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What a wonderful world!
December 21, 2012 11:04 PM   Subscribe


 
spectacular...and only slightly dizzying.
posted by squasha at 11:14 PM on December 21, 2012


And for future posterity, hi-res photos available here.
posted by mazola at 11:15 PM on December 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Gorgeous – thanks for this, Mazola. Here's some viewing music.
posted by koeselitz at 11:33 PM on December 21, 2012


Gorgeous photos, yes. A robot a trillion miles from Earth is doing something that every generation of humanity born and planted before the 1960s could only dream of witnessing, and I'm wondering how the author could manage to misspell the name of the freaking craft not just once, but twice.

So, the lessons I've learned. One, the National Post employs no editors. Two, I am completely undeserving of the miracles of this modern age.
posted by Suddenly, elf ass at 12:22 AM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Considering it says that the 'photo' is a composite of 60 images, that makes for some pretty impressive Photoshop skills. Or do Nasa's image processing systems handle that sort of thing automatically?
posted by woodblock100 at 12:54 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


That stunning image was the will-be image on the poster I will did get opening night at Star Wars Episode VII: Follow Those Lost, written by and starring George Lucas, directed adroitly by Kevin Smith.
posted by riverlife at 12:54 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


More Saturn music.
posted by Coaticass at 2:30 AM on December 22, 2012


Beautiful photo!

I'm wondering how the author could manage to misspell the name of the freaking craft not just once, but twice.

Hah! It's not rocket science, is it ... wait ...
posted by carter at 4:25 AM on December 22, 2012


The high res images are spectacular. You can even see some of the perturbations in the outer rings.

Thanks for posting this.
posted by Solomon at 5:16 AM on December 22, 2012


This may just be the result of overindulging on holiday-themed sugar cookies, but can someone explain exactly what I'm seeing? That greenish sphere in the middle -- the planet, right? Now, if the sun is behind Saturn, what's the shadow-like thing it's wearing like a bad hairpiece? And why don't the rings cross in front of the planet?
posted by greatgefilte at 6:46 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Now, if the sun is behind Saturn, what's the shadow-like thing it's wearing like a bad hairpiece?

It's the shadow cast by Saturn on the rings.

And why don't the rings cross in front of the planet?

They're in shadow, so you don't see them.
posted by stebulus at 6:59 AM on December 22, 2012


Considering it says that the 'photo' is a composite of 60 images, that makes for some pretty impressive Photoshop skills. Or do Nasa's image processing systems handle that sort of thing automatically?

I'm not sure exactly how they do it, but NASA has been doing this kind of thing for a very long time. A great many photos you see from them are composites. Beautiful, beautiful composites.
posted by azpenguin at 7:00 AM on December 22, 2012


It's the shadow cast by Saturn on the rings.

I thought as much, but what's the light source generating the shadow?
posted by greatgefilte at 7:02 AM on December 22, 2012


The sun, which as you noted is behind Saturn from the camera's POV.
posted by stebulus at 7:04 AM on December 22, 2012


Maybe I'm just really dense today, but how can the sun cause Saturn to cast a shadow on the rings if it's behind the planet? And I still don't get why we don't see rings crossing the planet on the side of it closest to the camera? Am I missing something really obvious?
posted by greatgefilte at 7:10 AM on December 22, 2012


Cassini, by the way, has to be counted among NASA's most successful missions. It was launched 15 years ago and made use of gravity assists along the way to give the craft the velocity it needed to get to Saturn. It was placed in orbit by a tricky maneuver that involved a shot right between the planet's rings. After over seven years in space, it fired off the Huygens probe on a three-week trip to Titan - and it was a bullseye. After over eight years in orbit in the Saturn system it's still returning a ton of information, so much that there's enough to study for decades. They're still using gravity assists to change the orbits to put the spacecraft where they want it. Just an amazing mission. Those JPL folks are damn good at space navigation.
posted by azpenguin at 7:21 AM on December 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


Maybe I'm just really dense today, but how can the sun cause Saturn to cast a shadow on the rings if it's behind the planet? And I still don't get why we don't see rings crossing the planet on the side of it closest to the camera? Am I missing something really obvious?

The camera is behind Saturn and a little below it. The sun is on the other side of the planet. Saturn is inclined a certain amount relative to the spacecraft. So it's throwing a shadow pretty much straight back - you do see the rings crossing the planet; it's just that there's the planets shadow over them and they are dark in that shadow, not light like the unshadowed rings. Just think of yourself with Saturn between you and the sun, and you're looking up a bit at Saturn. It's a really different picture, almost an illusion. I love it.
posted by azpenguin at 7:31 AM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


> Am I missing something really obvious?

This is a decent link which explains the various visual elements of the photo.
posted by gilrain at 7:33 AM on December 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


It might help to flip the photo upside down. We are used to shadows falling below objects, but in this case, the shadow is going up.

The good thing is, since there really is no up or down in space, you can view the image any way you want.
posted by The Deej at 7:45 AM on December 22, 2012


That's a great link, gilrain. Here's the same article in non-mobile version, with bigger pictures.
posted by Nelson at 8:25 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Considering it says that the 'photo' is a composite of 60 images, that makes for some pretty impressive Photoshop skills. Or do Nasa's image processing systems handle that sort of thing automatically?

Almost all of the astronomical images you see are composites, both in the sense of multiple single shots stitched together, but also in the sense of the actual data inside the picture. A particular piece of the electromagnetic spectrum may be represented as a color our eyes are sensitive to, otherwise the pictures would be fairly dull. This is as much an art as a science. Check out the Hubble Hidden Treasures Contest Winners (previously) for some examples of what can be done with stacks of otherwise unexamined data.
posted by odinsdream at 8:45 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


A NASA explainer on "false color", which is what this type of, uh, 'shopping is called. Here's Jupiter before and after, for example.
posted by dhartung at 9:18 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


The backlit view provides incredible detail of Saturn’s rings and can give NASA’s scientist information about the planet’s atmosphere that wouldn’t be available from other angles.

I knew NASA's budget was under threat, but I didn't realize the staff had been cut so significantly.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 10:17 AM on December 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Wow, ESA got the short shrift here. They actually designed Cassini, although it was assembled and launched by NASA, and it's managed there. But you should at least call it an ESA/NASA or NASA/ESA

Anyway, this picture is pretty cool, but I actually think the previous shot of saturn eclipsing the sun taken with the same space craft is even more awesome. (oh, and it's not too obvious but the earth is in that picture too as a small dot visible between Saturn's rings).

In the previous shot, the sun doesn't cast a shadow on the rings, so I'm guessing it must be on the other side of the sun i.e. half way through Saturn's "year" where half the rings are oriented so that light still hits them at "night" (i.e. "summer" in the northern hemisphere where it would have been "winter" on the northern hemisphere in the other shot)

here's another shot of Saturn from voyager 1 showing the shadow on the rings.

Anyway, not all images from space are false color. This one was apparently taken using infrared, red and violet spectra rather then the standard Red/Green/Blue.

It's possible to make 'true' color images from space, although it's actually hard to figure out exactly what your eyes will see. (Every digital camera adjusts color based on ambient light, because your eyes do - they have to guess how your brain will process and alter color and adjust to try to match that. If you turn color correction off, your pictures would look yellow under incandescent lights and tinted blue when taken in the sun. ) I think the previous picture I linked too was taken in true color.
but how can the sun cause Saturn to cast a shadow on the rings if it's behind the planet? And I still don't get why we don't see rings crossing the planet on the side of it closest to the camera?
That's how shadows work. The shadow is on the other side of the object from the light source. Also, you can see the rings, they show up as black bands across saturn's upper surface.
posted by delmoi at 11:20 AM on December 22, 2012


That guy with the LP records and spray-paint cans is gettin' pretty jealous of this.
posted by sagwalla at 11:48 AM on December 22, 2012


Thanks, gilrain, that link explains it well. Not sure why it was stumping me quite so much.
posted by greatgefilte at 12:58 PM on December 22, 2012


NASA has wallpaper sizes of this image available.
posted by Mitheral at 6:54 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just spectacular.
posted by arcticseal at 7:52 PM on December 22, 2012


Wow, ESA got the short shrift here. They actually designed Cassini, although it was assembled and launched by NASA, and it's managed there. But you should at least call it an ESA/NASA or NASA/ESA

Are you sure? I am pretty sure that ESA primarily developed the Huygens Titan lander -- which was incredibly cool in its own right -- but that NASA/JPL developed the orbiter (whose mission is ongoing and provided the fpp linked image(s)).
posted by aught at 12:08 PM on December 23, 2012


Considering it says that the 'photo' is a composite of 60 images, that makes for some pretty impressive Photoshop skills. Or do Nasa's image processing systems handle that sort of thing automatically?

It isn't automated.

It was done in IDL, not Photoshop. SPICE was used to place the photos approximately, but each individual image's position was adjusted by moving the images about pixel-by-pixel. Each image's overall brightness and flat-fielding was adjusted by the standard Cassini calibration pipeline, but the brightness was manually adjusted as necessary on individual images.

(I watched part of the process over the shoulder of the guy who did it.)

Wow, ESA got the short shrift here. They actually designed Cassini, although it was assembled and launched by NASA, and it's managed there. But you should at least call it an ESA/NASA or NASA/ESA

NASA always calls Cassini-Huygens a NASA/ESA/ASI joint mission. Huygens was of course designed and built by ESA. The ASI (the Italian space agency, not part of ESA) provided the high-gain radio antenna. There was and is a great deal of international collaboration on the mission.

However, it is not accurate to say that the ESA designed Cassini. The instrument design, generally speaking, was accomplished through international collaboration, but most instruments' design was coordinated at American universities and labs, and most instruments were built at American universities and labs (e.g. MIMI, ISS, UVIS, INMS, and CIRS to name a few) though some instrument-building was done in Europe (e.g. VIMS-VIS was built in Italy, VIMS-IR was built by JPL, and France designed VIMS' data-handling; CAPS had an innovative modular design because components were manufactured by several far-flung teams.) Lockheed Martin designed and built the propulsion system and the RTG power sources, and of course the Titan IVB/Centaur launch vehicle.
posted by BrashTech at 8:14 PM on December 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I love Saturn. Saturn's out there fully confident that it's the coolest fucking planet in the system. Look at those damn rings. Saturn is pimp.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:28 PM on December 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


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