Saturn's Shadow


At Pop!Tech, when I asked Carolyn Porco, of NASA's Cassini Mission at the Space Science Institute, what I can do as a father to encourage my daughter to explore the sciences, she answered: "Show her the pictures!"

What she was refering to are the humbling and mysterious photos that her team is collecting of Saturn and his moons. Carolyn heads up Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS (CICLOPS) part of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.


An article at Space.com reveals that Carolyn Porco was 13 years old when she experienced her first ‘cosmic connection’. She was on a rooftop in the Bronx, of all the unlikely places, peering through a friend’s telescope when she caught her first glimpse of Saturn.

Just this week, Porco sent out an excited dispatch: "Cassini has sighted on Saturn a phenomenon that has never before been seen on another planet: a wall of towering clouds that ring the eye of an immense hurricane-like vortex whirling around the planet's south pole."

I hope my daughter catches a bit of that excitement as well!

From the Cassini Mission's site, ciclops.org:

With giant Saturn hanging in the blackness and sheltering Cassini from the Sun’s blinding glare, the spacecraft viewed the rings as never before, revealing previously unknown faint rings and even glimpsing its home world.

This marvelous panoramic view was created by combining a total of 165 images taken by the Cassini wide-angle camera over nearly three hours on Sept. 15, 2006. The full mosaic consists of three rows of nine wide-angle camera footprints; only a portion of the full mosaic is shown here. Color in the view was created by digitally compositing ultraviolet, infrared and clear filter images and was then adjusted to resemble natural color.

The mosaic images were acquired as the spacecraft drifted in the darkness of Saturn’s shadow for about 12 hours, allowing a multitude of unique observations of the microscopic particles that comprise Saturn’s faint rings.