COOL IMAGES

COOL IMAGES: Armchair Space Voyages

Science  24 Jul 1998:
Vol. 281, Issue 5376, pp. 483
DOI: 10.1126/science.281.5376.483a

Data streams from distant spacecraft were once the only way to get a close glimpse of the planets, but these days you can fly by without leaving your desk. The Solar System Simulator (space.jpl.nasa.gov), based on a tool originally used by mission designers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, creates striking pictures showing the location and apparent phase of any of 32 planets and moons as they would look from any other, or from four satellites—and you even get to pick the date. For example, you could get the simulator's view of what the Galileo spacecraft would have seen on 21 July, as it coasted by Jupiter's moon Europa (whose cracked ice surface is suspected of harboring an ocean). The simulator site, which also features several movies, is part of a Web space library created by JPL's David Seal that includes zoom-in global texture maps of planets and moons, and some stellar space artwork.

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