041918: Return to Mars

I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at images lately (as opposed to making new ones). Again and again, I find my way back to NASA‘s amazing online libraries of Mars images. Today’s images come from the Mars Curiosity Rover (the first three), and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

As a young boy I dreamed about adventures in space. Tom Swift Jr., Tom Corbett Space Cadets, Rocky Jones Space Ranger – they were constant companions in my imagination.

Mars has been the focus of imaginative fiction for well over a hundred years (See kirkusreviews). These days, as so much science fiction has become science fact, we think “when” rather than “if” regarding any visits.

Now we can see it with the clarity of a view out our windows. And, despite its apparent lifelessness, there is a beauty and sense of natural balance that we see on our own pale blue dot!

I hope you might enjoy these enhanced color images. If any of you are curious I’d be happy to provide information about any particular image.










Thanks for the visit.

080317: Looking Out (and Looking Back)

Today’s opener was taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft last year. It has been exploring Saturn and many of its 62 moons since its arrival at Saturn in 2004. Currently the spacecraft is in the middle of its “Grand Finale,” as NASA refers to its ultimate and final stage – plunging into Saturn’s atmosphere next month on September 15. It has treated us to previously unimaginable sights and still has six more weeks of transmissions.

More on this image – https://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA21046

Above are the first three drawings ever of Saturn and made by the observations of Galileo over 400 years ago. July 30,1610 was the first one (top) with slightly better results for the other two as he continually refined his telescopes.

We’ve come a long way – this pic taken from behind Saturn looks back at Earth (the dot center right). The beauty and importance of these and many other images, to me, cannot be understated.

More on this image – https://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA17171

This trio of craters, also shot from Cassini, reside on Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons.

More on this image – https://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA20011

NASA’s image libraries are full of these wonderful and fascinating images and are all easily  accessible online.This one above is from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and shows part of Mars’ south pole.

More on this image – https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/jpl/pia21639/erosion-of-the-edge-of-the-south-polar-layered-deposits

And last in this series is a picture of our own Grand Canyon taken from the International Space Station by a student controlled EarthKam camera!

More on this image – https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/space-stations-earthkam-sees-the-grand-canyon

As I said, NASA has endless libraries worth perusing. Also, my favorite non-NASA sight you might want to visit is  Planetary Landscapes – daily posts of images from here on Earth and elsewhere!

One last note: Saturday, August 5, will be the fifth anniversary of the explorations begun by the Mars Rover. It continues to chug along the surface of the planet, sending back wonderful and astounding landscape images of Mars – Images – Mars Science Laboratory


All this thought about outer space got me to break out my collection of pulp Sci-Fi magazines. The stories age great. The cover images make me dream of being aboard a spaceship exploring the wide universe. I think it’s my way of coping with the depressing news that we witness daily – especially the science related cutbacks, the dissolution of important government functions ranging from climate change to research of all kinds, etc.

The two  “Thrilling Wonder Stories” are from 1951 and 1952.

The three remaining magazines, “Amazing Stories,” are from 1947 and 1948.




So, from the faraway future to the faraway past – I had to toss in a few new images of the very old – 387 million years ago (give or take a few mil!) – Devonian invertebrate fossils from the neighborhood.




Science matters.

Thanks for the visit.

1008: Rocks and More


Today I begin with an image I have shown previously. It’s always been a favorite of mine. I’m pleased to say that a large print of it will appear in a pop-up show this Friday, October 10, in the Towbin Museum Wing of the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum. The opening (6pm-8pm) will coincide with the Preview Party for this year’s Benefit Auction. The show will remain up through the final day of auction on the 17th.

In a related matter there will be a panel discussion on the following Friday (October 16, 7pm) entitled Connections: Enduring Themes in the Art of the Hudson Valley Region. Panel members will include Daniel Belasco (Curator of the Samuel Dorsky Museum), Jason Rosenfeld (Co-creator of “River Crossings” and Distinguished Chair and Professor of Art History Marymount Manhattan College) and Norm Magnusson (artist and independent curator).



I continue to work on my files from Maine. I’m beginning to think that I could spend endless amounts of time exploring the coastal rocks up there.














Another set of rocks appear in these two images. Pretty interesting landscapes in fact. Turns out they are both images from Mars. I’ve been spending some time lately browsing the various NASA libraries – another variation on what I’m finding endlessly fascinating these days.


In many cases, image files of considerable size can be downloaded and examined more closely. The next image, color enhanced, comes from a recently released composite picture of Pluto taken by the New Horizons spacecraft. More amazing things thanks to the scientists at NASA.Pluto_crop a_LR_12



Back to earth once again, puttering around the studio led to these recent images. First, a fuzzy visitor making its way around fossil coral.


I also brought out my old (Devonian) Drawer. It’s been hiding on a shelf somewhere so I thought I’d put it to use once again. The first image contains a few objects that were part of an exercise that eventually led to the image below – containing a rather large cephalopod, a 387 million year old marine invertebrate that I popped out of a rock a few years ago.




Thanks for the visit.

SciFi and Science


I’ve always been a bit of a sci-fi fan – growing up reading Tom Swift, watching with excitement all the early rockets blast off or blow up in the Sputnik Era. The thought of adventure and exploration beyond the bounds of Earth just mede my head spin! Unfortunately, any reading time now for me is usually art or science related. The thought of fiction just seemed too luxurious a way to spend time – at least until now.


What an escape I have found in RED MARS by Kim Stanley Robinson – the perfect solution for me on those dreary sunless days of winter! Part One of a trilogy, RED MARS chronicles the first settlement on Mars. It’s a great story, well researched, filled with technological wonders, aesthetic and environmental concerns, etc. No surprise I’m enjoying it, given all the wonderful extended descriptions of the geology and landscape.


Did you know that many scientists today, particularly the younger ones, were influenced into their career paths thanks to science fiction that dared to challenge young minds? There are plenty of “closet” trekkies at NASA, I am sure.


I read the news today, oh boy. It was announced that climate change denier Sen. Ted Cruz has been appointed to lead the Senate Space, Science and Competitiveness subcommittee. As professor Michio Kaku said,”It’s like having the fox guard the chicken coop.” And while Cruz will make inspired speeches about space flight, keep in mind that one of NASA’s most important roles is to look back at our planet, keeping an eye on climate change. I wonder where the budgets will be cut?


At the same time Senator Marco “I’m not a scientist but…” Rubio was named chair of the subcommittee on Oceans,Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard.


And, of course, there is Senator James Inhofe, who believes climate change is a “hoax,” has now taken over as chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee (which oversees the EPA)

Bill Moyers has an excellent rundown on what the last election has wrought. Take a look:



This handful of images shows the variety of appearances made by brachiopods – all from the same site, all the same age. Of the thousands of brachiopod types these are but a few.















Last is part of a gastropod, just for a little change. These particular fossils  are roughly 385 million years old. And, as species, they lasted millions and millions of years. I oftentimes wonder how it will work out for us.



One final note. A thanks to all of you who visit this site. I have always been more concerned about turning out something worthy of your time, rather than engaging in publicizing the blog. So I was gratified to see the annual data info WordPress sent recently that showed a very nice jump in viewership – a 33% increase in 2014 over the previous year – 8800 unique visits from 69 countries.


Thank you again for this visit.

Where To Spend the Money

Great news about NASA‘s success with the Curiosity Rover landing on Mars. Good reason to be excited, not only to recognize the sheer magnitude of achievement, but also for what is yet to come. The earliest images, specifically those from the descent camera, had everyone elated. But did you know that they almost didn’t happen?

A little reported story came over CNN by their science guy, John Zarrella, about Mike Malin, head of Malin Space Science Systems, a small company in San Diego. They have been designing, building, and operating space camera systems for the past twenty years. On this mission, to cut costs NASA decided to kill that descent camera after already spending a million dollars on it. Mike then found ways to finish the project through other funding sources, one of which was his own pocket. “Eighty thousand,” when asked he said with a big smile, “But wasn’t it worth it!” Check out the brief clip here.

So, in a country where the science community is applauded on one hand for it brilliance (but shortchanged on the funding front), that same brilliance and critical thinking is ridiculed by a significant portion of the public over issues like climate change. While more serious signs emerged this past week in a paper published by the National Academy of Sciences, some of the most vociferous deniers are the same people happy to fund programs like Louisiana’s School Voucher System. This little gem will allow millions to be spent in one of the worst school systems in the nation. Maybe on computers, or broadened subjects, or maybe even expanding (or simply initiating) music and art programs. One would hope. But no According to Mother Jones“Thanks to a new law privatizing public education in Louisiana, Bible-based curriculum can now indoctrinate young, pliant minds with the good news of the Lord – all on the taxpayers’ dime.”

One last note: These same people, who very well might sway the coming election, think that early earth history was something akin to Fred Flintstone riding dinosaurs 10,000 years ago. That kind of thinking will will be a great help in navigating us through the difficult times ahead!

A mixed bag of images today, some fossils (mostly plant, Devonian, from Schoharie County) and BFF ( Before Fred Flintstone!), others just some interesting rocks from the last hike.Don’t forget to look out for the Perseid Meteor Shower on the nights of August 11 through 13. If the skies are clear you’ll see a great show.

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Thank you as always for visiting. More images at www.artmurphy.com

Thanks again for the visit.