Friday, May 13, 2022

Neptune is still amazing

Years after the flight over Neptune by the Voyager 2 probe, it is still able to reconstruct spectacular images by processing the data obtained by the probe. This is demonstrated by this masterpiece created by Rolf Olsen, which shows Neptune and its main moon Triton surrounded by the ring system.

The astrophotographer in creating this image was guided by the motivation that until then had never been released a high-resolution image that portrayed the system of Neptune in its entirety. Olsen, as he explains on his website (the link is in credit), started to comb through the archives in search of raw images of Neptune ready for processing. Among these, Olsen found some images depicting a crescent sickle of Neptune, with the south pole surrounded by a vast system of atmospheric formations. These images have been digitally merged and colored: the blue of the image is what the human eye would see if it were near the planet.

A similar process was done for Triton, processing images obtained by Voyager 2 three days after the moment of maximum approach to the planet.

The difficult part of making this image was the rings, since before that they had never been taken all together in a single image. However, Olsen was able to reconstruct the density profile of the rings based on the few data available and was able to obtain a result that is very close to reality.

The last ingredient missing from the final image was the starry background. By checking one by one the long-exposure images taken by Voyager 2 on the approach to Neptune, Olsen was able to identify some stars, from which he was able to derive the coordinates and then the region of sky observed by the probe. 

In this way, with a lot of work, Olsen was able to recreate in a sublime way what he saw the Voyager 2 in his approach to Neptune!

Credit: NASA/JPL (Voyager 2, NASA Planetary Data System), Rolf Wahl Olsen 

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