Vera Rubin’s Monster 3200-Megapixel Camera Takes its First Picture (in the Lab)

The complete focal plane of the future LSST Camera is more than 2 feet wide and contains 189 individual sensors that will produce 3,200-megapixel images. Crews at SLAC have now taken the first images with it. (Jacqueline Orrell/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

The Vera C. Rubin Observatory has taken another step towards first light, projected for some time in 2022. Its enormous 3200 megapixel camera just took its first picture during lab testing at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. The camera is the largest ever built, and its unprecedented power is the driving force behind the Observatory’s ten year Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST).

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Neptune & Triton – August 31, 1989.

Processed using calibrated orange, green, and blue filtered images of Neptune and Triton taken by Voyager 2 on August 31 1989. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Kevin M. Gill

Image-processor extraordinaire Kevin Gill has reached back in time to give us a new image of Neptune and its moon Triton.

When NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft flew past Neptune and Triton in August 1989, its cameras were very busy. Kevin has taken separate color-filtered images from that visit and calibrated and combined them to give us a new, almost haunting look at the planet and its largest moon.

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Wow! An Actual Picture of Multiple Planets Orbiting a Sunlike Star

This image, captured by the SPHERE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope, shows the star TYC 8998-760-1 accompanied by two giant exoplanets. This is the first time astronomers have directly observed more than one planet orbiting a star similar to the Sun. The image was captured by blocking the light from the young, Sun-like star (on the top left corner) using a coronagraph, which allows for the fainter planets to be detected. The bright and dark rings we see on the star’s image are optical artefacts. The two planets are visible as two bright dots in the centre and bottom right of the frame. Image Credit: ESO/Bohn et al, 2020

We’ve detected thousands of exoplanets, but for the most part, nobody’s ever seen them. They’re really just data, and graphs of light curves. The exoplanet images you see here at Universe Today and other space websites are the creations of very skilled illustrators, equal parts data and creative license. But that’s starting to change.

The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) has captured images of two exoplanets orbiting a young, Sun-like star.

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Parker Solar Probe Gives a Unique Perspective on Comet NEOWISE

This unprocessed image from NASA’s Parker Solar Probe shows comet NEOWISE on July 5, 2020, shortly after its closest approach to the Sun. Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Naval Research Lab/Parker Solar Probe/Brendan Gallagher

Comet watchers have enjoying the newly-discovered NEOWISE comet since it was first spotted in March 2020. Now that it’s visible with the naked eye, in dark sky conditions, all kinds of Earthly observers are checking the visitor out.

But NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has another view of the comet, one denied to Earth-bound observers.

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Last Year’s Total Solar Eclipse on Earth, Seen From the Moon

The Moon casting its shadow on the Earth during an eclipse in 2018. Image Credit: MingChuan Wei (Harbin Institute of Technology, BG2BHC/BY2HIT), CAMRAS Dwingeloo Radio Telescope, Reinhard Kühn DK5LA. Image edit by Jason Major.

On July 2, 2019, the Moon cast its shadow on the surface of the Earth. This time, the shadow’s path travelled across the South Pacific Ocean. It also passed over some of Argentina and Chile. For surface dwellers in the path, the Moon briefly blocked the Sun, turning night into day.

But for one “eye” in orbit around the Moon, the view was different. A camera on a tiny satellite watched as the circular shadow of the Moon moved over the Earth’s surface.

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Amazing View of How Dust Storms Grow on Mars

Two snapshots, about two weeks apart, of a 3D simulation of the 2018 Global Dust Storm performed with the NASA Ames Mars Global Climate Model. The storm began as a regional storm in Acidalia then moved eastward, triggering more dust lifting along the way (in Arabia, Sabaea, Hellas etc.). As the storm grew larger and became global, intense dust lifting events occurred in the Tharsis region, injecting dust at high altitudes. Credit: Tanguy Bertrand / Alex Kling / NASA Ames Research Center

In 2018, Mars experienced one of its global dust storms, a phenomenon seen nowhere else. As science would have it, there were no fewer than six spacecraft in orbit around Mars at the time, and two surface rovers. This was an unprecedented opportunity to watch and study the storm.

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Sediments on Mars, Created By Blowing Wind or Flowing Water

The HiRISE Picture of the Day from May 9th 2020. Sedimentary rocks in and impact crater on Mars. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/UArizona

The HiRISE (High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) instrument on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has given us a steady stream of images of the Martian surface. It’s been in orbit around Mars since March 2006, and has greatly outlived its intended mission length.

One of the latest Hi-PODs, or HiRISE Pictures of the Day, is this one, of sedimentary rock on Mars being eroded away.

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This “All Terminator” Image of the Moon isn’t Actually Possible to See. But it Sure is Beautiful

A composite image of the Moon, made out of images of the terminator as it passed. Image Credit: Copyright Andrew McCarthy.

“This moon might look a little funny to you, and that’s because it is an impossible scene,” wrote photographer Andrew McCarthy on Instagram.

He was talking about his other-wordly, almost Shakesperean image of the Moon. And that’s because this is an ‘all-terminator’ image.

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Here are the First Pictures from CHEOPS

First image of the star chosen as target for CHEOPS after cover opening. The star, at the centre of the image, is located at a distance of 150 light-years from us, in the constellation of Cancer. Image Credit:ESA/Airbus/CHEOPS Mission Consortium

The CHEOPS spacecraft is taking the first tentative steps in its mission. Back on January 29th, the spacecraft opened the cover on its lens. Now, we have the first images from CHEOPS.

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Mars Express Takes Photos of Phobos as it Flies Past

Phobos, a moon of Mars.
Japan is sending a spacecraft to Phobos to study it and collect samples for return to Earth. A German rover will be part of the fun. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

The ESA’s Mars Express Orbiter is no stranger to the Martian moon Phobos. The spacecraft was launched in June 2003 and has been in orbit around Mars for 16 years. During its long time at Mars, it’s captured detailed images of Phobos, and helped unlocked some of that Moon’s secrets.

In a new sequence of 41 images captured during a recent fly-by, the Mars Express’ High Resolution Stereo Camera imaged Phobos from different angles, capturing images of the moon’s surface features, including the Stickney crater.

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