Top 14 Solar System Pictures of 2011

By Phil Plait | December 8, 2011 6:30 am


Comments (18)

Links to this Post

  1. My World and More ..: Best Of 2011 | December 21, 2011
  1. Mephane

    Is there any particular reason for the choice of the number 14 (or 16 in the previously top x of y) post? Or do you just order a larger number of picture by awesomeness and then decide on a threshold where to cut off the list, and presenting whatever number of picture remains above that? *g*

  2. Brian

    The “Water World” picture is truly a beautiful one to complete this set. Water is the most singular feature that distinguishes our planet from the others. And that seeming abundance is in actuality so necessary for our own existence. Earth is truly a precious planet.

  3. these were truly awesome pictures-I rejoice in the universe!

  4. Ricardo

    I hope they get a more advance technology.just so they can get inside the planet and see what is really their. I liked the pictures.

  5. Tim

    I’m glad there are no signs of vulcanism on Vesta. I prefer to keep my science fiction and facts separate.

  6. Chris

    Must be a slow news day. Only one post. I want more!

  7. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Chris : hey, there’s still time .. it’s not tomorrow yet!


    Awesome selection BA, I love it. 😀

    Although, by Jove, I’m surprised that you’ve left out any of Jupiter which has had some magnificent images and animations taken of it this year too! 😮

    I really like pictures of Earth from space, but this is one only a mother could love.

    Um, being male I can’t be a mother but *I* love this picture and suspect you (also male) do too hence its inclusion! 😉

    It’s not actually a picture, but a map of Earth’s gravity!

    Hmm … isn’t map a sub-set of picture though – unless its in braille or something?

    Question : Do you also consider images from 2010 that were published after your last one which was also published before the year was completed and will great images taken after this but before New Years Day 2012 still get a chance to appear in one of these?

  8. de-vilish-sly

    A better link to the full set of Nathanial Burton-Bradford’s 3-D geoids is

    — Sure would be interesting to see similar views of (at least) the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars … maybe even Old Sol himself?

  9. passerby

    The picture of the prominences of the sun, where you compared one to a cat and the other to a dragon, I would like to redirect people to the second photo.

    It indeed looks like a dragon, sitting down and facing something. But, near the right edge of the view, a distance away from the ‘dragon’, there’s a prominence in an upright shape, wearing what looks like a horned helmet. Seeing that, and hearing your description, immediately brought a certain trailer to mind:

    “There is one that they fear. In their tongue, he is dovahkiin. Dragonborn.”

    I knew Skyrim was popular, but I never expected it to be popular with the laws of physics.

  10. Messier Tidy Upper

    Hmm .. you also left off my personal favourite solar system image of the year :

    featuring the discovery of Pluto’s fourth moon.

  11. Messier Tidy Upper

    @7. :

    Although, by Jove, I’m surprised that you’ve left out any of Jupiter which has had some magnificent images and animations taken of it this year too!

    Like, say, this one :

    or this one :

    Or maybe this one :

    Ie the winning shot according to the Royal Observatory.

    Still, I’m not complaining – there’s just so many good images to choose from aren’t there! :-)

  12. @ ^ PS. Yeah, I know the “Jupiter Bringer of Jollity” one was posted on Christmas Eve last year – but it missed out on consideration for last years “top 14” since that was posted earlier on the 14th Dec. (with the “runners up” on the 20th Dec.) so I reckon it might’ve merited inclusion here.

    Of course, these things will always be subjective and Your Milage Astronomical Units May Vary! 😉

    So many great images get posted here. Hmmm and videos and time lapses – suggestion please BA, maybe we could get a top 10 of those? 😉

    PPS. Yes I know that “Jupiter – Bringer o’Jollity” one is a video not a photo too – but then there’s a still image from it posted too so that counts, right, maybe? 😉

  13. Messier: Holy cow, I totally missed the one of Pluto! Well, drat. I might add it if I get a chance. Thanks for pointing that out.

  14. Sno*man

    Phil, bought and read the book, I’m a big fan, the whole slow down, relax, this is what’s actually happening thing really strikes a chord. So, not that I have anything to back me up, other than instinct, but that ‘storm’ on Saturn looks more like a plume (think volcano, or the smoke from a cigarette in still air) that gets caught at upper altitude by way faster atmospheric ‘wind’…
    I brought this up elsewhere at the time and was summarily dismissed but without any actual reason.
    I wonder if you know any more about this ‘storm’…

  15. Messier Tidy Upper

    No worries BA. Thankyou. :-)

  16. db26

    No offense, but you have 4 photos worthy of any recognition here…the 3 sun photos (including the menage a trois) and the Saturn pic. Scrap the rest as marbles in microscopes…

  17. Matt B.

    “…the Earth itself blocks the Sun all the time (of course, if you want to be pedantic, it happens to us on the surface every time the Sun sets). NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory stares at the Sun 24/7/365…”

    If you want to be really pedantic, you can point out that “24/7/365” is meaningless. First, you want to multiply the quantities, not divide them. But even then the units don’t come out right: (24 hr/dy)*(7 dy/wk)*(365 dy/yr) comes out to 61320 hr-dy/wk-yr. What you really want is 24*7*52.1775.


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