Thursday, December 22, 2011

Icosahedral Planet Models

I wanted to make a Christmas present for my middle-school-aged niece, and I wanted it to be science-related. So, I found these images at various places on the web (starting at the very nice page assembled by Steve Albers). I then wrote a computer program to turn the images into the maps you see here - projected onto icosohedra (20-sided solid objects).

It reminded me once again what a remarkable time we are living in. When I was born, *none* of these maps would have been possible. And many of them have only been made possible in the last decade (in fact, the Mercury and Vesta maps were just made this year).

Here is an example - our very own Moon:

You can find all the images at Google Plus

Edit: People who were not logged in to Google+ could not download all the pictures. So I've also uploaded the album to Flickr.

There are maps of:

Callisto   Deimos    Dione     Earth
    Enceladus  Europa    Ganymede  Iapetus
    Io         Jupiter   Luna      Mars
    Mercury    Mimas     Phobos    Tethys
    Titan      Venus     Vesta

When you print them out, make sure they are not cropped off the sides of the paper.  The instructions for assembling them can be found here. Note that the results are significantly better if you print on a light cardstock rather than just paper. Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!

Footnote: here are the attributions for the original images I made these from:

All maps are from Steve Albers' Planetary Maps except:

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Lunar Eclipse over Horsetooth

I went out early this morning to catch the last lunar eclipse until 2014.  This one is unique, because, from the United States, it occurred near sunrise.  So you can see the pink light on Horsetooth mountain from the pre-dawn glow in the east.  The moon went behind the mountains before totality.

This picture was taken at about 6:45 AM local time on a DSLR attached to an 80mm f/6 telescope (480mm focal length), a 1/2 second exposure at ISO 400 (and then computer-processed somewhat to enhance the contrast).