Thursday, December 22, 2011

Our Solar System In Focus

Robotic probes launched by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the European Space Agency (ESA), and others are gathering information right now all across the solar system. We currently have spacecraft in orbit around the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and Saturn. Several others on their way to smaller bodies, and a few on their way out of the solar system entirely. 

 On Mars, a rover called Spirit has just been officially left for dead, after two years of radio silence from it but its twin, Opportunity, continues on its mission, now more than 2,500 days beyond its originally planned 90-days. 

 With all these eyes in the sky, here is a photo album of our Solar system, a set of family portraits, as seen by our astronauts and mechanical emissaries.

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) satellite captures an image of the Earth's moon crossing in front of the Sun, on May 3, 2011. (NASA/GSFC/SDO) 

When a rather large-sized (M 3.6 class) flare occurred near the edge of the Sun, it blew out a gorgeous, waving mass of erupting plasma that swirled and twisted over a 90-minute period on February 24, 2011. This event was captured in extreme ultraviolet light by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft . Some of the material blew out into space and other portions fell back to the surface. (NASA/GSFC/SDO)

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