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Saturn Equinox
September 21, 2009 4:17 PM   Subscribe

Cassini Reveals New Ring Quirks, Shadows During Saturn Equinox. "It's like putting on 3-D glasses and seeing the third dimension for the first time," said Bob Pappalardo, Cassini project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "This is among the most important events Cassini has shown us." Latest press images.
posted by netbros (30 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I fucking love science.
posted by Afroblanco at 4:22 PM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Typical.
Naturally Saturn would have a quirky ring. It's a middle-gas giant.
Always behind Jupiter. And Saturn has rings so Uranus has to have a ring. Don't get me started on that brat Neptune. Oh, Jupiter has a red spot, so Neptune get's a spot going. *sigh* Planets.
(And don't mention Pluto)
posted by Smedleyman at 5:15 PM on September 21, 2009


Also - this is awesome.

(Sol doesn't know about Pluto, shhh)
posted by Smedleyman at 5:22 PM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Don't look now but I hear Pluto has one big effin moon.
posted by localroger at 5:39 PM on September 21, 2009


Wow. So mind bogglingly far and alien.
posted by yoga at 5:58 PM on September 21, 2009


Puts the health care debate in perspective.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:12 PM on September 21, 2009


One ridge of icy ring particles, whipped up by the gravitational pull of Saturn's moon Daphnis as it travels through the plane of the rings, looms as high as about 4 kilometers

Wait. So some of Saturn's moons actually cross through the plane of the rings, pulling chunks with them as they go?

Oh man, where are those pictures?
posted by JaredSeth at 6:21 PM on September 21, 2009


Found a few, but there's little detail. I just hope I live long enough to get to see closeups of that.
posted by JaredSeth at 6:34 PM on September 21, 2009


JaredSeth: "where are those pictures?"

Can you even imagine the shit we'd know by now if the Pentagon's and NASA's budgets had been reversed at the end of the Cold War?
posted by Joe Beese at 6:37 PM on September 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


i wish i had a jawbreaker right now
posted by fuzzypantalones at 6:50 PM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


But would we be safe Joe Beese??
posted by mek at 6:55 PM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I could look at this pretty much all the time. Just stare at it. This one, too. Wow.
posted by rtha at 7:03 PM on September 21, 2009


I have no doubt that in reality the future will be vastly more surprising than anything I can imagine. Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose. -- J. B. S. Haldane
posted by dhartung at 7:24 PM on September 21, 2009


Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.

Goddamn libruls.
posted by rokusan at 7:36 PM on September 21, 2009


Wait. So some of Saturn's moons actually cross through the plane of the rings, pulling chunks with them as they go?

I didn't take that to mean that the moons literally pass through the rings, but through the imaginary plane that the rings "rest" on. Am I describing that clearly? I can't really tell.
posted by brundlefly at 7:39 PM on September 21, 2009


Don't look now but I hear Pluto has one big effin moon.

That's no moon...
posted by rokusan at 7:39 PM on September 21, 2009


Aaaaand, just saw JaredSeth's followup comment. Never mind.
posted by brundlefly at 7:42 PM on September 21, 2009


I have a sneaking suspicion that if you had a record player with a platter 140,000 km across, and put Saturn's rings on it and played them at an appropriate speed, they would say "We apologize for the inconvenience."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:43 PM on September 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


Wait. So some of Saturn's moons actually cross through the plane of the rings, pulling chunks with them as they go?

Aliens harvesting the rings for fuel actually......
posted by dibblda at 8:08 PM on September 21, 2009


Oh man, where are those pictures?

Last week's episode of The Universe was about ringed planets and had a fantastic visual of the wave caused by Daphnis. One of the scientists described it as seeing a 1 mile high wave on a thirty foot deep lake.
posted by nathan_teske at 8:24 PM on September 21, 2009


What a treat that we get to live in this solar system.
posted by salishsea at 10:39 PM on September 21, 2009


Wow.
No, really - the pictures this 'mission' has sent back, not just this set but the others as well, not to mention the Huygens probe - if this does not impress you... well, that's just too sad. Honestly this stuff is more impressive to me than the Moon landing.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:39 AM on September 22, 2009


I could look at this pretty much all the time. Just stare at it. This one, too. Wow.
posted by rtha at 7:03 PM on September 21 [+] [!]


Warning! These files are really big and almost crashed my browser.
posted by smartypantz at 5:25 AM on September 22, 2009


The science and imagery are just…just amazing, and awesome in the sense of what awesome used to mean before it turned into "I like your shoes." I look at what comes in from these various missions throughout the solar system and it makes me feel happy to be alive right now, right here, where I can be party to these discoveries in some way.

At the same time, I feel bittersweet about Cassini/Huygens, which may well be the last mission of its kind, for reasons of budget and national will on one level and the escalating inability of politically-minded people to grasp basic science on another level. I have a hard time seeing the successes of the program without remembering the absolute idiocy spewed by histrionic ninnies at the start of the mission.

No nukes in space! We're all gonna die! Evil scientists are about to kill us all!

Of course, now they all just sniff, "well, we got lucky," which is that kind of inarguable tautology that every dimwit whose armageddon fetish failed to delight adores above all things. What's frustrating is that I suspect they'll rally up more troops the next time a mission like this arises, and the arguments will all come roaring back. There's tons of radioactive materials all over the earth that present a real, serious, and day-to-day problem, like corroding nuclear warheads and leaking Soviet era lighthouse RTGs, and yet a science mission is what they go after.

It's interesting how this one mission changed my own world view—from my personal politics (no more naive faith in "environmental" groups taking a higher road than their opponents) to my sense of wonder, which just gets rewarded beyond my wildest dreams every time another chunk of data comes in. It's just sad and absurd that these projects face such extreme and now fully bi-partisan opposition.
posted by sonascope at 5:58 AM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


"From her metaphorical perch on the bridge of the Cassini spacecraft, which has been orbiting Saturn for five years, Carolyn Porco, who heads the camera team, is ecstatic about the view. “It’s another one of those things that make you pinch yourself and say, ‘Boy am I lucky to be around now,’ ” Dr. Porco said. “For the first time in 400 years, we’re seeing Saturn’s rings in three dimensions.”
posted by rtha at 6:06 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Fantastic, thanks! I can grasp just a tiny fraction of what these things mean, and I still feel like some old testament prophet struck dumb by a terrifying and mysterious experience.
posted by bepe at 7:42 AM on September 22, 2009


Personally, I was seeing in three dimensions long before 3-D glasses were around. But I'm special.
posted by notmydesk at 7:43 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm so looking forward to Saturn being high enough in my sky to look at it with my telescope. I've been watching Jupiter and it's moons for the last couple of weeks and now I've been obsessed with trying to get a glimpse of Saturn's rings from my backyard.

This is just making my need that much worse.
posted by quin at 9:15 AM on September 22, 2009


So, if you combine a horse and a water buffalo do you get an equinox?
posted by ...possums at 11:26 AM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Big Picture: Saturn at equinox
posted by homunculus at 9:09 PM on October 19, 2009


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