Tag Archives: Saturn

Cassini plunges into Saturn tonight – a grand finale

Starting at 10.31 pm NZ time tonight

Key Events

Sept 15:

10:31a.m. UTC (3:31 am PDT) – Cassini’s final entry into Saturn’s atmosphere begins

10:32 a.m. UTC (3:32 a.m. PDT) – Spacecraft loss of signal comes one minute later

11:55a.m. UTC (4:55 a.m. PDT) – Predicted final loss of signal on Earth

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New views of eclipses

There’s been a few eclipses lately. Here’s some photos showing a different perspective of eclipses.

This one was one of 1999 August 11 solar eclipse was one of the last ever taken from the Mir space station. The two bright spots that appear on the upper left are thought to be Jupiter and Saturn. Mir was deorbited in a controlled re-entry in 2001.

And another one by Thierry Legault of the partial eclipse seen in Europe a few days ago. With a silhouette of the International Space Station. As Astronomy Picture of the Day says this photo captured “planet Earth’s two largest satellites against the bright solar disk”

Thanks to Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Awesome pictures from the Enceladus flyby

It’s amazing how much we are finding out about other bodies in the solar system these days. And the images we get back from some of our robotic spaceships can be incredible.

Here’s one taken by Cassini during a deep swoop past Enceladus, a moon of Saturn. This is an intriguing moon because it is thought to contain an ocean of water below an ice surface. It is also very active with plumes of material shooting at least 1000 km into space. In fact, these plumes may be contributing material to Saturn’s rings.

The swoop, early this month, was the deepest yet brought the spacecraft to about 100 km from the moon’s surface. it also took the craft through the heart of a plume enabling further investigation of its compositions and density. Scientists thinks the heating and tectonic activity arises from tidal forces caused by proximity to Saturn. There is even speculation that this energy and the presence of liquid water could provide conditions for life on the moon.

Thanks to Emily Lakdawalla at The Planetary Society Blog.

Click on Enceladus flyby for a compostie animation of images of the plumes.

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Galileo and Hollywood

I have always enjoyed Carolyn Porco‘s talks. She is the director of CICLOPS, the Cassini Imaging Science Team. Cassini is currently in orbit around Saturn.

In this talk given at the AAI 2009 Convention she covers some interesting topics (see video below). These include the question of science and atheism, can science determine if a god exists and the contribution of Galileo to the scientific method.  I think the latter subject is very important in the International Year of Astronomy. We keep being distracted from it by religious apologists whose only motive is to find excuses for the Church’s treatment of Galileo, in the process often distorting or denying Galileo’s scientific contributions. Porco also discusses problems with the modern-day public attitudes towards science.

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Moons of Saturn

CassiniAlbert Einstein expressed his awe for the beauty of reality and humanity’s exploration of it in this manner:

“If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it”

“One thing I have learned in a long life: that all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike – and yet it is the most precious thing we have.”

Many other scientists profess a similar passion. Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins are well known for their enthusiastic popularisation of science – for bringing the awe and understanding to the general public. Carolyn Porco is also a great populariser of science.

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