Friday, February 18, 2011

The Solar System as Seen From Messenger

The Mercury Messenger spacecraft is just about to go into orbit in March. It's has taken years to get to this point. Messenger has already done a couple of flybys of Mercury, but it has a lot of time to kill while getting line up for its orbital insertion.

In November, Messenger turned its cameras outward to look at the other planets in the solar system. They just released the image today. Here it is.

You can see all the planets except Uranus and Neptune. The positions of where they would be are marked (sorry Pluto, you don't count in this one). Messenger is not exactly in the plane of the solar system (the ecliptic) so it had to point its camera slightly up or down to see all the planets resulting in that curved shape. If you look closely between Neptune and Mars, you can see the Milky Way!

Every time we see our solar system from a new perspective, it gives us a little better idea of our place in the universe. I just love when NASA takes the time to let their craft capture these unique images!

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

No comments: