The Cassini probe, launched from Earth in 1997 (six months before I started publishing kottke.org), has been taking photos of Saturn and its moons for 11 years now. The Wall Street Journal has a great feature that shows exactly what the probe has been looking at all that time. (Note: the video above features flashing images, so beware if that sort of thing is harmful to you.)
Whoa, how have I not heard about this before today: the Cassini spacecraft is going to dive through a jet of water erupting from Enceladus, a Saturnian moon.
Discovering life was not on the agenda when Cassini was designed and launched two decades ago. Its instruments can’t capture microbes or detect life, but in a couple of dozen passes through the plumes of Enceladus, it has detected various molecules associated with life: water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, molecular nitrogen, propane, acetylene, formaldehyde and traces of ammonia.
Wednesday’s dive will be the deepest Cassini will make through the plumes, only 30 miles above the icy surface. Scientists are especially interested in measuring the amount of hydrogen gas in the plume, which would tell them how much energy and heat are being generated by chemical reactions in hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the moon’s ocean.
That’s pretty crazy…it sounds like science fiction. NASA is doing a wonderful job producing great science with the lean budgets they are given.
Over at The Planetary Society, Emily Lakdawalla highlighted an image taken by the Cassini spacecraft of Saturn separate from its rings.
This enormous mosaic showing the flattened globe of Saturn floating amongst the complete disk of its rings must surely be counted among the great images of the Cassini mission. From Earth, we never see Saturn separate from its rings. Here, we can see the whole thing, a gas giant like Jupiter, separated at last from the rings that encircle it.
Taking this idea one step further, I removed the rings completely, along with the “ringlight” lighting up the night hemisphere, creating a more-or-less pure look of what Saturn would look like without its rings.
Larger version is available on Mlkshk.
Fabio Di Donato made this fantastic short film about Saturn using hundreds of thousands of images taken by the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft.
I love the editing technique employed here…the film feels like a silent short from the 1920s but also very contemporary. (via ★interesting)
There is no 3-D CGI involved in this amazing Saturn fly-by video…it’s made from thousands of hi-res photographs taken by the Cassini orbiter.
Wait for the full-frame full-color video starting at around 1:00. (thx, sam)