Posts tagged spacecraft.


The Day the Earth Smiled

In this rare image taken on July 19, 2013, the wide-angle camera on NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has captured Saturn’s rings and our planet Earth and its moon in the same frame. It is only one footprint in a mosaic of 33 footprints covering the entire Saturn ring system (including Saturn itself).  At each footprint, images were taken in different spectral filters for a total of 323 images: some were taken for scientific purposes and some to produce a natural color mosaic.  This is the only wide-angle footprint that has the Earth-moon system in it.

The dark side of Saturn, its bright limb, the main rings, the F ring, and the G and E rings are clearly seen; the limb of Saturn and the F ring are overexposed. The “breaks” in the brightness of Saturn’s limb are due to the shadows of the rings on the globe of Saturn, preventing sunlight from shining through the atmosphere in those regions.  The E and G rings have been brightened for better visibility.

Earth, which is 898 million miles (1.44 billion kilometers) away in this image, appears as a blue dot at center right; the moon can be seen as a fainter protrusion off its right side. An arrow indicates their location in the annotated version. (The two are clearly seen as separate objects in the accompanying narrow angle frame: PIA14949.) The other bright dots nearby are stars.

This is only the third time ever that Earth has been imaged from the outer solar system. The acquisition of this image, along with the accompanying composite narrow- and wide-angle image of Earth and the moon and the full mosaic from which both are taken, marked the first time that inhabitants of Earth knew in advance that their planet was being imaged. That opportunity allowed people around the world to join together in social events to celebrate the occasion.


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.

via carolynporco


Carolyn Porco: This is Saturn | TED

Carolyn Porco: Could a Saturn moon harbor life? | TED

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.


Our Eyes in Space via I Fucking Love Science

(via scienceyoucanlove)


From Cassini: A splendor seldom seen

December 20, 2012 — The spacecraft has delivered another glorious backlit view of Saturn and its rings.

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, in orbit around Saturn for more than eight years, has delivered another glorious backlit view of the planet Saturn and its rings.

On October 17, 2012, during its 174th orbit around the gas giant, Cassini was deliberately positioned within Saturn’s shadow, a perfect location from which to look in the direction of the Sun and take a backlit view of the rings and the dark side of the planet. Looking back toward the Sun is a geometry referred to by planetary scientists as “high solar phase” — near the center of the target’s shadow is the highest phase possible. This is a scientifically advantageous and coveted viewing position as it can reveal details about both the rings and atmosphere that cannot be seen in lower solar phase.

The last time Cassini had such an unusual perspective on Saturn and its rings, at sufficient distance and with sufficient time to make a full system mosaic, occurred in September 2006 when it captured a mosaic, processed to look like natural color, entitled “In Saturn’s Shadow-The Pale Blue Dot.” In that mosaic, planet Earth put in a special appearance, making “In Saturn’s Shadow” one of the most popular Cassini images to date.

The mosaic being released today by the mission and the imaging team does not contain Earth — along with the Sun, our planet is hidden behind Saturn. However, it was taken when Cassini was closer to Saturn and therefore shows more detail in the rings than the one taken in 2006.

“Of all the many glorious images we have received from Saturn, none are more strikingly unusual than those taken from Saturn’s shadow,” said Carolyn Porco, Cassini’s imaging team lead based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “They unveil a rare splendor seldom seen anywhere else in our solar system.”

(via carryustothestars-deactivated20)


This image from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shows a vast river system on Saturn’s moon Titan. It is the first time images from space have revealed a river system so vast and in such high resolution anywhere other than Earth.

(Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI)


NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft has entered a new region at the far reaches of our solar system that scientists feel is the final area the spacecraft has to cross before reaching interstellar space.

Scientists refer to this new region as a magnetic highway for charged particles because our sun’s magnetic field lines are connected to interstellar magnetic field lines.

Check out the article here


Ice Water Found on Mercury!

NASA announced today that its Messenger spacecraft has discovered “compelling” evidence of frozen water and possible organic materials on Mercury’s north pole (shown left in red), confirming the decades of suspicion in the scientific community.

“The neutron data indicate that Mercury’s radar-bright polar deposits contain, on average, a hydrogen-rich layer more than tens of centimeters thick beneath a surficial layer 10 to 20 centimeters thick that is less rich in hydrogen,” according to David Lawrence, a Johns Hopkins University physics scientist working on the Messenger project.

(via scienceyoucanlove)


Solar Sails

A form of spacecraft propulsion using the radiation pressure of light from a star or laser to push enormous ultra-thin mirrors to high speeds. Japan’s JAXA successfully tested IKAROS in 2010. The goal was to deploy and control the sail and for the first time determining the minute orbit perturbations caused by light pressure. Orbit determination was done by the nearby AKATSUKI probe from which IKAROS detached after both had been brought into a transfer orbit to Venus.

(via crookedindifference)

  May 28, 2012 at 03:59pm


Dead Spacecraft on Mars Spotted in New Photos

A NASA probe orbiting Mars has captured new photos of two dead spacecraft frozen in place at their Red Planet graves.

The photos were taken by NASA’s powerful Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which has been circling the planet since 2006.

The spacecraft first spied NASA’s dead Phoenix Mars Lander in the Martian arctic on Jan. 26 in a color photo that reveals the lander and its frigid surroundings as they appeared following Phoenix’s second winter on the planet. The Phoenix spacecraft landed successfully on Mars in 2008.

In a separate photo, MRO also spotted the three-petal landing platform that delivered NASA’s Mars rover Spirit to the surface of the Red Planet in January 2004. The platform used parachutes and airbags to bounce to a stop on Gusev crater so the Spirit rover could begin its mission.

(via n-a-s-a)

  May 01, 2012 at 07:00pm


Rosetta’s Closest Asteroid Flyby Photos (July 10, 2010)

The Rosetta spacecraft took its first close-up images of the asteroid Lutetia on July 2010, revealing it to be a heavily cratered, elongated rock.


(via uraniaproject)