Monday, April 11, 2011

Moonday: Miranda

I meant to kick this off last week, then got distracted by other shiny things. My intent is to post a weekly image from that under-represented group of solar system citizens, the moons. And I vow to keep doing this right up to the point that I don't anymore. This happens to be an auspicious day to start the series: tomorrow (which is already today in the Eurasian borderlands) is the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's orbital flight around the planet, and the dawn of manned spaceflight.

Here's my first selection: my favorite known moon, Miranda, which orbits Uranus. This was posted last week at The Astronomy Picture of the Day (a site which regularly features some out-of-this world geology- see today's pic, for example), with the title, "Verona Rupes: Tallest Known Cliff in the Solar System." The lighting angle and orientation are odd, but the cliff face is toward the lower right, and faces toward the bottom of the image. See that flat, bright surface? That is an estimated 20 kilometers of vertical. Miranda's gravity is much lower than earth's and it is thought that the 12-minute fall from the crest to the bottom might be survivable with the appropriate air bag at the bottom... presuming you could hit it. Click that last link to read more, and click the pic there for a larger field of view. Or click here to see a full-disk mosaic of Miranda. Or both, if you like.

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