Historic Space Photos Now Online For The First Time

A beautifully re-processed photo of the first photo of Earth from the moon taken by the U.S. Lunar Orbiter 1 in 1966. See original version below. Click to enlarge. Credit: Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project/NASA

Like to see the very first picture of the Earth from the moon? Or how about a hand-crafted mosaic of images from Voyager 1’s 1979 flyby of Jupiter’s moon Io? A selection of rare space pix that have never been available in hi-resolution are now online courtesy of the University College London (UCL) based in London, England.

Original 1966 raw Lunar Orbiter 1 image. Click for hi-res version. Credit: NASA / UCL Faculty of Mathematical and Physical Sciences

Included among the gems are photos from the Soviet Venus landers, a cool hand-drawn moon map from 1910 and original prints and data from the Viking 1 and Mariner 9 probes that orbited Mars back in the 1970s. My favorite is the re-processed photo of Earth from the moon. The old scan lines from the Lunar Orbiter photos have been removed and contrast and resolution increased. What can I say? Stunning.

The Soviet Venera program landed a series of probes on the searingly hot surface of Venus in the 1970s and ’80s. This photo was taken with an extreme wide angle lens mounted on the Venera 13 lander that landed in 1982. Click for hi-res view. Credit: UCL Faculty of Mathematical and Physical Sciences

All the pictures have been published as part of the Festival of the Planets celebrating the European Planetary Science Congress happening in London from Sept. 8-13. Before the Internet became the preferred way of sharing scientific data, NASA shipped hardcopies of high-resolution images to institutions in the U.S. and abroad including UCL.

You gotta love the human touch in this handmade mosaic assembled from individual frames taken of Io by Voyager I in 1979. Click to enlarge. Credit: NASA / UCL Faculty of Mathematical and Physical Sciences

In a classic Disney-like move, the University opened up its “vault” to share archived vintage space photos from NASA and other agencies. Have a look for yourself HERE. The small selection whets my appetite for more. Let’s hope they share additional photos in the future.

12 Responses

    1. astrobob

      I’m all for “olde”. I’ve got some of those really old lunar maps in a book and have even used some of them to find tiny features on the moon before the current generation of lunar atlases.

        1. astrobob

          Good question. The Orbiters were equipped with both wide angle and telephoto lenses. This was almost certainly shot with the telephoto judging by the edge-on, flattened look of the craters and the large apparent size of the Earth. Kind of like a sunset shot with a telephoto showing that big red ball against the treeline.

  1. John Kubenski

    Haven’t been able to any stars but Vega from Jamestown for weeks now due to haze in the sky, also a big problem is the fact that the city does not sheild the street lights, On the light poluttion I guess I have to get a hold of the Dark Sky org and find out what can be done from the legal standpoint In my yard I can almost read the news paper sitting on the steps of my house at night, very bad. Was dissapointed that I missed seeing the nova. like your blog here keep up the good work.

    1. astrobob

      That’s a sad story. Darksky.org can help with information and a Powerpoint. You might consider approaching your city counselor after you get the materials to see if you can convince her/him of the money-saving and glare-free driving benefits of shielded lighting. I’m hoping you won’t have to miss the nova. Do you have a small telescope? It’s still visible at mag. 7 in binoculars here and would be easy to see in a scope.

  2. Edward M. Boll

    My goal tonight is to try to see Venus 15 minutes before sunset, using no magnification. I will need to block the Sun with my hand. Of course, I will be wearing my glasses. One of my most memorable daytime viewing of Venus was during the annular eclipse on May 10, 1994. The planet was clearly visible for several minutes. Even if ISON gets much brighter than Venus on Thanksgiving Day, it will be much closer to the Sun. I wonder if it will show up in my no. 16 arc welder’s goggles.

    1. astrobob

      Good luck on your Venus quest! Even if ISON were to shine as brightly as the full moon it wouldn’t be visible in the welder’s goggles. Too dim. Latest estimate I’ve seen is -4 at perihelion.

  3. Edward M. Boll

    I have never tried it on the Moon. The Sun looks like a bright green ball through them.. I thought that I could reduce the solar glare, but I suppose that I would be reducing everything else too.

    1. Sean

      another trick with daytime Venus is hide the sun behind a building. altho if it’s high enough in the sky, far enough away from the sun, and the air is clear enough it can be viewed while u are in sunlight at the same time. close to dusk or dawn also makes it easier. it helps if u find it while in shadow 1st, then u can step into sunlight while still looking at it. September 11th last year i observed Venus at my local solar noon. if it’s clear tomorrow i’m gonna see how close to solar noon i can spot it, since the moon will be a nearby “guide” to show me where to look. last month a couple of days after the moon passed it i caught it at 3:40 PM in good sky conditions, and this month it’s a little brighter and farther from the sun. may have some clouds tho. Monday might be better as the moon will be fuller and easier to spot and here it’s supposed to b more sunny. i wear my contacts, and would recommend against anything like sunglasses if you’re trying to view daylight Venus – or ISON for that matter. better to put the yourself barely in shadow with the region you are looking for the object in still visible. it would be AWESOME to see ISON in daylight but i bet that’s unlikely.

Comments are closed.