Feeds

NASA opens its Jupiter photo album to honour Pioneer 10

40 years of Jovian portraits for your delight and delectation

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Pics NASA has opened its photo scrapbook to remember the Pioneer 10 spacecraft, which on 4 December 1973 passed within 130,000km of Jupiter, in the process returning some decidedly non-hi-res snaps.

Pioneer 10 images of Jupiter. Pics: NASA

The agency explains: "Launched on March 2, 1972, Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to travel through the asteroid belt, and the first spacecraft to make direct observations and obtain close-up images of Jupiter."

It adds that this "historic event marked humans' first approach to Jupiter", during which Pioneer 10 "imaged the planet and its moons, and took measurements of Jupiter's magnetosphere, radiation belts, magnetic field, atmosphere, and interior".

The spacecraft's portraits of the gas giant were captured using the Imaging Photopolarimeter (IPP), grabbing "simultaneous, two-color (blue - 3900 to 4900 A, red - 5800 to 7000 A) polarimetric and radiometric measurements, and moderate-resolution (about 200 km at best) spin-scan images".

The IPP was basically a mirror (catadioptric) telescope directing light through a focal-plane wheel, a prism, and a dichromatic mirror. This rig produced red and blue beams which were measured by dedicated photocathodes.

By 1979, Voyager 1 was capable of delivering this impessive view from a distance of 9.2 million kilometres, revealing "cloud details as small as 160 kilometres":

Voyager 1 view of Jupiter and its red spot. Pic NASA

Voyager 1 carried wide and narrow-angle slow scan vidicon cameras, with low-resolution 200mm wide-angle lens and "higher resolution" 1500mm lens, respectively.

The cameras' 25mm diameter magnetic deflection vidicon sensors temporarily stored "800 lines with 800 picture elements (pixels) per line" images on their selenium sulphur surface, available for electronic readout (more here).

By the time Galileo rolled up at Jupiter in December 1995, NASA had taken a spare Voyager narrow angle camera and bolted a "800 x 800 line CCD" to it to create the "Solid-State Imaging (SSI)" instrument.

The SSI was a spectacular success, as NASA's montage of Jovian satellites shows (bigger version here):

NASA montage of some of Jovian moons. Pic: NASA

Not to be outdone, the Cassini spacecraft delivered this tremendous mosaic portrait of Jupiter during its closest approach to the monster in December 2000:

Cassini image of Jupiter. Pic: NASA

The 27-image composite was the work of the narrow-angle camera in Cassini's Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS). This comprises "a reflecting telescope with a focal length of 2000mm and a field of view of 0.35 degrees", and a "CCD consisting of a 1024 square array of pixels".

NASA boasts the spacecraft's narrow-angle snapper "could see a quarter - 2.4 centimetres (0.9 inches) across - from a distance of nearly 4 kilometres (2.5 miles)", and as proof of its capability, it should be noted the above image was taken from a distance of 10 million kilometres. The agency notes: "It is the most detailed global color portrait of Jupiter ever produced; the smallest visible features are approximately 60 kilometres (37 miles) across."

The Jupiter scrapbook still has room for further photographic wonders. In July 2016, Juno will arrive at the solar system behemoth on its mission to "understand the origin and evolution" of the planet.

Artist's impression of Juno and Jupiter. Pic: NASA

On board will be JunoCam, promising "the best pictures ever taken of Jupiter’s polar regions" with its 1600 x 1200px KAI-2020 image sensor.

As Juno skims to within 4,300km of Jupiter, the camera should deliver a resolution of 15km/pixel. ®

The Power of One Infographic

More from The Register

next story
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Beancounters tell NASA it's too poor to fly planned mega-rocket
Space Launch System would need another $400m and a lot of time
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.