deimos:

    729px-Gaspra_Phobos_Deimos

    Size comparison of 951 Gaspra (right) with 243 Ida (left):

    Ida and Gaspra

  • 253 Mathilde
  • 253Mathilde1

    A comparison of the size of Washington D.C. to 253 Mathilde:

    Mathilde_DC

    A comparison of the size of 253 Mathilde and 433 Eros:

    Mathilde and Eros

  • 2867 Šteins
  • 2867Steins

  • 5535 Annefrank
  • 5535_Annefrank

  • Ceres
  • This is the largest asteroid in the solar system (hence its being spherical), and possibly destined for human settlement.  It's thus a scandal that we still don't have any decent images of it (though we're sending the Dawn probe, which will arrive in 2015).  This is from Hubble:

    Ceres

  • 4 Vesta
  • 4Vesta

  • Comet Borrelly
  • Comet Borrelly

    Comet Borrelly 2

    Comet Borrelly 3

  • Comet Wild 2 (pronounced "Vilt" 2)
  • Wild2

    Wild22

  • Comet Tempel 1
  • Comet Tempel 1

    Comet Tempel 1 2

    Planned collision of Deep Impact interceptor probe with Comet Tempel 1:

    Deep Impact Collision with Comet Tempel 1

  • Halley's Comet
  • HalleyComet_nucleus

---

VII.  Jupiter

Jupiter4

Jupiter1

South pole:

Jupiter2

North pole:

Jupiter3

With Europa:

Jupiter5

With Ganymede:

Jupiter6

Io and Europa transit:

Jupiter7

Io transit:

Jupiter8

Europa transit with Callisto in foreground:

Jupiter9

Another Io transit:

Jupiter10

Jupiter11

Jupiter12

Jupiter13

Jupiter15

Jupiter16

From descender probe, inside upper layers of Jovian atmosphere:

Jupiter17

Jupiter Animation

  • Amalthea
  • Jupiter has dozens of moons, but we only have decent images of the Galilean satellites and a couple of the small, captured asteroid variety.

    Amalthea

    Amalthea2

  • Thebe
  • Thebe

  • Io
  • Io1

    Io5

    Io3

    Volcanic eruption:

    Io6

    Io4

    Io8

    Io9

    Lava flow:

    Io10

  • Europa
  • Europa1

    Europa2

    Europa3

    Europa5

    Europa4

  • Ganymede
  • Ganymede1

    Ganymede5

    Ganymede6

    Black and white:

    Ganymede3

    Ganymede2

    Ganymede4

    Ice hills:

    Ganymede8

  • Callisto
  • Callisto1

    Callisto2

    Black and white:

    Callisto3

    Callisto4

    Callisto5

    Size comparison of Ganymede, Callisto, Io, and Europa:

    Callisto6

---

VIII.  Saturn

Saturn1

Saturn12

Saturn2

Saturn4

Saturn5

Saturn6

Saturn7

Saturn8

Saturn9

Saturn10

Saturn11

Saturn13

Saturn14

Eclipse:

Saturn3

  • Rings
  • Saturn15

    Saturn16

    Rings1

  • Pan
  • As with Jupiter, most moons of Saturn are just asteroid rubble, so most have no images.  However, there are many more that do have images thanks to the Cassini probe.

    Rings2

    Pan2

  • Daphnis
  • Notice that this moon causes waves in the rings to either side of it due to gravitational perturbation:

    Daphnis

  • Atlas
  • Atlas

    Atlas2

    Atlas3

  • Prometheus
  • Prometheus1

    Prometheus2

    Prometheus3

    Prometheus4

  • Pandora
  • Pandora1

    Pandora2

    Pandora3

  • Epimetheus
  • Epimetheus1

    Epimetheus2

    Epimetheus4

    Epimetheus3

    The shadow of F Ring lies across it:

    Epimetheus with Ring shadow

    "Above" plane of rings, with Titan in the background:

    Epimetheus5

  • Janus
  • Janus1

    Janus2

    Janus5

    Janus3

    Janus4

    In front of Saturn:

    Janus6

    Janus, Prometheus, and rings:

    Janus and Prometheus

  • Mimas
  • Mimas1

    Mimas4

    Mimas5

    Mimas2

    With Northern latitudes of Saturn in background (not rings, as it might appear due to ring shadows):

    Mimas3

    Mimas6

    Partially eclipsing Dione:

    Mimas7

    Saturn in the background:

    Mimas8

    Ring plane in background:

    Mimas9

  • Enceladus
  • Enceladus1

    Enceladus2

    Enceladus4

    Enceladus5

    Enceladus6

    Enceladus7

    Enceladus8

    Enceladus9

    Enceladus15

    Close-up of surface, as seen from an angle:

    Enceladus10

    Outgassing:

    Enceladus11

    Enceladus inside E Ring.  Outgassing from Enceladus is thought to be responsible for the existence of that ring:

    Enceladus3

    Enceladus and Dione (next 2 images):

    Enceladus and Dione

    Enceladus and Dione 2

    Janus, Enceladus, and Tethys:

    Enceladus, Tethys, and Janus

    In front of Saturn:

    Enceladus12

    Enceladus13

    Enceladus and Janus:

    Enceladus and Janus

    Enceladus14

    Tethys and Enceladus:

    Enceladus and Tethys

  • Tethys
  • Tethys2

    Tethys4

    Tethys8

    Tethys1

    Tethys6

    Tethys5

    Tethys7

    Tethys3

    Tethys and Dione:

    Tethys and Dione

    Tethys9

  • Telesto
  • Telesto1

    Telesto2

  • Calypso
  • Calypso1

  • Dione
  • Dione4

    Dione5

    Dione6

    Dione9

    Dione3

    Dione8

    Dione7

    Dione11

    Dione10

  • Helene
  • Helene3

    Helene2

    Helene4

  • Rhea
  • Rhea1

    Rhea8

    Rhea4

    Rhea2

    Rhea11

    Rhea14

    Rhea13

    Rhea12

    Rhea6

    Rhea15

    Rhea10

  • Titan
  • Titan1

    Titan4

    Titan13

    Titan3

    Titan14

    Titan2

    Infrared, showing surface features through the clouds (next 2 images):

    Titan5(IR)

    Titan16(IR)

    Radar, showing coastlines and fjords along hydrocarbon lakes (next 2 images):

    Titan12(radar)

    Titan11(radar)

    Surface:

    Titan6

    Titan15

    Titan10

    Titan9

(To be continued...)

Originally posted to Troubadour on Thu Oct 29, 2009 at 05:09 AM PDT.

Poll

What % of the US federal budget should go to space exploration? (Current is 1%)

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| 17861 votes | Vote | Results

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