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Pale Blue Dot Revisited
For the 30th anniversary of one of the most iconic images taken by NASA's Voyager mission, a new version of the image known as "the Pale Blue Dot." Planet Earth is visible as a bright speck within the sunbeam just right of center and appears softly blue, as in the original version published in 1990 (see PIA00452). This updated version uses modern image-processing software and techniques to revisit the well-known Voyager view while attempting to respect the original data and intent of those who planned the images. In 1990, the Voyager project planned to shut off the Voyager 1 spacecraft's imaging cameras to conserve power and because the probe, along with its sibling Voyager 2, would not fly close enough to any other objects to take pictures. Before the shutdown, the mission commanded the probe to take a series of 60 images designed to produce what they termed the "Family Portrait of the Solar System." Executed on Valentine's Day 1990, this sequence returned images for making color views of six of the solar system's planets and also imaged the Sun in monochrome. The popular name of this view is traced to the title of the 1994 book by Voyager imaging scientist Carl Sagan, who originated the idea of using Voyager's cameras to image the distant Earth and played a critical role in enabling the family portrait images to be taken. The image of Earth was originally published by NASA in 1990. It is republished here to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Family Portrait of the Solar System (see PIA00451) and the Pale Blue Dot image in particular. The planet occupies less than a single pixel in the image and thus is not fully resolved. (The actual width of the planet on the sky was less than one pixel in Voyager's camera.) By contrast, Jupiter and Saturn were large enough to fill a full pixel in their family portrait images. The direction of the Sun is toward the bottom of the view (where the image is brightest). Rays of sunlight scattered within the camera optics stretch across the scene. One of those light rays happens to have intersected dramatically with Earth. From Voyager 1's vantage point -- a distance of approximately 3.8 billion miles (6 billion kilometers) -- Earth was separated from the Sun by only a few degrees. The close proximity of the inner planets to the Sun was a key factor preventing these images from being taken earlier in the mission, as our star was still close and bright enough to damage the cameras with its blinding glare. The view is a color composite created by combining images taken using green, blue and violet spectral filters by the Voyager 1 Narrow-Angle Camera. They were taken at 4:48 GMT on Feb. 14, 1990, just 34 minutes before Voyager 1 powered off its cameras forever. Like the original version, this is technically a "false-color" view, as the color-filter images used were mapped to red, green and blue, respectively. The brightness of each color channel was balanced relative to the others, which is likely why the scene appears brighter but less grainy than the original. In addition, the color was balanced so that the main sunbeam (which overlays Earth) appears white, like the white light of the Sun. At its original resolution, the newly processed color image is 666 by 659 pixels in size; this is Figure A. The main image is an enlarged version. The image was processed by JPL engineer and image processing enthusiast Kevin M. Gill with input from two of the image's original planners, Candy Hansen and William Kosmann
Featured Images Dated Print
The Wright Brothers First Heavier-than-air Flight
On December 17, 1903, at 10:30 am at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, this airplane arose for a few seconds to make the first powered, heavier-than-air controlled flight in history. The first flight lasted 12 seconds and flew a distance of 120 feet. Orville Wright piloted the historic flight while his brother, Wilbur, observed. The brothers took three other flights that day, each flight lasting longer than the other with the final flight going a distance of 852 feet in 59 seconds. This flight was the culmination of a number of years of research on gliders.
Orville and Wilbur Wright's curiosity with flight began in 1878 when their father, Milton, gave them a rubber band powered toy helicopter. Although they were never formally educated, the self-taught engineers constantly experimented with kites and gliders. Bicycle shop owners by occupation, the brothers spent years designing, testing and redesigning their gliders and planes. After the successful flights of December 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur continued to perfect their plane. In 1909 the Army Signal Corps purchased a Wright Flyer, creating the first military airplane. Although Wilbur passed away May 30, 1912, from typhoid fever, Orville remained an active promoter of aviation until his death on January 30, 1948.
The Air Age truly began with that historic flight on December 17, 1903. In 1908 the Wright Brothers designed the first military aircraft for the Army Signal Corps. Seven years later, in 1915, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) became the nations leading aviation research organization, of which Orville was a member for 28 years. As the airplane became more aerodynamic and technically advanced, its uses expanded into many different directions. Military aircraft played significant roles in both World War I and World War II. The airplane made worldwide travel and exploration possible. Spaceflight would never have been realized without the pioneering achievements of the Wright Brothers
Featured Images Dated Print
The Orion Nebula
This spectacular color panorama of the center the Orion nebula is one of the largest pictures ever assembled from individual images taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The picture, seamlessly composited from a mosaic of 15 separate fields, covers an area of sky about five percent the area covered by the full Moon. The seemingly infinite tapestry of rich detail revealed by Hubble shows a churning turbulent star factory set within a maelstrom of flowing, luminescent gas. Though this 2.5 light-years wide view is still a small portion of the entire nebula, it includes almost all of the light from the bright glowing clouds of gas and a star cluster associated with the nebula. The mosaic reveals at least 153 glowing protoplanetary disks (first discovered with the Hubble in 1992, and dubbed "proplyds") that are believed to be embryonic solar systems that will eventually form planets. (Our solar system has long been considered the relic of just such a disk that formed around the newborn Sun). The proplyds that are closest to the Trapezium stars (image center) are shedding some of their gas and dust. The pressure of starlight from the hottest stars forms "tails" which act like wind vanes pointing away from the Trapezium. These tails result from the light from the star pushing the dust and gas away from the outside layers of the proplyds. In addition to the luminescent proplyds, seven disks are silhouetted against the bright background of the nebula. Located 1, 500 light-years away, along our spiral arm of the Milky Way, the Orion nebula is located in the middle of the sword region of the constellation Orion the Hunter, which dominates the early winter evening sky at northern latitudes