Monday, 20 September 2010


Much like Uranus, Neptune has only been explored by Voyager 2. With the passing of Voyager 2, a very large amount of scientific information about Neptune was gained such as it's physical makeup. It was discovered by Urbain Le Verrier around 1845. The planet it surrounded by a scarce series of rings that are barely visible. Neptune is technically the furthest planet from the sun. This distinction was made after Pluto was declassified to a dwarf planet in recent years. Regardless of the Voyager mission, there is still much more to be discovered about the planet. Being the furthest proper planet from the sun, it takes years to get to so exploration is not easy.

Neptune from Voyager 2

Clouds of Neptune from Voyager 2

Neptune's Big Spot (A Storm Similar to That of Jupiter's)

Neptune's Scarce System of Rings


Uranus. The planet with the funny name. It was discovered by William Herchel and has only been explored by Voyager 2. However, this exploration revealed a great deal about the planet. Voyager discovered all its known moons and closely looked at the rings of Uranus. The planet is unique in relation to it's polar caps. The north and south poles are on a horizontal axis. This results in one pole continuously facing the sun with the other facing away. Uranus sports a vertical system of 13 (distinct) rings, of which some are named after Shakespearean characters. Voyager 2s exploration of Uranus revealed a large amount of scientific information about the planet. However, this information has led scientists to lower Uranus's priorities on the list of destinations for the future of space exploration.

Uranus from Voyager 2

Uranus from a Telescope in 2005

Uranus Crescent as Voyager 2 is Leaving

The Rings of Uranus



Saturn is the sixth planet from our sun and similar to Jupiter in the fact that it is a gas giant. However, it is chemically composed in a very different way and also sports a very prominent ring. When Galileo discovered it in 1610, he described it as, "a planet with ears!". It wasn't until when telescopes with greater magnification were invented that the rings became more visible and distinguished. Voyager 1 took the first photos of Saturn establishing a clear image of it. Since then it has fascinated scientists and astronomers, particularly in relation to how it interacts with its many moons. Also an interesting hexagonal cloud structure has been discovered on it's north pole which can be seen in an image below. The Cassini Probe is largely responsible for recovering most of the information that we know about Saturn today. It is currently orbiting the planet and still discovering fascinating facts such as how Saturn's rings are made up of pure water ice.

Saturn from the Cassini Probe

Saturn from Voyager 1

Saturn from Above by Cassini

The Rings of Saturn

Hexagonal Cloud Pattern by Voyager 1



Jupiter is the fifth planet from the sun and also the largest in the solar system. It is known as a 'gas giant' due it's physical, gassy presence and make up. It's role in the Solar System is key in protecting Earth. It swallows up asteroids and meteors with its intense gravity influencing their course. Jupiter has always fascinated scientists and has been studied so that more can be learnt about it's purpose and role in the Solar System which also helps scientists and astronomers determine conditions in extrasolar planetary systems that are also known to contain gas giants. Jupiter's moons have also been of scientific interest. Particularly Europa due the presence of water ice. This has led to speculation that bacteria may be living inside the ice as this is possible on Earth. More optimistic scientific minds have even speculated to presence of intelligent life below the icy surface in the ocean that is likely to exist beneath the surface.

Jupiter from the Cassini Probe

Jupiter Half Lit from the Cassini Probe

Jupiter from Voyager 1

Close Up of Jupiter's Big Red Spot Storm from Voyager 1

Asteroid Impact Wound from the Hubble Telescope

Here's a video of Jupiter's Red Spot on the move. The video is sped up as the spot moves very slowly in normal time. It is a gargantuan storm on the surface of Jupiter that would easily swallow Earth 2 or 3 times. The spot has also lasted for at least 180 years and continues to reek havoc on the planet.


Sunday, 19 September 2010

the 'man on mars'

Some time in the noughties, this photo was taken by Mars's Spirit Rover. It made news headlines due to the fact that one of the rocks looks a bit like a man. Some people genuinely believed this to prove the existence of life on Mars. In my opinion it's just a rock. It also seems to be the widely regarded opinion of professionals in the field.



Mars is the fourth planet from our sun and the second closest planet to Earth in the Solar System. It is the planet that intrigues astrobiologists and astrogeologists the most due to the great speculation of the presence - or past presence - of water on the surface. The importance of this is significant due to the fact that where water is found, life can possibly be found. It is without a shadow of a doubt the most explored planet in Solar System. Manned exploration of the planet has been suggested since the moon landings in the late 60s and the 70s. It is arguably the most overdue mission in space exploration of the past few decades. However, progress is constantly being made for a manned journey. But for now, scientists are having to work with rovers and micro-laboratories on the surface of Mars in order to deduce more about the fascinating planet.

Mars from the Hubble Telescope

Mars Showing it's Scarce Atmosphere

Rocks Scattered Across Mars Photographed by Pathfinder

Sunset on Mars Photographed by the Spirit Rover

Victoria Crater Photographed by Opportunity Rover

Viking 1 Mars Lander Site


olympus mons

Olympus Mons is the tallest mountain in the entire Solar System. Although the images don't do it much justice, it is actually about 3 times the size of Everest on Earth. It is a volcano and it is not obvious as of yet whether it is fully extinct. In technical volcano terms, it is a 'shield volcano' meaning that it has/is expelling very liquid lava. In comparison to Earth, it is much like the volcano, Mauna Kea in Hawaii.