J. P. Major

J. P. Major
Dallas, Texas, USA
December 26
Editor / Author
Astronomy news and photos from around our solar system! More on Twitter @JPMajor


JANUARY 28, 2011 7:42PM

You Are Here


Earth seen from the surface of Mars

Here's an image that always blows my mind: it's our planet as seen by the exploration rover Spirit on March 8, 2004, 63 Martian days into its mission. It's the first image of Earth taken from the surface of another planet.

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JANUARY 28, 2011 1:08AM

The Search for Alien Earths

Can’t view the video below? Click here.

Fifteen years ago we didn’t even know there were other solar systems. Now there’s been over 500 planets discovered orbiting other stars in our galaxy, with new ones added to the list almost weekly. Scientists using the Keck Observatory in Haw/… Read full post »

JANUARY 26, 2011 12:23AM

Beautiful Barchans

Barchan sand dunes in Mars’ Arkhangelsky Crater

This image from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE camera features a barchan dune within the floor of Arkhangelsky Crater on Mars, one of its forward-facing “horns” displaying a sharp, serpentine ridge.

The dun… Read full post »

JANUARY 24, 2011 12:54AM

King of the Gods

A Jovian PortraitA Jovian Portrait

This wonderful image, taken over 10 years ago by the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft while on its way to Saturn, is still hailed as one of the best photos ever taken of Jupiter.

Actually a carefully crafted composite of 27 images, this image took more than an hour

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JANUARY 23, 2011 8:55PM

Colors of the Moon



Look up at the moon on any clear night and you'll see a cratered world shining down on you, in some phase of illumination or perhaps even full and round, with a few lighter or darker areas but for the most part all in cool, bright shades ofRead full post »

JANUARY 23, 2011 7:40PM

The Feeling’s Mutual

Saturn's moons Rhea and Dione pass by each other

Dione slips behind Rhea in this animation made from 19 raw images taken by the Cassini spacecraft on January 20, 2011. Called a mutual event, the two moons seem to just miss each other – even though in reality they are separated… Read full post »

JANUARY 23, 2011 6:16PM

Titan RGB 1-21-11

Lights In The Dark posted a photo:

Titan RGB 1-21-11

An RGB-composite color image of Titan from Cassini images taken on January 21, 2011. (This image is composed from raw data and has not been validated or calibrated by the Cassini Imaging Team.)

The Cassini spacecraft was over 2.13… Read full post »

JANUARY 22, 2011 3:13PM

“A boulder as big as a house”

A large boulder sits on the surface of Mars' moon

A high-res image of Mars’ moon Phobos, acquired on January 9 by ESA’s Mars Express, shows a large boulder on the irregularly-shaped moon’s southern hemisphere. It rests near the edge of a large crater…when I rotated/… Read full post »

JANUARY 21, 2011 2:10PM

Are We There Yet?

This is a reprint of an article of mine. I thought I'd give it a home here. Hope you enjoy it! - J


Are We There Yet?

pia02973_198We've all seen the grade-school models of the solar system. Maybe you made one in science class. Out of painted styrofoam balls or colored/

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JANUARY 21, 2011 12:29PM

Turning Fear Around

Mars Express images of Phobos from January 9 flyby

Here’s a quick animation of Mars’ moon Phobos, made from five images – released today – taken by ESA’s Mars Express during its flyby on January 9, 2011. Passing by the 14-mile-wide moon at a distance of about 62 miles (10… Read full post »

JANUARY 20, 2011 10:56PM

Lunar Highlands


A crater-capped hill casts a deep shadow near Vertregt J crater

In another rare oblique-angle view from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter we get a look at the hilly highland terrain around a lunar crater called Vertregt J. The image above shows a shadow being cast by a cratered ridge… Read full post »

JANUARY 20, 2011 9:28PM

Sunspot 1-20-11 (AIA 171)

Lights In The Dark posted a photo:

Sunspot 1-20-11 (AIA 171)

Loops and streamers of plasma erupt from the edges of a sunspot on the Sun's northern hemisphere on January 20, 2011. SDO (AIA 171) image, cropped and adjusted to bring out detail.

Image credit: SDO (NASA) and the AIA… Read full post »

JANUARY 19, 2011 12:20PM

A Peak Inside

Central peak of Aitken Crater

Here’s a close-up look at the central peak of our moon’s Aitken Crater, part of an image captured by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter on January 11, 2010. Taken at an angle, this view offers a nice sense of relief and perspective on a lunar feature no/… Read full post »

JANUARY 17, 2011 12:56AM

Roving the Edge

Opportunity at the edge of Santa Maria crater

Here’s a great view of Santa Maria crater made from a couple of raw images from the Opportunity rover, taken earlier this month and assembled by Stu Atkinson. (I did take the liberty of cropping the original image a bit and filling in/… Read full post »

JANUARY 14, 2011 12:34PM

Lesson Learned

Another good one from the awesome that is xkcd.


The Stingray Nebula (Hen-1357) is one of the youngest known planetary nebula – the result of a dying star shedding its outer layers and illuminating the expanding gas with radiation. Located in the southern constellation Ara (th… Read full post »

JANUARY 13, 2011 11:14PM

Rhea & 4 Moons

Lights In The Dark posted a photo:

Rhea & 4 Moons

Cassini captured this image of Rhea on January 11, 2010, with 4 other moons visible in the background, as well as the line of Saturn's rings.

About 950 miles (1525 km) wide, Rhea is Saturn's second-largest moon but… Read full post »

JANUARY 13, 2011 10:46PM

Rhea Flyby 1-11-11

Lights In The Dark posted a photo:

Rhea Flyby 1-11-11

Here’s a close-up look at the extensively-cratered surface of Rhea, Saturn’s second-largest moon, captured by Cassini as it performed its closest flyby yet on the morning of January 11, 2010. Passing a mere 47 miles (75.6 km) over the… Read full post »

JANUARY 13, 2011 7:48PM

WordPress Posting Challenge

Exploring the solar system one photo at a time

Ok, it’s not really a challenge for me because I post an awful lot of things here on Lights in the Dark, but I think it’s great that WordPress is putting forth the effort to get more of their bloggers….well, blogging,/… Read full post »

JANUARY 12, 2011 11:39PM

A Close Pass

Cassini makes its closest pass yet over Rhea's cratered surface

Here’s a close-up look at the extensively-cratered surface of Rhea, Saturn’s second-largest moon, captured by Cassini as it performed its closest flyby yet on the morning of  January 11, 2010. Passing a mere 43 m/… Read full post »

JANUARY 11, 2011 11:24AM

Photo Trivia Answer

The answer has been posted to the first LITD Photo Trivia! Check it out on the original article. I think I gave everyone enough opportunity to guess… :)

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JANUARY 10, 2011 9:58PM

Saturn’s Skyline

A look along Saturn's sunlit limb

A raw image from Cassini taken on January 9, 2011, this minimally-composed image is actually quite fascinating (IMO): it’s a look at the upper levels of Saturn’s atmosphere in methane wavelength! Yes, Saturn is a gas giant and most of its volu… Read full post »

JANUARY 10, 2011 1:18PM

Goodbye, Sarah

Hated Sarah Palin's Alaska? Then love this article on HecklerSpray:

 Sarah Palin’s TV Show Gets Axed Because It Was Gigantically Dismal

"That’s right fool-fans, there are no plans to record footage of Palin shooting a moose in the face with a gun any more. Shame. Those moose kids reaRead full post »

JANUARY 9, 2011 6:51PM

Photo Trivia

What's this?

In the tradition of Universe Today’s “Where in the Universe” series, here’s a little space exploration-based photo trivia for you: what is pictured in the above image? It’s something that many of you are already familiar with, and it’s not… Read full post »

JANUARY 9, 2011 2:08PM

Eclipses From Orbit

Can’t see the video below? Click here to watch.

In another view of Tuesday’s partial solar eclipse, the European Space Agency’s Proba-2 satellite captured this video of the Moon passing in front of the Sun from its position in low-Earth orbit. Taken in extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lig/… Read full post »

The image is copyrighted on Flickr so I won't repost it here, but you got to check out this great shot of the January 4th partial eclipse from the coast of Spain. It's really nice!

And be sure to see today's Astronomy Picture of the Day for another beautiful eclipse photo, that one fro… Read full post »