Sunday, September 7, 2008

All the images taken by Venus Express' quasi-visual camera ...

... VMC have finally, after long delays, started to appear in ESA's public archive which is a huge FTP directory system. To make the images - so far only the UV channel is available, for the first 300 orbits - easier to access the Planetary Society has prepared pages full of thumbnails behind which the original data files wait, in a rather special ".IMG" format (for which free conversion software exists, however). These images could be called the 'ground truth' (although the dark features are caused by still mysterious chemical compounds in the high atmosphere) for groundbased pictures - like those obtained by amateur astronomers which fill archives in Japan or by ESA which has early seen their value and encourages uploading.

Already last year a poster and handout highlighting the high state of the art of amateur planetary imaging surprised many professionals at a conference - the successor of which, by the way, will take place later this month in Münster, Germany. With, for the first time, oral contributions by amateur astronomers, filling a complete session. Fellow amateur astronomers as well as teachers can attend the conference at a drastically reduced fee, by the way, and registration isn't necessary either: just show up in M√ľnster!

In other news there exists another VMC - on Mars Express and back in operation now - which currently delivers the only full disk view of Mars, and amateurs are invited to get the most out of these images. • Jupiter images of late August: from the 30th, the 27th (more) and the 23rd - the latter from Namibia. • Meet the Boattinis: W1 on Sep. 2 and J1 on Sep. 1/2. • Some prominences in early September. • And finally a really weird demonstration that epicycles can do everything if you've got enough of them ...

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