Six 'Distant Horizons' from our Solar System. Can you name them all?
Monday, October 6, 2014, 10:37 AM - Our Solar System is home to a wide variety of landscapes, some as new as today and some very likely older than our Sun. In this image - a composite of six different spacecraft views - we a set of examples that runs that entire range. Without cheating (the full image is below), can you name them all?
At least one should be instantly recognizable. Two or three more are easy enough to get, just based on seeing images that have popped up in the news and on the internet. The last two or three may stump many of us, partly because it's a surprise to discover that we actually had a spacecraft get that close.
If you think you've got the answer, or the suspense is just too much, scroll down below.
From the NASA JPL website:
"Image shows the surfaces of Asteroid Itokawa, the Moon, Venus, Mars, Titan, and Earth. All images show a view of nearby rocks to the distant horizon. The amount of surface modification evident of each of the bodies increases roughly from left to right. From the the rubble pile asteroid of Itokawa, the cratered plains of the moon, the volcanic basalts of Venus, the basalt filled craters of Mars, the eroded icy cobbles of Titan to the great oceans of Earth, a variety of surfaces in our solar system is represented."
Indeed, the order of the images does likely rank the horizons - left to right - from oldest to youngest.
Asteroid Itokawa (image courtesy Japan's Hayabusa spacecraft) is very likely a pristine landscape, unchanged for billions of years. The Moon's surface (image courtesy the Apollo 17 astronauts) has been modified by asteroid impacts, volcanic activity, and even the constant blast of the solar wind. The landscape of Venus (imaged by the Soviet Venera 14 lander during the 57 minutes it survived on the surface) has been altered by volcanism, wind erosion, plus the harsh chemical soup and intense heat of the planet's thick atmosphere. Mars (image taken by the Spirit rover) was modified by water millions to billions of years ago, and has been scoured by wind and dust ever since it dried up. Titan's surface (imaged by the ESA's Huygens lander) has a combination of frozen and liquid hydrocarbons that modify the landscape in much the same way as the oceans do here on Earth. The final frame, showing the youngest surface, here on Earth, was captured by organic chemist Mike Malaska, who compiled the whole picture for the JPL website.
For more JPL infographics (and how to make your own), click here.