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The Space We Love (Text Version)


In the spirit of Valentine's Day 2011, we asked JPLers from all walks of life to share their favorite NASA image.

You can look at our slideshow as an interactive or scroll through the images below.


volcano on Jupiter's moon Io

Slide 1: Volcano on Jupiter's moon Io -- Rosaly Lopes, Senior Research Scientist › Full resolution image

The reason I like this image of Tupan Patera is because it's a great-looking volcano on Io. We discovered it to be active during the Galileo mission, and think it is a lava lake, about 70 kilometers (almost 44 miles) across. The dark areas are hot while the reds and yellows are cold and have sulfur deposits.

I suggested the name Tupan to the International Astronomical Union. Tupan is the Brazilian native god of thunder and I am from Brazil so I knew about the mythological Tupan. Io has many active volcanoes but I think this is one of the most spectacular-looking ones and my personal favorite.


Phoenix Lander descends on Mars
Slide 2: Phoenix Lander Descends on Mars -- Sarah Milkovich, HiRISE Investigation Scientist › Full resolution image

This spectacular image of the Mars Phoenix Lander parachuting down to the Martian surface was taken by the HiRISE camera onboard Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). I chose this image because not only is it a great achievement in terms of engineering and planning, but it also captures two Mars missions that have personal importance to me.

My first job after transitioning from a JPL postdoc to an employee was as part of the Mars Phoenix surface operations team - I was one of the instrument sequencing engineers, or the people who put together the commands for the lander's science activities each day. It was a wonderful, jump-in-with-both-feet introduction to the world of spacecraft science operations. A year after Phoenix ended, I joined MRO's operations team as the investigation scientist for HiRISE. My job is to be HiRISE's representative at JPL and to keep the lines of communication open between the science team and the spacecraft operations team.

I'm very proud to be part of the team that works hard to bring back spectacular images of the Martian surface and provide a wonderful dataset for Mars science.


Malaspina Glacier, Alaska
Slide 3: Malaspina Glacier in Alaska -- Annie Richardson, Outreach Lead/Jason Missions › Full resolution image

This is a Landsat perspective image of Malaspina Glacier in Alaska, using topography from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM). I love all the textures in the image and how the glacier looks like water. It looks like the solid Earth and a liquid glacier are both flowing down toward you.

Every time I see it I am reminded of the beauty of Earth from space and the creativity of the scientists and engineers who produce images from numbers (spacecraft send images back to Earth as digital numbers that are then reconstructed into images). Although I've never been to this glacier, or even to Alaska, when I look at this image I tell myself that from the ground, there's no way it could look this cool.

I'm the Outreach Lead for NASA's Jason-1 and OSTM/Jason-2 missions but I've spent more than 20 years working for Spaceborne Imaging Radar teams and still appreciate the data from those missions.


Hubble Deep Field
Slide 4: Distant Galaxies in the Universe -- Marc Rayman, Dawn Chief Engineer/Mission Manager › Larger image

I have been an avid space enthusiast my entire life, and NASA has produced many images that I easily could call my favorite. I selected this Hubble Space Telescope photo because of its grandeur. Think of looking at a tiny part of the sky that appears about as small as the period at the end of this sentence. There lie a dizzying number of galaxies!

All the glowing jewels in this picture, some more than one billion times fainter than you could see with your naked eye, are immense collections of stars fantastically far away. In this one wonderful image lie 10 thousand galaxies, each one larger than everything we experience, larger than our world, larger than our solar system, larger even than everything we see in a beautiful star-studded sky on the darkest night. I love this picture, because it shows the universe. Period.


Ronald McNair, NASA Astronaut
Slide 5: Ronald McNair, NASA Astronaut -- Curtis Wilkerson, Juno Quality Assurance Engineer › Full resolution image

My favorite NASA image is that of NASA Astronaut Ronald E. McNair. Although not the first African-American astronaut, he was the one that stood out to me the most and helped influence several decisions in my life that ultimately led me to the same undergraduate institution (North Carolina A&T State University, Greensboro) and to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

This image is so special to me now and was so special to me as a child because it gives me hope! What I see in this image is a black man who must have been very smart and worked very hard to get to this point where his smile exudes extreme happiness and pride for being selected as one of the few human beings who gets to represent his country while traveling into space!

The image gave me hope as a child that if I continued to do well in school and made wise decisions in how I chose to live my life, then I too could achieve that ultimate goal because someone that looks like me has done it before.

This image continues to give me hope as a young man now that I am eligible to apply to the U.S. Astronaut Corp. -- hope that selection to the Corp. is realistic and hope that even in failure I could find just as much joy and happiness in the pursuit of that dream, the life I have created for myself, and the career that I have chosen.


Spirit rover on Mars
Slide 6: Spirit Rover on Mars -- Doug Ellison, Visualization Producer › Full resolution image

Every journey begins with a single step. This is not the first picture from NASA's Spirit rover, nor her greatest picture. It marks the first time her six wheels touched Martian soil as she successfully drove off the lander at Gusev Crater, just after midnight on Jan. 15, 2004.

This small drive for rover-kind marked the beginning of an astonishing adventure that would cover more than 7 kilometers (about 4 miles) across the Martian surface – exploring rocks, craters and hills – and unlocking the ancient and aquatic history of Mars as she went. It also marked the beginning of a personal adventure that ran in parallel with the Martian adventures of Spirit and Opportunity. That adventure ultimately led me to Pasadena, six years later.


Neptune and Triton
Slide 7: Neptune and Its Moon Triton -- Suzy Dodd, Voyager Project Manager › Full resolution image

This is one of my favorite pictures. It's the crescents of Neptune and Triton as NASA's Voyager 2 is leaving the planets behind and journeying into the outer solar system.

My first job after college was working on the Voyager 2 encounters at Uranus and Neptune, and this image of Voyager leaving the planets behind reminds me of all the excitement and fun we had on the project. It also marked an end to my time on Voyager. Little did I know that I would come back to be the Voyager project manager 20 years later!


Earth as a pale blue dot
Slide 8: Earth as a 'Pale Blue Dot' -- Courtney O'Connor, Social Media Specialist › Full resolution image

Without a doubt, my favorite NASA image is this iconic view, dubbed the 'Pale Blue Dot.' This snapshot of our very small Earth (the dot in the right “column”) was taken at a distance of over four billion miles by NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft, in part of the first-ever portrait of the solar system.

In the words of Carl Sagan, "That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives."


North American Nebula
Slide 9: Stellar Family: North American Nebula -- Luisa Rebull, Research Scientist/Spitzer Science Center › Full resolution image

I love these images, and not just because they're my data. Well, it helps that it's my data but this whole region is really neat.

One cool thing is that the region looks completely and utterly different when viewed with Spitzer (infrared light). You have to work to find things in common.

Another cool thing is the "Gulf of Mexico." It's the most dramatic part of this already spectacular region, with more than 200 very young stars tightly clustered along a "river" of dark dust. Before I got these Spitzer data, there were about 200 young stars known in this entire complex. Now, we suspect that there are 2100 young stars, 10 times more!