Mars versus HTML


What started out as an impassioned diatribe turns out to be a mere complaint about HTML…

I get press releases in my email. They have URLs. I follow those URLs and (once in a while) end up writing about the press releases on my blog. So, this morning, I received “ESA: Mars Express watches a dust storm engulf Mars,” which pointed me to a page on the ESA site that featured the three images above, inset at different points in the article, and described (from left to right) as, “a dust storm on Mars,” “temperatures in the Martian atmosphere,” and “Mars – thermal radiation spectra.” I clicked on the wee pictures, hoping to be linked to something—nada—and looked for a link to a page of graphics that might offer some explanation—nada y nada y nada.

My ire began to build. That’s an artist’s conception of a dust storm, not an actual image! It should be labelled as such! And those graphs, lacking any axes, any interpretation? Argh! Then I noticed the URL. “SEMPWD361AF_index_2.html”? Hmmm. I changed the “2” to a ”1,” and lo and behold,… A whole page about the images.

Then I remembered the typical ESA page-naming scheme. I changed the “1” to a ”0” and found exactly what I expected in the first place.

So what can I say now? Other than recommend the email notices include the top-level ”index_0.html” link? Well, I think the caption for the animated dust storm should clearly say “artist’s rendition.” And the abscissas in the temperature plot should match. Otherwise, I guess I just have to get started with my day…


A brief note today, although I should note that I’ve had some networking issues over the last few days, so I’ve actually posted several new items on my blog: a pointer to some sexist imagery, my first-ever post on a video segment, and the obligatory reference to the discovery of Supernova 1987A twenty years ago. Sorry for the glut of words!

Anyway, today’s image comes from ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft. Eventually, the mission will explore Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in excruciating detail, but earlier today, the craft swung by Mars and snapped the above image. According to the ESA website, Rosetta’s lander took the picture less than five minutes before closest approach to the Red Planet.

What I really enjoy about the image is, quite simply, the spacecraft. Yeah, the Mars rovers show up in their own images, but something about seeing the spacecraft in the foreground, Mars just 1,000 kilometers behind… It offers a distinct perspective that most such images lack. I don’t suppose it was conscious decision (rather that the Rosetta lander couldn’t image Mars without getting some hardware getting in the way), but I find it very effective. Yes, we actually build these things and send them into space!

It makes me look forward to 2014, when we’ll get data back about the comet, too.

ESA to Use

I stumbled across ESA’s MERIS Images RApid VIsualization (MIRAVI) page just today. “MERIS” stands for Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer, an instrument onboard Envisat that measures solar radiation reflected by the Earth in fifteen regions of the visible and near infrared spectrum; it images the entire surface of Earth every three days. The image above happens to have been the most recent image when I first glanced at the page: the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico as they appeared this morning (my time).

I like the interface to the data. A map on the right had side allows you to select what part of Earth you want to explore, searching for images of whatever part of the globe you zoom in on. Images appear on the left, and when you select one, its area appears in red on the global map. Nice, simple, straightforward. I love Google Earth, don’t get me wrong, but this interface to rapidly-updated data does a good, no-frills job.