And on this special day, here’s a little somethin’ to show how I REALLY feel about all of you.
Happy Valentine’s Day 2014 !!
And on this special day, here’s a little somethin’ to show how I REALLY feel about all of you.
Recent fast-solar-wind activity on our Sun has not only given Earth some dramatic auroral displays in the last few years but Saturn too!
Today, the Cassini project has released new images showing colorful aurorae at Saturn’s south pole, as observed by the Cassini Imaging Team’s high resolution cameras on Cassini, and movies showing aurorae surrounding the planet’s north and south poles, as seen in a set of choreographed ultraviolet and infrared observations from both Cassini and the Earth-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope.
Tonight marks the 50th anniversary of the first appearance of The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show, when I was just 11 and transistor radios were all the rage. CBS aired a splendid and touching Grammy Tribute to them, at the end of which Paul and Ringo (with a nod to their childhood friends and band mates John and George) shared the stage in a rare performance together since the group’s breakup. And me? I cried like a baby.
We’ll never see the likes of them or their time again. And when comes my time to bid this life goodbye, I will be warmed by the fact that I was young during the 1960s when The Beatles played Masters of Ceremony.
Here now, in honor of tonight’s joyous landmark event, is a subset of the Cassini Imaging Team (with me as John) in our 2001 tribute to John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Enjoy!
Wonderful view of Saturn’s recently illuminated north pole and hexagonal jet stream in this week’s image from Cassini!
CICLOPS.org: Round and Round
A fabulous week in the UK, starting with appearances on BBC Stargazing LIVE and seeing the ‘Let It Be’ show at the Savoy Theatre in London…50 years after the Beatles first arrived in America…comes to an end with a night of debauchery in which Monty Python meets Spock and Captain Bleep! [Yes, that’s Eric Idle on the left and Professor Brian Cox on the right. And yes, those are glasses filled with merry-making liquids!]
Deep into that darkness peering, long you’ll stand there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal dared to dream before,
As you stare into its fiery eye and feel the menace of the maelstrom that swirls around the north pole of Saturn. It is this week’s image from Cassini taken in the infrared. This beast is about 1,200 miles across and blows with the fierceness of 330 mile/hour winds … 50% faster than the winds that leveled Moore, Oklahoma in May 2013. Exploring the outer planetary systems that orbit our star is not for the faint of heart. (With gratitude to Edgar Allan Poe.)
For your holiday enjoyment: An interview I gave recently, ranging from The Day the Earth Smiled to searching for life on Enceladus and Europa. It was excerpted from an Inquiring Minds podcast I did with journalist Chris Mooney that is a regular feature of the Environment section of the Mother Jones website. In part of this far ranging discussion, both Mooney and I refer to an event at The Library of Congress, at which I spoke, honoring Carl Sagan, and an interview I did about Sagan with the LOC folks in conjunction with that event. Enjoy!
MotherJones.com: This Woman Took Your Picture…From Saturn
Repeat the sounding joy!
We on the Cassini imaging team deliver to the world this holiday season … what else! … the gift of heavenly imagery starring the majestic globe of Saturn and its two most astounding moons, Titan and Enceladus.
In this, our 10th Christmas offering from across the hundreds of millions of miles that lie between us and Saturn, you will find some of the most splendid and fascinating sights this historic exploration of the ringed planet has uncovered: the hexagonally-shaped jet stream encircling the pole in Saturn’s northern hemisphere, the graceful shadows of its rings arcing across its south, the northern lakes and seas of liquid organics hidden under the hazy atmosphere of Titan, the brilliant ball of glittering ice that is the small active world of Enceladus, and more.
Spend a moment or two and revel in the marvels that our travels in this far-flung planetary system have brought. What wonders we have had for a decade to behold.
Best wishes to all of you, and stay warm, safe, and happy!
A couple of months ago, I just happened to be in LA and was invited to drop by the set of Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood. And you’ll never guess who I ran into? Yep, the man himself … Neil deGrasse Tyson … doing the last bit of blue-screen filming, walking high in the mountains somewhere, only not really. Looks like it’s going to be a rockin’ good show next spring. Stay tuned for that!
In the meantime, not a bad looking couple of oldies, huh?
ALMA … A Portal on the Universe
High in the barren Atacama Desert at 16,500 feet, on the virtually rainless Chajnantor plateau of northern Chile, lies an interferometer composed of 66 individual radio dishes, built to study the early dawn of the cosmos, 13 billion years ago.
Called the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), it was completed this year by a league of nations and now stands as the largest telescope in the world. Its work in peering across time to uncover the light of the first stars has only just begun.
Nothing to me signifies hope, a yearning to know, and the communion we seek with the cosmos more than the sight of a brigade of radio dishes pointed skyward. Here are some personal pictures taken by astronomer Mike Stogoski of the ALMA dishes and their surroundings…not too different from Mars.
Further information about ALMA can be found at the European Observatory Website.
Regard the artful handiwork of Prometheus and Daphnis, some of the main architects of Saturn’s ring structure, against a field of stars in Cassini’s Image of the Week!
Really looking forward to my visit to England to do Stargazing Live with the one and only Brian Cox, on the nights of January 7 and 8, 2014. Should be billions and billions of fun.
He and I are shown here at Spacefest V in Tucson, AZ this past May. We’ll be reprising that act, hopefully joined by a panel of Apollo astronauts and Sir Richard Branson at Spacefest VI next May in Pasadena, CA. If you like space, the final frontier, don’t miss the voyages of Brian and Carolyn and a whole lot of other space cadets.
I had the pleasure of doing an interview this week with Judy Woodruff — one of the all-time great newspersons — for the PBS Newshour on Cassini; our glorious Day the Earth Smiled mosaic of Saturn, its rings, and planet Earth; and my work with Carl Sagan. It aired last night on PBS Newshour.
Woodruff also inquired about what it would take to keep Cassini going, which gave me the opening to talk about all the work we have remaining to do in the Saturn system over the next four years and the threat of termination that Cassini faces. You can watch this part of my interview, which is only available online, on the Newshour website. Let’s hope it does some good in keeping our mission and its extraordinary adventures at Saturn going.
I also, earlier in the week, did a radio interview for Colorado Public Radio in which I covered, at greater length, much of the same material.
I hope everyone had a very happy and fulfilling Thanksgiving holiday. Enjoy and stay well!
November 12, 2013
On July 19, an array of overlapping images framing Saturn, its entire ring system and a host of its moons was acquired while Cassini was deep in the shadow created by the planet’s eclipse of the Sun. This arrangement of Sun, Saturn, and machine made for a rare opportunity to image from the outer solar system the planets in close to the Sun. The intent: To catch a precious glimpse of our own planet … tiny, remote, alone … as it would be seen from a billion miles away.
Images of this nature had been taken before. The famous Voyager 1990 ‘Pale Blue Dot’ image of Earth became, in the hands of Carl Sagan, a romantic allegory of the human condition and an inspirational call to environmental protection and planetary brotherhood. And Cassini’s previous 2006 version, taken from Saturn orbit, showing the startling juxtaposition of our dot of a planet beside the enormity of Saturn’s rings, became the most beloved Cassini image.
But from the very start, the plans for the July 19 mosaic included something very special: If all went well, the images would capture a glimpse of Earth alongside Saturn and its rings at the very moment that people all over the globe would be contemplating their connectedness to each other and to all life on Earth, appreciating the rarity of our planet within the solar system, marveling at their own existence, and rejoicing at the very thought of having their picture taken from a billion miles away.
And contemplate, appreciate, marvel and rejoice they did!
From Pennsylvania: ‘What a great way to feel connected to the universe, the planet, and every single person on it. We are truly all in this together.’
From England: ‘What a privilege to be part of such an event with so many people world-wide.’
From somewhere unknown: ‘At the appropriate time, I turned my face to the sky & spent a few minutes watching & listening to what life on Earth was like, right there. What a feeling of connection and oneness with the miracle that is life on Earth. This experience was beyond meaningful. It was transcendent. What a beautiful thing.’
From upstate New York: ‘I’ve been entranced by this project ever since I heard about it and was determined to join in the celebration. We may not be unique… we may be transient… we may be only flying along on a dust mote. But for 15 minutes we were there, we were aware, and we smiled.’
After much work, the mosaic that marks that moment the inhabitants of Earth, including the four above, looked up wherever they were and smiled at the sheer joy of being alive, is finally here. In its combination of beauty and meaning, it is perhaps the most unusual image ever taken in the history of the space program.
Have a look and you will discover a universe of marvels. The brightly rimmed globe of Saturn and its main rings aglow with sunlight streaming through them take center stage. On the left, embedded in the enormous, gossamer blue E ring, is the brilliant moon Enceladus, gleaming in the reflected light of Saturn and the sparkle of a hundred towering geysers, and likely the most promising place in all the solar system to access alien life. A careful examination uncovers the shadow cast by this moon through the spray of smoke-sized icy particles created by those geysers, like a telephone pole might cast a shadow through a fog.
Below and to the right of Enceladus is Tethys, a moon about a third the size of ours, illuminated by Saturn-shine. On the other side of the planet, to the upper right,is Mimas … only a crescent but also casting a faint shadow through the E ring.
And on it goes … more moons and faint rings for anyone caring to take the time to wander.
Now, look one more time. There, below the main rings and to the right of the globe of Saturn, far in the distance and seemingly lost in the radiance of the scene, lies a small speck of blue light, floating in a sea of stars. That is our home, with every last one of us on it … you, me, the folks down the block, even those on the opposite side of the Earth … we all inhabit that lovely blue dot.
And more than this … the image of that dot captures the very moment, frozen in time, when the inhabitants of our planet took a break from their normal activities to go outside and acknowledge our ‘coming of age’ as planetary explorers and the audacious interplanetary salute between robot and maker that this image represents.
I hope long into the future, when people look again at this image, they will recall the moment when, as crazy as it might have seemed, they were there, they were aware, and they smiled.