Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Variation of Io's Auroral Footprint Brightness with the Location of Io in the Plasma Torus

There is a new article in press in the journal Icarus titled, "The Variation of Io's Auroral Footprint Brightness with the Location of Io in the Plasma Torus," by Andrew W. Serio and John T. Clarke. I don't have access to the paper from home, but I'll be sure to download it tomorrow and post about it here.

Link: The Variation of Io's Auroral Footprint Brightness with the Location of Io in the Plasma Torus []

Friday, April 25, 2008

Another Video from Youtube

I missed this last night while looking for Io videos on Youtube. It is made by the same folks who couldn't get a decent CGI Io going, but this is a lot more informational with interviews with various scientists who participated in the Voyager and Galileo missions. Not bad, a few minor errors that only people like myself would notice (nothing groan worthy that I noticed).

EJSM Workshop in Rome

The Europa/Jupiter System Mission JSDT hosted two meetings this week in Rome, Italy to further develop the payload for ESA's proposed Jupiter Planetary Orbiter and the scientific objectives and Europa and Jupiter, as well as to solicit input from the community on the kinds of science that might be done at the Jupiter system with these 2-4 spacecraft.

While I don't expect anything to be published online from the internal JSDT meeting, we might see stuff from the open community meeting that took place on Monday and Tuesday. The agenda for this meeting is online. Looks like some interesting topics were discussed with John Spencer presenting on Io science. The first day looks like mostly a series of presentations on science objectives for the various mission components as it stands now for EJSM. The second day is a mix of the team presenting what they have so far on the payload development, followed by suggestions for payload elements from the community.

I'll report here if I hear any news from this meeting.

Link: Europa-Jupiter International Science Workshop []

Io on Youtube

Continuing my series on Io resources online, today we look at Io on the world's largest video sharing website, Youtube. To be honest, I am not a big Youtube user, visiting the site maybe a few times a month. Most of the videos on the site just aren't all that interesting to me, or are clearly aimed at an audience that I am not part of. But still there are a few interesting Io-related videos on Youtube:

  • The one above is perhaps my favorite, the history of Io in song form, complete with accordion and mandolin.
  • A video from the Europan propaganda machine (with Bill McKinnon)
  • Video Podcast from the New Horizons flyby showing the reaction of Hal Weaver, Andy Cheng, and John Spencer to the first images down of Io - Part 1 and Part 2.
  • There is a nice clip from a BBC "documentary" called Voyage to the Planets with a segment on Io. Worst. Fake. Io. Ever! First, what dumb idiot would land on a lava flow? The fact that you landed near a fracking skylight should have told you something, but no... Second, I may have missed that part of my Physics classes, but I seem to recall something about light (and that includes TV transmissions from the surface of Io) taking an hour or so to go from Io to Earth... Am I the only one who is hoping for either A) Radiation sickness striking "I don't need my anti-radiation pills" Zoe or B) that the ground opens up beneath "Hmm, this crusted over lava flow looks like a nice place to land" Zoe? Don't go toward the light!
  • The theatrical trailer for Outland
  • Message from Io - Another Io song

UPDATE 09/24/2008: I updated this post with a new url for the Io Song.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A little preview

Just a little preview of what I have been working on lately for the blog. This mosaic uses Voyager 1 images and shows the southern hemisphere of Io from just east of Masubi to just east of Pele. I want to change the stretch used to help bring out subtle features within this mosaic. The finished version will be about 4x the size of the mosaic linked to at left.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Globes of the Galilean Satellites

The OPAG site has a pamphlet on a series of globes that Sky&Telescope has been working on for a few years. Now that USGS has finished up their set of Galilean satellite basemaps, S&T may put these globes on sale soon, though they are still looking for input on what would be a good price point and are looking to gauge interest. The globes look very nice, and I would certainly pick up the Io globe, but according to the pamphlet, it looks like S&T wants to sell these as a set rather than individually. The globes would also be limited to 9 inches in diameter.

I would certainly pay 100 bucks for a 12 inch diameter Io globe. Not sure about this set.

Link: Globes of the Galilean Satellites []

Monday, April 21, 2008

Finding Raw Images of Io Online

Continuing my series of posts covering Io resources online, today we look at raw images of Io. The images you see online of Io are processed from raw images acquired by various NASA spacecraft, including the two Voyagers, Galileo, Cassini, and New Horizons. For the time being, I am excluding Pioneer 11 and Hubble from this discussion, but I may come back to those at a future date. All the images acquired by those five spacecraft of Io are available online for you to process into your own masterpieces. Today, I'd like to show you where and how to acquire these images.

Raw images from NASA spacecraft are available from the various nodes of the Planetary Data System or PDS. The PDS archives and facilitates the distribution of data from NASA's unmanned planetary spacecraft. With the exception of the New Horizons images, images are archived in IMG format. This format is not supported by most photo editing software, like Photoshop, but these images can be accessed using various freeware programs available online. One tool I recommend is IMG2PNG, created by Bjorn Jonsson. This converts IMG and FITS images into PNG files (even 16-bit files if the original images require it). IMG2PNG will even calibrate Cassini images. You can then mess around with those PNG files in Photoshop or GIMP.

Anyways, here is a rundown of sites where you can find raw Io images:
  • The PDS Rings discipline has a search form for Voyager 1 and 2 images located on their website. From this form, you can search for Io images by spacecraft, camera, filter, and exposure time. The main annoyance is that the search only displays 10 records at a time if you choose to view preview gifs with each record, which really helps you find the image you are looking. You have to back out to the search page and put a number into the Skip field to go to a certain number record, if you display preview gifs. Also make sure you set the listing type to detailed, under Query Options on the search page if you intend to download the raw images. The images themselves can be downloaded by clicking on the links ending in IMQ for the image.
  • The PDS Imaging Node hosts a search form for Galileo raw images. This form allows you to search for Io images by orbit as well as access NIMS cubes. If you want to download Io images, be sure to select GO-J/JSA-SSI-2-REDR-V1.0 as the dataset ID. The results pages are a little more intuitive than the Voyager page. Each images comes with its own separate page where you can download the image and look at various label information regarding that particular image. Just click on the "Download Full Resolution File" link to access the raw image.
  • The PDS Imaging Node also hosts a search form for Cassini raw images. This form is a bit more complicated, not to mention the fact that the Cassini data set also includes a number of Io images where Io isn't the target, Jupiter is. I do not have much experience with using the Cassini PDS site though this search doesn't seem to be as intuitive as the Galileo form.
  • The PDS Small Bodies Nodes hosts the New Horizons raw images. This page is does not have a search form, so you can either download the entire dataset using wget or download each volume as a giant tarball. Different pages online such as the official New Horizons Science Operations Center or my Io New Horizons page can give you an idea as to which images are Io images in the dataset.
In addition to these search pages, you also download the Galileo, Voyager, and Cassini datasets just as you would the New Horizons images, using wget.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Highlights from the Past Week

A quiet week due to Tax Day on Tuesday (yeah, I procrastinated on that), but here are a few of the highlights:

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Galileo I32 Tohil Mosaic

I finally uploaded the final Galileo SSI observation that I had not completed to my Galileo Io Images Page. The mosaic, from Galileo's October 2001 I32 flyby of Io, is from the 32ISTOHIL_01 observation and covers the central part of Tohil Patera and Tohil Mons and almost all of the smaller Radegast Patera. The images in this mosaic were acquired shortly after these features passed the morning terminator and the sun was low in the ionian sky, making topography appear more visible. This mosaic has a resolution of 50.9 meters per pixel. Definitely check out the full-resolution version.

Tohil Mons is a 9.4-km tall mountain with a very complex morphology. It appears to consist of slabs of Io's lithosphere that have been thrust upward through a series of thrust fault, similar to imbricate thrust belts on Earth. While no direct evidence for layering is visible on the slopes of Tohil Mons (layers would need to be much thicker than the expected 1-10 m thick flows thus far observed on Io to be visible here), indirect evidence comes from several patches of bright frost visible along many slope faces. These patches are likely SO2 frost deposited after sapping. The complex morphology of the mountain is largely the result of mass wasting since the mountains formation, including landslides and massive slope failure, particularly near the top of the mountain.

The two volcanoes visible in this mosaic have quite different morphologies. Radegast Patera, a small volcano visible across much of the center frame, has a dark floor and steep sides. Two dark lava flows are visible near the northern end of Radegast. These flows formed sometime between February 2000 and October 2001 and, according to the NIMS instrument onboard Galileo, were still warm during the I32 encounter. The lack of debris flows on the patera floor suggests that either the volcano is or was a lava lake or that the rate of resurfacing out paces that of mass wasting. Tohil Patera, a much larger volcano that covers much of the two right-hand frames, is much shallower depression with a mottled appearance. The brighter portions of the patera appears to be covered in ~10 meter thick flows, either sulfur flows or older silicate flows that are now coated in SO2. Several dark patches are visible with some due to dark, silicate flows.

A more extensive overview of this observation is provided in Turtle et al. 2004 and Williams et al. 2004.

Link: Galileo I32 Images []

Friday, April 18, 2008

Icarus May 2008 Issue

The latest issue of the journal Icarus is now online (with papers available to individual or institutional subscribers). No new Io papers are in this issue but there are a few interesting papers on Titan from the RADAR and VIMS teams. For the Jupiter system, there are a couple of papers on the Jovian ring system and two papers on Europa.

Link: Science Direct - Icarus, Volume 195, Issue 1, Pages 1-510 (May 2008) []

Io on Google Books

One useful resource I have found online and have been using a lot lately (for example, I credit Google Books for helping me find the name "Mayda" for the large island in northern Kraken Mare on Titan). Google Books provides online previews for various publications that they have scanned and uploaded to their website. The service is not without its flaws as many books suffer from missing pages. With that in mind, here are a few books with nice overview chapters on Io:
  • Encyclopedia of the Solar System - Second Edition: I have a hardcopy of the first edition that I got as a birthday present almost a decade ago. The second edition continues the high standard set by the first and includes updates since the first's publication. The Io chapter by Rosaly Lopes provides a nice overview on the science of Io's surface and interior, but four missing pages in Google Books copy cover topics such as the Galileo mission at Io and the various Jovian magnetospheric interactions with Io.
  • Jupiter: The Planet, Satellites, and Magnetosphere: This book was intended as an overview of what we knew about the Jovian system at the end of the Galileo mission. The book includes a 22-page chapter on the geology and composition of Io's surface by Galileo Imaging team member, Alfred McEwen and others. Only once page is missing due to a scanning error. The more extensive coverage of the Jovian system also allows for separate chapters on the Plasma torus and Io's interaction with its plasma torus and Jupiter magnetosphere (though some of those suffer from more missing pages).
  • Worlds on Fire: Volcanoes on the Earth, the Moon, Mars, Venus and Io: This book by Charles Frankel covers volcanism throughout the solar system and includes an extensive chapter on Io and several of its volcanoes. A more general audience is intended with this offering so this might be a good choice for those looking for a more general overview than those previewed above. This book is more limited in the number of pages you can view before it cuts you out and has more missing pages than the selections above.
For laughs, you can always read Europa: The Ocean Moon by Richard Greenberg. Offers a nice scientific overview, if you can forgive the blatant Europan propaganda and the fact that it doesn't give a balanced overview of the whole thin-ice vs. thick-ice issue that brewed on the Galileo team. You can read my original review of this book on my old Titan blog.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008 - NASA, Europe Explore Joint Mission to Outer Planets has a nice article on the current status of the flagship mission selection process as it stands at the moment. There isn't anything that hasn't been covered here in the last week (though obviously it covers the Titan/Saturn mission too, though it still gets the final destination of the orbiter in that mission wrong). It again seems to confirm what I have heard (and can be seen in the timeline in the EJSM presentation) that downselection is currently being targeted for mid-November of this year. The author also seem to imply that ESA is still committed to their separate downselection process for their Cosmic Visions program, which could see one of two space observatories being developed instead of their commitment to this flagship mission (be it the Jupiter Planetary Orbiter or the Titan balloon). The article also highlights the possibility of a Russian-made Europa lander more than a possible Japanese-built Magnetospheric orbiter.

The comments are pretty interesting. Obviously the presidential election will take a backseat to this far more important decision: Should we go to Europa first, or Titan? It isn't bloody yet, but you just wait. I'd pay to see Bob and Ralph go ten rounds.

Okay, so which do I favor? I currently work on Titan data from Cassini. Obviously, my favorite moon is still Io, and I would love to see more upclose observations of that moon (forget Europa, let's just flyby Io). For the time being, it is rather difficult for me to chose one or the other. For example, we still don't know what the baseline payload for Jupiter Planetary Orbiter is. For Io science, it is imperative that this spacecraft have a decent narrow-angle camera with a IFOV of at least 10 ┬Árad (100,000 km altitude = 1 km/pixel). The Europa Orbiter could flyby Io as many as four times. As long as these are in the baseline mission, and the JPO has a decent camera, I would support the Europa/Jupiter System Mission. Looking strictly at the primary missions of both concepts, I am more impressed and excited by the Titan/Saturn System Mission. If Io science were to be greatly curtailed in the Jupiter system mission, I think the Titan project would be great.

Link: NASA, Europe Explore Joint Mission to Outer Planets []

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

New Horizons Io Observation Page

I now have all the Io observations acquired by New Horizons in my Io Observations Page. I may still add new processed versions later on but at the very least the page is complete.

Hope you all enjoy!

Io, Callisto, and Jupiter - 4/10/2008

A few new Io images acquired by astrophotographers in the last few days:
Link: Jupiter, Callisto, and Io []

Even More New Horizons Io Observations

I have added ten more sequences to my New Horizons Io Observations page. These cover sequences taken in the days following the February 2007 encounter with Jupiter and Io, including a near conjunction of Io and Europa (shown at left). The cool features visible in these images include specular reflection from Loki, the Prometheus plume on the bright limb and against the surface of Io, and Masubi's two plumes.

Enjoy! Only four more to go.

Link: New Horizons Io Observations []

Monday, April 14, 2008

Aviation Week: Dynamic Outer Planets Expedition Readied

Aviation Week has an interesting article on the two Outer Planets flagship mission studies that are on going. The article seems to focus more on the Saturn/Titan mission concept, which includes a Saturn/Titan orbiter, a Titan balloon, and possible drop probes that would study the surface in situ. The article also goes into how funding for the flagship mission will likely effect the Mars program, which will see a slow down in their mission schedule over the next decade to accommodate the sample return.

Link: Dynamic Outer Planets Expedition Readied []

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Highlights from the Past Week

A rather busy week, so here is the stories from the last week:

Friday, April 11, 2008

New Drug Prevents Radiation Damage

nprev over at has pointed out a new story on the website on the discovery of an anti-radiation drug. The drug, code-named CBLB502, prevents damage (apoptosis or cellular suicide as the article calls it) from lethal doses of radiation to bone marrow and gastrointestinal cells. This is accomplished by mimicking cancer cells by activating a chemical pathway called NFKB. Rhesus monkeys and mice given this drug an hour before radiation exposure showed no ill-effects.

Such a drug will have numerous applications. The drug will certainly be given to cancer patients receiving radiation treatment. It also has civil defense applications. Exploration of the solar system would also be helped by this drug since the ill-effects from radiation exposure in space would be reduced, perhaps making the exploration of Io more tenable.

Link: New Drug Prevents Radiation Damage []

Renewed Explosive Volcanism at Kilauea

A second explosive eruption took place at Halema`uma`u crater atop the Kilauea volcano on Wednesday morning. The eruption, along with winds out of the south, lowered air quality across the more populated areas of the Big Island, including Hilo. This was due to the high amounts of sulfur dioxide within the new vent's gas plume. Sulfur dioxide, a common volcanic gas on Io and Earth, can causes irritation to a person's respiratory system.

Webcam images of the new vent along the wall of Halema`uma`u crater reveal a large, white plume and glowing red lava being spat out of the vent. The new explosion has expanded this vent by 5-10 meters. Debris from the explosion, smaller than the one that took place last month, could be found on the rim of the crater, 70 meters above the vent.

Air quality in Hilo is expected to improve as returning trade winds will blow the sulfur-rich plume to the southwest, away from major population centers.

Link: Halema`uma`u vent explodes a second time []

Thursday, April 10, 2008

More New Horizons Observations of Io

I have added a second set of Io observations to my New Horizons Io Observations page. These include the observations acquired around New Horizons' closest approach to Io on February 28, 2007.

I've also been playing around with the color MVIC data to make them look more Galileo-like. I think the results looks very nice, as shown in the image at left, a combination of color MVIC data and a greyscale LORRI image. Pele certainly looks very nice with this setup.

Link: New Horizons Io Observations []

New Images of Io and Jupiter from the other day

A transit of Io across the disk of Jupiter was visible in the early morning hours of April 8 from east Asia and Australia. Several observers there captured the transit and posted their images online. Christopher Go managed to capture (as usual) some great images of Io and its shadow crossing the disk of Jupiter (you can see Io below and to the left of the Great Red Spot). Additional images acquired yesterday morning by Go show Io on the far side of Jupiter (to the right of Jupiter in his images, remember south is up).

Nice to see Io is still around. Hadn't seen any new images in a week or so.

Link: Jupiter Image 2008/04/08(UT) []

New Horizons Io Observations

I have gone ahead and started up a page for Io observations acquired last year by the New Horizons spacecraft. This page includes images processed from the raw LORRI and MVIC images in the New Horizons PDS archive. The LORRI camera provides broadband, gray-scale images with different exposure times highlighting different aspects of Io, from its sunlit surface, to Jupiter-shine (the sub-Jovian hemisphere illuminated by Jupiter, rather than the Sun), to Io's volcanic plumes. The MVIC part of the RALPH instruments provides 4-filter color images. The instrument was designed for capturing color images in the Pluto system, so the sunlit areas in red and Near-IR filter images are overexposed, while blue and methane filter images are better exposed in high-phase observations.

Lots of cool stuff are available on this page. All LORRI images are in greyscale, 16-bit PNG files. Each image (that isn't terribly overexposed) has been rotated, sharpened, cropped, and magnified versions. Also look for MVIC color images (some combined with their LORRI counterparts), colorized LORRI images, annotated images, and preview images from Celestia to get an idea of the geometry of the observation.

The page is still under construction. Have about half the images on the page right now.

Link: New Horizons Io Observations []

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

More from the OPAG Spring Meeting

A few additional notes on the OPAG Spring Meeting Presentations:
  • Van Kane pointed out on that while the downselection between the Jupiter/Europa and Saturn/Titan mission will be later this year and instrument selection for the NASA component will occur in 2009 and 2010, ESA won't choose between the downselected Outer Planets Flagship mission, an X-Ray observatory, and a Gravitational Wave Observatory until 2011. Huh? Basically, when NASA and ESA decide between Titan and Europa in November, NASA will go ahead and get started on its component of the mission. According to Lebreton's presentation, ESA won't decide to commit to that mission until 2011, and it could even decide to do a different mission. Umm, yeah, something tells me that discrepancy won't last. For the Jupiter/Europa mission, this is less important since the two (or three) mission components would be launched separately. However, the two components of the Saturn/Titan mission would be launched together, with ESA's in situ probe piggy-backing on NASA's Titan orbiter. NASA, I doubt, would support such a mission architecture when ESA's involvement could still be pulled. This aspect of NASA and ESA's collaboration of this effort will need to be addressed before the JSDTs get too far in their study.
  • Lebreton, in his presentation, states that the Jupiter Planetary Orbiter, ESA's contribution to the Europa/Jupiter System Mission, would launch no earlier than 2018. If combined with JAXA's possible Jupiter Magnetospheric Orbiter, this would push its launch date to no earlier than 2020. The Europa Orbiter would launch no later than 2017.
  • In Ron Greeley's Europa/Jupiter mission presentation, the science goals for the Jupiter Magnetospheric Orbiter, appear to be pretty well defined. The presentation uses the name Jupiter Polar Orbiter for this probe.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Io Volcano Observer

Leonard Dudzinski, the Program Executive for NASA's Radioisotope Power Systems Program, presented details on the availability of plutonium-based power sources for space missions, on new types of Radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG)'s, and on a program to test one of these new types of RTGs on the next Discovery-class mission.

Currently, the plutonium used to power some of the planned upcoming missions (like the Outer Planets Flagship Mission, the Mars Science Laboratory rover, and the next Discovery mission) is purchased from Russia. New production here in the US may start up in the middle of the next decade, but that won't be enough to supply the missions planned in the NASA roadmap. To improve this outlook, new technology and more efficient RTGs will be needed. Enter the Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator (ASRG). This RTG uses 75% less plutonium per unit but provides 115-130% more watts than the next-generation MMRTGs to be used on the upcoming Mars rover and Outer Planet Flagship missions. Plus the ASRG weighs less and costs less per unit.

While the ASRG will be a boon for missions that require power from radioisotopes, it is as yet not flight tested. This is why the next Outer Planets Flagship mission will use the less efficient MMRTGs. NASA has decided to make two ASRGs available for the next Discovery-class mission, to be launched in 2013-2014. All previous Discovery-class missions have used solar panels for power. The cost of the RTGs will not be counted against the Discovery mission cost cap. To study the feasibility of such a plan, NASA has commissioned nine mission concept studies to see if such mission can fit within the Discovery cost cap.

And the big news: one of these mission concept studies is the Io Volcano Observer. This study is being run by Dr. Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona (my boss). Few details are publicly available at this point on this mission concept, but the idea would be for the mission to perform multiple flybys of Io. I had thought this was a study for a New Frontier-class mission. I didn't even think of this being a Discovery-class mission.

The concept study should be finished in late September. No word on when this will be available.

Link: Radioisotope Power for NASA's Space Science Missions []

Preliminary Report on Jupiter Joint SDT

Ron Greeley from Arizona State University presented a status report on the Jupiter/Europa Joint Science Definition Team (JSDT) at last week's Spring OPAG Meeting. As reported earlier, the Jupiter JDST will be a combination of ESA's LaPlace and NASA's Europa Explorer and Jupiter System Observer mission concepts. The mission would be composed of three separate mission components: Europa Orbiter (provided by NASA), Jupiter Planetary Orbiter (provided by ESA), and Jupiter Magnetospheric Orbiter (provided by Japan's national space agency, JAXA). Greeley's presentation and Jean Paul Lebreton's Cosmic Visions presentation provide details on how this joint mission concept study is progressing.

First, it appears that the Jupiter Planetary Orbiter will not flyby Io as originally thought. This mission component will use solar panels for power and thus will likely stay in the neighborhood of Ganymede and Callisto. Very few details were provided on the Jupiter Planetary Orbiter component though the presentation states that its science goals will be focused on the Jupiter System as a whole.

The Europa Orbiter (EO) has evolved a bit since the Europa Explorer concept study. The mission has taken on more of the Jupiter System science goals from the Jupiter System Observer concept. This includes early orbital tour strategies that include as many as four close Io flybys, though none and one near orbit insertion are also possibilities. Four Io flybys would add 0.3 Mrad to EO's total radiation dosage, but this is offset by EO's shorter primary mission at Europa (60 days versus 6 months for last year's Europa Explorer concept). The flybys would also add 10-20 kg of mass to the Attitude Control Subsystem, though the JSDT notes that this mass trade ''looks favorable'' since less fuel would be needed compared to using Ganymede to slow EO down near JOI.

This cut in primary mission length is intended to reduce the total cost of the mission down to NASA's cost cap of $2.1 billion (from $2.4-2.6 billion). Other cuts include the removal of several instruments from the core payload. These cuts include the narrow-angle camera, which was baselined with the resolution equivalent to the camera on Galileo. The two remaining camera systems, the medium-angle camera and the wide-angle camera, will have resolutions 10 and 100 times coarser, respectively. This cut will reduce the effectiveness of EO to do distant Io science, but this could be made up if the Jupiter Planetary Orbiter retains Jupiter System Observer's superior camera systems. The core payload also omits the Thermal Imager, which will reduce EO's effectiveness to map lower temperature thermal emission on Io. The Near-IR Spectrometer has been retained so that should be fine for higher temperature hotspots.

Another note from the Greeley (and Lebreton) presentations is that these mission components will likely be launched separately, and not necessarily in the same launch window. It is also possible that the Magnetospheric orbiter and Planetary Orbiter will be launched on the same vehicle. However, this would push JPO to 2020 or later, since the Magnetospheric Orbiter will not launch before 2020.

This mission concept is competing with the Titan/Saturn System Mission to be selected as the next flagship mission to the outer planets. Selection of the mission to be launched in the 2016-2017 timeframe will come later in the year.

Link: Preliminary Report of the Joint Jupiter SDT []

OPAG Spring Meeting Presentations

The presentations from NASA's Outer Planets Assessment Group (OPAG)'s Spring Meeting are now online. I am still sorting through them, but their are presentations on the Jupiter Joint Science Definition team's preliminary report, on the state of the Outer Planets Flagship mission program, on ESA's LaPlace and TANDEM mission concepts, on the state of radioisotope power, and on the New Frontiers program.

Will post a more complete summary in a couple of hours.

Link: March 2008 OPAG Meeting []

Monday, April 7, 2008

Zal and Shamshu mosaics from I27

Processed two more mosaics from I27. Both mosaics are regional-scale (~300-350 meters per pixel) views of the terminator at the time of the flyby. The first, 27ISZALTRM01, covers the Zal Patera-Mongibello Mons region of Io. The second, 27ISSHMSHU01, covers Shamshu Patera and the mountains surrounding it, as well as mountains and patera to the north of that active volcano. The significant gaps between frames results from some images not being downlinked from the spacecraft.

Hope you all enjoy! I will probably move on to work on a New Horizons Io image page before finishing up with the rest of the Galileo images, though I don't think I am missing too many observations except for the Tohil high-resolution mosaic from I32.

Link: Galileo I27 Images []

Sunday, April 6, 2008

New Season of Battlestar Galactica

Just got done watching the first episode of the new season of Battlestar Galactica. Not bad, though I get the feeling I've seen this episode before, though I prefer Katie Sarkoff to Jodie Foster. Though I wouldn't describe the Moon as "yellow". Otherwise not a bad episode, a lot better than that New Caprica nonsense that started off Season 3.

Highlights from the last week

A much quieter week but here are the highlights:

Amirani mosaic from I27

Okay, I got one mosaic done tonight. I wasn't planning on posting this tonight but decided to stay up and watch the season premiere of Battlestar Galactica that I missed last night as well as the last couple of episodes from last season (hey, it has been a year since last season).

This mosaic is from Galileo's I27 flyby of Io that took place on February 22, 2000. This mosaic shows the Amirani lava flow at 207 meters (680 feet) per pixel. This mosaic was released at the time as PIA02567. I have created three separate versions of this mosaic. The first is a three-frame, green-filter mosaic covering the entire main flow field except the extension out west for the old Voyager-era Maui plume. The second is a single-frame, three-color (violet, green, and IR-756) composite over the center of the flow field. The third is a composite of the green-filter mosaic, the three-color composite, and low-resolution color data from C21 (shown at left).

The Amirani flow field is a composite basaltic flow field. Basically, the flow field is a build-up of smaller flow breakouts. You can see here the main flow field in green with recent (as of February 2000) flows in darker greens and black. The green color is the result of a chemical interaction between condensing sulfur and the cooling lava flows. As the flows cool, more sulfur and sulfur dioxide can condense on them, brightening the flow field as it cools and ages. The lava at Amirani starts out at a patera near lower left and is then funneled east via a narrow lava channel or lava tube. The plume at Amirani erupts from the dark spot near the boundary between the middle and bottom frames in the mosaic.

Link: Galileo I27 Images []

Saturday, April 5, 2008

More Cowbell: Or Why I probably won't post any new images tonight

I usually post new reprocessed mosaics on Saturday night, but I may not get a chance tonight since Christopher Walken is hosting Saturday Night Live. This cast may not even be close to the best that SNL has had, but when Walken hosts the show, it is certain to be at least watchable.

I mean, he was in the best SNL skit ever:

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Fun with Celestia and Tohil Mons

<- Lookie what I made. This image uses Celestia to simulate the view from Galileo shortly after the I32 flyby in October 2002. The big thing is the use of an elevation map by Paul Schenk of Tohil Mons, near the terminator just below center. Compare this image to the view capture by Galileo, 32ISTERMIN01.

Very nice if I do say so myself. Now I just need topo maps of all the other mountains on Io ;)

Reprocessed Mosaics from I27

Now that I am done with mosaicking images from I24, it is time to move on to I27. What about I25 and E26, you may ask? Well, for right now, I have all those images processed into nice mosaics. The only thing I can see doing is maybe some noise filtering and updating the color in the Culann mosaic.

For I27, I had previously uploaded mosaics of Amirani, Prometheus, the Chaac-Camaxtli region (as well as a version combined with C21 color), Tvashtar, and a cliff east of Isum Patera.

The two mosaics I worked on this time around include a high resolution view of Prometheus and environs and Tohil Mons. 27ISPROMTH01 is an eight-frame mosaic covering parts of the Prometheus flow field and the ridges just to the north of the field. Bright sulfur dioxide frost is clear visible superimposed on the ridges, blasted out from active flow fronts as the volatile is superheated after being covered in lava. The ridges are a fairly ubiquitous feature on Io's equatorial bright snowfields and are thought to be created as a response by the weak, SO2-rich surface layer to the local tidal stresses (see Bart et al. 2004). Toward the lower right of the mosaic, you can see two spots of incandescent lava. 27ISTOHIL_01 is a high-sun view of the mountain Tohil Mons (check out this I32 mosaic for a low-sun view of the same area). This observation is similar to one acquired in I24. The two mosaics allowed scientists to develop Digital Elevation Models of the mountain. The dark volcano near the center of 27ISTOHIL_01 is called Radagast Patera and the one to the northeast of that is Tohil Patera.

Last Couple of Mosaics from I24

Finally finished up reprocessing the last couple of observations from I24: a three-color global observation of Io's trailing hemisphere and a 10-frame mosaic covering the Isum-Donar-Zamama region of Io's northern trailing hemisphere.

The 24ISGLOCOL01 observation (left) was taken nearly 14 hours after Galileo's encounter with the satellite and involved numerous color filters. This observation was intended as part of a campaign to examine the changes in the dark pyroclastic deposit surrounding Pillan (just below center), then more than two years after the initial eruption, as well as to look a compositional variations on Io's surface, particularly looking for the presence of an absorption band at 0.9 microns that would reveal the presence of orthopyroxene, a common iron- and silica-rich mineral found in basaltic lavas. Note the teardrop-shaped mountain near the terminator at upper right.

The second observation is 24ISZAMAMA02, a mosaic intended to look at the Isum-Donar-Zamama-Volund region on Io. Unfortunately, many of the frames were scrambled in a manner that could not be recovered. Only 10 images out of 18 acquired are usable for this mosaic. So no Volund (and almost no Isum). But hey, Donar and Zamama shows up really well. Donar is a volcano near the center of the mosaic where lava appears to have over flowed its patera and flowed south then east. Just to the west of Donar is a teardrop-shaped dark outline. Yep, that's the outline around the mountain mentioned in the previous image. You don't see topography here, just albedo features, so obviously dark material has accumulated along the base and slope of the mountain. Zamama is the lava flow at the eastern end of the mosaic. The lava vent is at the western end of the flow (where you see the radiating lava flows), and the Zamama plume emanated from the center of the large lava flow. The earlier ZAMAMA01 observation revealed higher resolution details of this lava flow.

Don't forget to click on the names of the observations here . These will take you to higher resolution versions of these mosaics. Don't forget to check out the rest of the I24 observations here, as well as the other images I have reprocessed here.

Hope you enjoyed the April Fool's Joke from yesterday. Obviously, I was just joking about who Hillary Clinton went with on her trip to Io in 1997. She really went with her daughter Chelsea, country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, and comedian Arsenio Hall (not Vanilla Ice and Bozo the Clown).

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Bush to Announce Plans for Manned Mission to Io

First off, I just want to say that it does pay to have friends in high places. In my case, it is Jessica Cairns, an assistant for the State Department White House liaison.

Anyways, she gave me the heads up and permission to post here that Bush plans to announce a shift in the destination of the goal of the VSE from Mars to Io! The announcement is expected to come during a speech at NASA Headquarters next week after Bush returns from the NATO summit in Romania and his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. During the speech, Bush will outline plans for a series of unmanned probes to be launched toward Io over the next decade. The lunar missions will be refocused as test missions for the Io missions to come later. Particularly, rad-hard technologies and work in 1/6 gravity will be the focus.

Why the shift from Mars? After decades of unmanned Mars exploration, little evidence for life there has been found. The administration felt that if we had to send people to someplace lifeless, we might as well send people somewhere where "stuff blows up."

Already I see on the CNN website that the two remaining Democratic presidential candidates are attacking the plan. Barack Obama says that the country can ill afford to send manned missions to someplace where Illinois businessman Tony Rezko can't develop real estate. He also wanted to make it clear that he was the first to come out against this plan. Hillary Clinton related a story of her trip to Io in 1997, with her daughter Chelsea, rapper Vanilla Ice, and Bozo the Clown, where she nearly died of radiation sickness.

Anyways, details are pretty hard to come by at this point since the official announcement won't come until next week but I will certainly try to find out as much as I can and get back to you all.