Something great, something big, something very special that’s never happened before is about to happen!
On July 19, 2013, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will be turned to image Saturn and its entire ring system during a total eclipse of the sun, as it has done twice before during its previous 9 years in orbit. But this time will be very different. This time, the images to be collected will capture, in natural color, a glimpse of our own planet next to Saturn and its rings on a day that will be the first time Earthlings know in advance their picture will be taken from a billion miles away. A full end-to-end mosaic of images of the ring system will be acquired over 4 hours on July 19. The Earth will be captured in a series of images taken between 21:27 to 21:42 UTC on that day, or 14:27 and 14:42 Pacific Daylight Time.
It will be a day for people all over the globe to celebrate together the extraordinary achievements that have made such an interplanetary photo session possible. And it will be a day to celebrate life on the Pale Blue Dot. Read the press release via CICLOPS.ORG.
The graphics shown below illustrate the position of our planet relative to Saturn, and the portion of Earth that will be illuminated at the time its pictures are captured.
Illuminated View: This graphic shows the view of Earth and the portion of its surface that will be illuminated during the Earth imaging event on July 19, 2013.
Taking Earth’s Picture from Nearly 900 Million Miles Away: This simulated view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on July 19, 2013, shows the expected positions of Saturn and Earth around the time Cassini is taking Earth’s picture.
Carolyn Porco: This is Saturn | TED
Carolyn Porco: Could a Saturn moon harbor life?
Planetary scientist Carolyn Porco studies and interprets the photos from the Cassini-Huygens mission, orbiting Saturn and its largest moon, Titan. She and a team of scientists from NASA and the European Space Agency have been analyzing the images that Cassini has been sending back since it left Earth in 1999. They’ve found many new rings and four new moons (so far). And they’ve produced breathtaking images and animations of the stormy face of Saturn, its busy rings, and its jumble of moons and moonlets.
Back in the mid-1980s, while still working on her doctorate, Porco was drafted onto a team at JPL that was crunching the mountains of data coming back from the Voyager fly-by of Saturn. Her work on the planet’s “ringlets,” and on a spoke pattern noticed in the rings, made an important connection between Saturn’s rings and its magnetic field — and cemented her connection with Saturn.
Her ongoing work at the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations (CICLOPs) has two goals: to process and interpret the Cassini images for other scientists, and to make sure the images — in all their breathtaking poetry and mystery and sheer Save-Image-As-Desktop awesomeness — connect with the general public. She is an advocate for the exploration and understanding of planetary space, and her frequent talks (as well as her “Captain’s Log” memos on the CICLOPS website) speak to everyone, scientist and nonscientist alike.
Still Curious? Watch Carolyn again, this time, LEGO-fied! and watch a conversation with Carolyn, as she discusses the Saturn and Cassini Mission with astrophysicist and curator, Mike Shara of the American Museum of Natural History during the 217th American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle, Washington
“Imagine the day when we might journey to the Saturnine system, and visit the Enceladus interplanetary geyser park, just because we can.”
I love this woman.