CAROLYN PORCO
We on Cassini received wonderful news today. In a review this past summer of all the 7 NASA missions seeking to extend their operations for several more years and requesting additional funding to do so, Cassini was the only one of them receiving an unqualified `Excellent’ for its science and future plans. So, we are now gratefully anticipating another 3 years of exploration, with mission operations ending on September 15, 2017 with a dramatic nose-dive into the planet.How wonderful it is to know that we will live out the full, unabridged promise of this extraordinary mission. For many of us, for the past quarter century, it has been a way of life. For many of us, its end will mirror the end of a major portion of our life’s work.But this is no time to get sentimental. We now are looking forward to 3 more glorious years of new discoveries and insights, three more close flybys of Enceladus, flights over the Saturn pole and through the rings, and, of course, many more of the most soul-stirring, magnificent vistas there are to be seen anywhere this side of the Oort cloud.Enjoy!
Science/AAAS: NASA extends seven planetary missions

We on Cassini received wonderful news today. In a review this past summer of all the 7 NASA missions seeking to extend their operations for several more years and requesting additional funding to do so, Cassini was the only one of them receiving an unqualified `Excellent’ for its science and future plans. So, we are now gratefully anticipating another 3 years of exploration, with mission operations ending on September 15, 2017 with a dramatic nose-dive into the planet.

How wonderful it is to know that we will live out the full, unabridged promise of this extraordinary mission. For many of us, for the past quarter century, it has been a way of life. For many of us, its end will mirror the end of a major portion of our life’s work.

But this is no time to get sentimental. We now are looking forward to 3 more glorious years of new discoveries and insights, three more close flybys of Enceladus, flights over the Saturn pole and through the rings, and, of course, many more of the most soul-stirring, magnificent vistas there are to be seen anywhere this side of the Oort cloud.

Enjoy!

Science/AAAS: NASA extends seven planetary missions

Twenty-five years ago today, Voyager 2 flew within 5,000 km of the cloud tops of Neptune, capping the most glorious and ambitious exploration humankind has ever engineered. We could not claim to know the contents of our cosmic neighborhood without Voyager’s tour through the planetary portion of our solar system. For many of us, including myself, it was a defining, life-shaping experience.

Here are some pictures from that oh-so-memorable time … a time of discovery and peaceful conquest that set the stage for the return expeditions to Jupiter and Saturn, which came to be called Galileo and Cassini. The pictures include artwork, a close-up of the high methane clouds on Neptune, preparations for TV interviews by MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour and CNN, the final press conference in which I gave the summary of our findings on Neptune’s rings, and a pic of Chuck Berry and Carl Sagan, speaking to the Voyager team members already giddy in their celebration of the successful conclusion of Voyager’s historic, 12-year odyssey.

Enjoy the memories!

So pleased that our findings from the 6.5-yr imaging survey I conducted with Cassini’s high resolution camera of the geyser basin capping Enceladus’ southern hemisphere made the cover of the Astronomical Journal! How sweet it is! [Scientists love this sort of thing ;-) ]

So pleased that our findings from the 6.5-yr imaging survey I conducted with Cassini’s high resolution camera of the geyser basin capping Enceladus’ southern hemisphere made the cover of the Astronomical Journal!

How sweet it is! [Scientists love this sort of thing ;-) ]

How exciting! We have finally begun to see what we’ve long anticipated: the development of clouds in the northern reaches of Titan, and what could be the start of summer weather patterns on Saturn’s largest moon. The lack of northern cloud activity up til now has surprised those studying Titan’s atmospheric circulation. Models predicted that clouds would develop sooner. Consequently, today’s reports of clouds, seen a few weeks ago, and other recent indicators of seasonal change, are exciting for what they imply about Titan’s meteorology, the nature of the interactions between the surface and the atmosphere, and the cycling of organic compounds between northern and southern hemispheres on this unusual moon, the only one in our solar system covered in liquid organics.Go to CICLOPS.org to check out the short video clip and still image and text that explains the discovery.Enjoy this! We won’t be orbiting Saturn forever.
CICLOPS.org: Clouds Over Ligeia Mare on Titan

How exciting! We have finally begun to see what we’ve long anticipated: the development of clouds in the northern reaches of Titan, and what could be the start of summer weather patterns on Saturn’s largest moon. The lack of northern cloud activity up til now has surprised those studying Titan’s atmospheric circulation. Models predicted that clouds would develop sooner. Consequently, today’s reports of clouds, seen a few weeks ago, and other recent indicators of seasonal change, are exciting for what they imply about Titan’s meteorology, the nature of the interactions between the surface and the atmosphere, and the cycling of organic compounds between northern and southern hemispheres on this unusual moon, the only one in our solar system covered in liquid organics.

Go to CICLOPS.org to check out the short video clip and still image and text that explains the discovery.

Enjoy this! We won’t be orbiting Saturn forever.

CICLOPS.org: Clouds Over Ligeia Mare on Titan

Today’s Image of the Week from our robotic outpost in the outer solar system … the great churning, whirling vortex at the center of Saturn’s famous northern polar hexagon. Whenever I see this monstrous cyclone, about as big across as the distance between Los Angeles, California to Austin, Texas, I think of the Pequod in Moby Dick. 'Now small fowls flew screaming over the yet yawning gulf.'Enjoy!
CICLOPS.org: The Eye of Saturn

Today’s Image of the Week from our robotic outpost in the outer solar system … the great churning, whirling vortex at the center of Saturn’s famous northern polar hexagon. Whenever I see this monstrous cyclone, about as big across as the distance between Los Angeles, California to Austin, Texas, I think of the Pequod in Moby Dick.

'Now small fowls flew screaming over the yet yawning gulf.'

Enjoy!

CICLOPS.org: The Eye of Saturn

All,

Today, after more than five years of analysis and thought, our findings resulting from a 6.5-year imaging survey of the south polar basin of Enceladus are finally published online in the Astronomical Journal.

We have found in total 101 distinct geysers, one hundred of which erupt from the four, prominent, now famous `tiger stripe’ fractures crossing the region. In comparing our findings with those of other instruments, and with calculations of the magnitude and orientation of tidal forces that flex the surface on a daily basis, we have arrived at a conclusion that strengthens what we had all, little by little, over time, come to believe. In casting your sights on the geysering glory of Enceladus, you are looking at frozen mist that originates deep within the solar system’s most accessible habitable zone. Not bad for a decade’s work, huh?

As we contemplate the approaching end of Cassini’s travels around Saturn, we dream of the day, hopefully not too far in the future, when we can return to Enceladus to answer the question now uppermost in the mind: Could a second genesis of life have taken hold on this small icy moon of a hundred and one fountains?

For we surely know this: If life is indeed there, it is there for the taking.

Visit http://ciclops.org for a new Captain’s Log, and a special event page with graphics and explanatory material.

Enjoy!

CICLOPS.org: The Moon of One Hundred and One Geysers

July 19, 2014A year ago today, the Cassini spacecraft was turned to image Saturn and its rings and moons during a total eclipse of the sun. It had been done twice before during its previous 9 years in orbit, but this time was different.This time, the images collected captured a glimpse of our own planet far, far in the distance on a day that was the first time the Earth’s inhabitants knew in advance their picture would be taken from a billion miles away.It was a day to revel in the extraordinary achievements in the exploration of our solar system that have made such an interplanetary salute possible. It was a day for people the world over to smile together in celebration of life on the Pale Blue Dot.And that’s exactly what happened.At the appropriate time, people the world over stopped what they were doing, went outside, gathered together with friends and family, thought about the utter isolation of our world in the never-ending blackness of space, relished its lush, life-sustaining beauty, and marveled at their own existence and that of all life on planet Earth. And they smiled, knowing that others around the world were smiling too, in the sheer joy of simply being alive on a pale blue dot. Tell us what YOU did at that moment on the day the Earth smiled?
Comments: The Day the Earth Smiled

July 19, 2014

A year ago today, the Cassini spacecraft was turned to image Saturn and its rings and moons during a total eclipse of the sun. It had been done twice before during its previous 9 years in orbit, but this time was different.

This time, the images collected captured a glimpse of our own planet far, far in the distance on a day that was the first time the Earth’s inhabitants knew in advance their picture would be taken from a billion miles away.

It was a day to revel in the extraordinary achievements in the exploration of our solar system that have made such an interplanetary salute possible. It was a day for people the world over to smile together in celebration of life on the Pale Blue Dot.

And that’s exactly what happened.

At the appropriate time, people the world over stopped what they were doing, went outside, gathered together with friends and family, thought about the utter isolation of our world in the never-ending blackness of space, relished its lush, life-sustaining beauty, and marveled at their own existence and that of all life on planet Earth.

And they smiled, knowing that others around the world were smiling too, in the sheer joy of simply being alive on a pale blue dot.

Tell us what YOU did at that moment on the day the Earth smiled?

Comments: The Day the Earth Smiled

Everyone,So here we are … exactly ten years on and looking back with great pride and pleasure at the accomplishments of June 30, 2004, the night Cassini and we took up residence around Saturn and began our history-making explorations of the richest planetary system in orbit around our Sun.To mark this special anniversary, I have posted today a new and brief Captain’s Log reflecting on that night. In it, I provide a link to an extended piece that I wrote ten years ago for The Planetary Society about the transforming events surrounding that remarkable time. I hope you’ll remember along with me the oh-so-perfect way it all went down a decade ago.Enjoy!

Everyone,

So here we are … exactly ten years on and looking back with great pride and pleasure at the accomplishments of June 30, 2004, the night Cassini and we took up residence around Saturn and began our history-making explorations of the richest planetary system in orbit around our Sun.

To mark this special anniversary, I have posted today a new and brief Captain’s Log reflecting on that night. In it, I provide a link to an extended piece that I wrote ten years ago for The Planetary Society about the transforming events surrounding that remarkable time. I hope you’ll remember along with me the oh-so-perfect way it all went down a decade ago.

Enjoy!

Tomorrow, June 30, will be the anniversary of Cassini’s entry into Saturn orbit 10 years ago, and what an fascinating decade it has been.

In celebration of the moment, an interview I gave to Star Talk Radio, conducted by the host of the radio show, man of the hour, and presenter of TV’s ‘Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey’, Neil deGrasse Tyson, will be posted to the Star Talk Radio website at 7 pm Eastern Daylight time (4 pm Pacific Daylight Time) today, June 29.

I myself have not heard the interview. But a preview post describing it, written by one of the show’s producers Jeffrey Simons, can be found here.

And for the real thing, after the appointed time on Sunday, June 29, log in, go to …. http://www.startalkradio.net/ … and listen in as I wax on about the thrill of discovery, feeling ‘the cosmic love’, and the meaning of life.

And let me know what you think!

Ten years ago today, the spacecraft Cassini, and we along with it, made our official entrance into the kingdom of Saturn. On that day, we performed our first, mind-blowing encounter — one of many yet to come — with Saturn’s outer moon, Phoebe. The sharpness of our images, the startling geological details on the moon’s surface, the clear presence of water ice, and the sheer jolt of excitement at such a daring strafing pass by this remote celestial body stunned us all into a happy stupor. We knew then we had a long, historic and thrilling adventure up ahead. And we were right!  As one of the planet’s outer `irregular’ moons, Phoebe is believed to be a Sun-orbiting outer solar system body that was gravitationally tugged into orbit around Saturn, and as such, it is cousin to Pluto and the other members of the Kuiper Belt. So gaze long and hard at these images of distant Phoebe, knowing that in a bit more than a year, humanity will complete the reconnaissance of the classical solar system when the New Horizons spacecraft arrives at Pluto, and we and it, at long last, come face to face. Enjoy!
CICLOPS.org: Arrival and Departure at Phoebe

Ten years ago today, the spacecraft Cassini, and we along with it, made our official entrance into the kingdom of Saturn. On that day, we performed our first, mind-blowing encounter — one of many yet to come — with Saturn’s outer moon, Phoebe. The sharpness of our images, the startling geological details on the moon’s surface, the clear presence of water ice, and the sheer jolt of excitement at such a daring strafing pass by this remote celestial body stunned us all into a happy stupor. We knew then we had a long, historic and thrilling adventure up ahead. And we were right! 

As one of the planet’s outer `irregular’ moons, Phoebe is believed to be a Sun-orbiting outer solar system body that was gravitationally tugged into orbit around Saturn, and as such, it is cousin to Pluto and the other members of the Kuiper Belt. So gaze long and hard at these images of distant Phoebe, knowing that in a bit more than a year, humanity will complete the reconnaissance of the classical solar system when the New Horizons spacecraft arrives at Pluto, and we and it, at long last, come face to face.

Enjoy!

CICLOPS.org: Arrival and Departure at Phoebe

Everyone…Marvel at the delicate work wrought by gravity on the countless icy bodies in Saturn’s rings in this week’s image from our cameras on Cassini. Gores in the sheet of debris extracted from the F ring by the moon, Prometheus; waves raised in the outer part of the rings by orbiting moons; the Keeler and Encke gaps cleared by the action of the small moons Daphnis and Pan, respectively; and more than the eye can see in this one view … have all been impressed on our collective psyche as a result of our historic explorations around Saturn.Do enjoy…because this won’t last forever.
CICLOPS.org: Gored of the Rings

Everyone…Marvel at the delicate work wrought by gravity on the countless icy bodies in Saturn’s rings in this week’s image from our cameras on Cassini. Gores in the sheet of debris extracted from the F ring by the moon, Prometheus; waves raised in the outer part of the rings by orbiting moons; the Keeler and Encke gaps cleared by the action of the small moons Daphnis and Pan, respectively; and more than the eye can see in this one view … have all been impressed on our collective psyche as a result of our historic explorations around Saturn.

Do enjoy…because this won’t last forever.

CICLOPS.org: Gored of the Rings

The last two episodes of Cosmos were glorious and actually made me look at myself differently. Being more scientist than historian, I never knew of Cecilia Payne. And now I discover she, too, said this: "The reward of the young scientist is the emotional thrill of being the first person in the history of the world to see something or to understand something. Nothing can compare with that experience… " So true, Cecilia. So true.And I never knew of Marie Tharp, either. It’s telling that I was educated in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at Caltech, had certainly heard in reverent tones the story of Alfred Wegener, but had never even heard the name of Tharp. Many grateful thanks to Ann Druyan, Steve Soter, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and the Cosmos crew for bringing to light the stories of these women greats of astronomical and geological history. And to my fellow female scientists, I hope you now see yourselves differently, too. You and I are part of a fine & noble lineage. Walk tall and proud forevermore.

The last two episodes of Cosmos were glorious and actually made me look at myself differently.

Being more scientist than historian, I never knew of Cecilia Payne. And now I discover she, too, said this:

"The reward of the young scientist is the emotional thrill of being the first person in the history of the world to see something or to understand something. Nothing can compare with that experience… "

So true, Cecilia. So true.

And I never knew of Marie Tharp, either. It’s telling that I was educated in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at Caltech, had certainly heard in reverent tones the story of Alfred Wegener, but had never even heard the name of Tharp.

Many grateful thanks to Ann Druyan, Steve Soter, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and the Cosmos crew for bringing to light the stories of these women greats of astronomical and geological history.

And to my fellow female scientists, I hope you now see yourselves differently, too. You and I are part of a fine & noble lineage. Walk tall and proud forevermore.

Do you relish the notion of being a Saturnian, and gazing out from the lofty heights of Saturn at the same planets we see here from the Earth?Then check out the image we, the imaging team on Cassini, just released today. Far in the distance, beyond the rings of Saturn, lies the hazy blue orb of Uranus, a planet that was last visited by a spacecraft of our making 28 years ago. Enjoy the view!
CICLOPS.org: Blue Orb on the Horizon

Do you relish the notion of being a Saturnian, and gazing out from the lofty heights of Saturn at the same planets we see here from the Earth?

Then check out the image we, the imaging team on Cassini, just released today. Far in the distance, beyond the rings of Saturn, lies the hazy blue orb of Uranus, a planet that was last visited by a spacecraft of our making 28 years ago.

Enjoy the view!

CICLOPS.org: Blue Orb on the Horizon

Now here is a vista that would be impossible to see here on Earth: Rings and their shadows, like violin strings, draped across the face of Saturn….this week from Cassini.
Enjoy this, because our journeys around Saturn won’t last forever.
CICLOPS.org: Me and My Shadow

Now here is a vista that would be impossible to see here on Earth: Rings and their shadows, like violin strings, draped across the face of Saturn….this week from Cassini.


Enjoy this, because our journeys around Saturn won’t last forever.

CICLOPS.org: Me and My Shadow