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).
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.
Through UV and orange filters:
From the Soviet Venera 13 lander:
From Venera 14:
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:
Can you spot Earth in this Voyager 2 image taken beyond Pluto?
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
- 433 Eros
(No, this is not a joke - an asteroid named Eros looks like this...)
Northern ice cap:
Either sunrise or sunset (sources differ):
Earth from the Martian surface:
Size comparison of Phobos and Deimos (this is not one photo, but two separate ones scaled and joined):
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)
- 951 Gaspra
Size comparison of 951 Gaspra, Phobos, and Deimos:
Size comparison of 951 Gaspra (right) with 243 Ida (left):
- 253 Mathilde
A comparison of the size of Washington D.C. to 253 Mathilde:
A comparison of the size of 253 Mathilde and 433 Eros:
- 2867 Šteins
- 5535 Annefrank
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:
- 4 Vesta
- Comet Borrelly
- Comet Wild 2 (pronounced "Vilt" 2)
- Comet Tempel 1
Planned collision of Deep Impact interceptor probe with Comet Tempel 1:
- Halley's Comet
Io and Europa transit:
Europa transit with Callisto in foreground:
Another Io transit:
From descender probe, inside upper layers of Jovian atmosphere:
Jupiter has dozens of moons, but we only have decent images of the Galilean satellites and a couple of the small, captured asteroid variety.
Black and white:
Black and white:
Size comparison of Ganymede, Callisto, Io, and Europa:
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.
Notice that this moon causes waves in the rings to either side of it due to gravitational perturbation:
The shadow of F Ring lies across it:
"Above" plane of rings, with Titan in the background:
In front of Saturn:
Janus, Prometheus, and rings:
With Northern latitudes of Saturn in background (not rings, as it might appear due to ring shadows):
Partially eclipsing Dione:
Saturn in the background:
Ring plane in background:
Close-up of surface, as seen from an angle:
Enceladus inside E Ring. Outgassing from Enceladus is thought to be responsible for the existence of that ring:
Enceladus and Dione (next 2 images):
Janus, Enceladus, and Tethys:
In front of Saturn:
Enceladus and Janus:
Tethys and Enceladus:
Tethys and Dione:
Infrared, showing surface features through the clouds (next 2 images):
Radar, showing coastlines and fjords along hydrocarbon lakes (next 2 images):
(To be continued...)