When you think of astronomy you probably have mental images of magnificent spiral galaxies or timeless wonders like Hubble views of the Deep Field or Pillars of Creation. Whatever your favorite astrophoto might be, chances are your mental image is of a static universe raining starlight into some mountaintop observatory from light years away.
Until the Space Age the Aristotelian idea of the “crystal spheres” of the cosmos was still an accurate analogy to how the night sky looks to the average person, even though we knew better. The only noticeably dynamic thing in the sky is the moon. Otherwise it feels like all of the action is happening down here on Earth, while the cosmos is still.
Fortunately, we not only live in the Space Age, we live in the digital age. Take a few images from a probe in orbit around Mars, stitch them together as an animation on the internet, and suddenly Mars is a living world.
Animations like the moving sands of Mars are a common part of the space news cycle these days. Here are some of my favorites.