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Real Images Of The Solar System: Before And After The Digital Revolution

Real Images Of The Solar System: Before And After The Digital Revolution

Before modern telescopes, humans could only imagine what the surface of the sun and the planets looked like. Now advanced technology has made it possible to get in close, and take images of the Sun and the planets deep in our solar system.
If you guys have the patience to follow us for about ten minutes we will show you the profound difference between the planetary images of a few years ago, definitely “ugly” and those that delight our eyes today!
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But one can go back even further… There was indeed a time when planets, apart from the Sun and Moon, could only be perceived by us earthlings as more or less bright points of light. This period lasted from when the first representative of our species raised his eyes to the sky wondering for the first time what were all those lights that lit up after the sunset, until the invention of the telescope, in 1609.
The next period is from the invention of the telescope until the early sixties of the last century. Approximately three centuries and a half, during which astronomers have first tried to draw the scarce (and often illusory) details that they could discern on planetary disks devastated by atmospheric turbulence, and then pass, at the beginning of the twentieth century, to the first timid attempts of photographic shooting.
With mostly disappointing results, always due to turbulence even more exacerbated by the fact that the poor sensitivity of the films of the time forced astronomers to very long poses even with bright subjects such as planets. And the longer a pose is, the more turbulence cancels contrasts and erases details.
In short, we can certainly say that until the sixties the planetary photos taken from Earth (even those of the great observatories like Palomar and Mount Wilson), judged with the eyes of the present, could be defined as very disappointing. This state of affairs lasted until the first interplanetary probes, equipped not with film… but with cathode-ray tubes, entered the field. The Mariner 4, for example, in 1965 sent home the first close-up photos of the Martian surface, in black and white and with a resolution (today ridiculous) of 210 lines by 210 columns. Sufficient, however, to destroy forever the theory of channels and to show us a world very different from what we had imagined. Mars appeared in fact studded with craters, almost like the Moon. It did not have a magnetic field worthy of note (and therefore was exposed from solar radiation) and the atmosphere was cold and thin. No evidence of alien civilizations, of course, nor any hope of easy exploration.
But the image we had of the solar system began to change totally only in 1976 with the Viking probes that landed on Mars, and then with the Pioneer and Voyager in the eighties. It was then, in fact, that the old dimensionless points of light, and the ugly blurry photographs of the turn of the century, suddenly became shapes, colors, and phenomena in flux. No longer faded postcards, but worlds and moons with mountains, volcanoes and ice.
In the years that followed all the planets of the solar system were visited and photographed by automatic probes, but also the imaging from the ground, assisted by CCD sensors increasingly large and sensitive made giant processes, giving us enchanting views of the planets closer and more telegenic
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Credit: 00:10:44:23
Nasa / Hubble space telescope
NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), J. Bell (ASU), and M. Wolff (Space Science Institute)
Credits: Ron Miller
Credits: Mark A. Garlick / MarkGarlick.com
Credits: Nasa/Shutterstock/Storyblocks/Elon Musk/SpaceX/ESA/ESO
Credits: Flickr

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