In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries it became possible to believe in the existence of life on other planets on scientific grounds. Once the Earth was no longer the center of the universe according to Copernicus, once Galileo had aimed his telescope at the Moon and found it a rough globe with mountains and seas, the assumption of life on other planets became much less far-fetched. In general there were no actual differences between Earth and Venus, since both planets orbited the Sun, were of similar size, and possessed mountains and an atmosphere. If there is life on Earth, one may ponder why it could not also exist on Venus. In the extraterrestrial life debate of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Moon, our closest celestial body, was the prime candidate for life on other worlds, although a number of scientists and scholars also speculated about life on Venus and on other planets, both within our solar system and beyond its frontiers. Venusians: the Planet Venus in the 18th-Century Extraterrestrial Life Debate
(PDF), from The Journal of Astronomical Data
(JAD) Volume 19
, somewhat via NPR
and their mention of amateur astronomer Thomas Dick's estimations of the populations of the other planets in our solar system
(Archive.org online view of Celestial scenery, or, The Wonders of the planetary system displayed
Storm Chasing on Saturn with Cassini
.] - "The sun is slowly rising over Saturn's north pole, exposing an immense six-sided hurricane. The storm, big enough to swallow four Earths, was first spotted by the Voyager missions in the early 1980s. [Cassini
] will be passing directly over the north pole with its cameras pointing down later this month." (previously 1
Captain's Log: June 30, 2014
"There are times when human language is inadequate, when emotions choke the mind, when the magnitude of events cannot properly be conveyed by the same syllables we use to navigate everyday life. Last night, the evening of June 30, 2004 was such a time." [more inside]
I am a staunch believer in leading with the bad news, so let me get straight to the point. Earth, our anchor and our solitary haven in a hostile universe, is in a precarious situation. The solar system around us is rife with instability. [more inside]
Enjoy 200,000 images of Saturn, its rings and moons taken by NASA's Cassini
over 8 years compressed into 4 minutes of video.
The first official trailer
of In Saturn's Rings
(formerly Outside In) has been released to universal acclaim
. The movie (to be completed in 2014) is made
exclusively from real photos taken by spacecraft, mostly Cassini-Huygens
It's been just over eight years since the Hugyens
separated from the Cassini spacecraft
and drifted down to the surface Saturn's moon Titan
. Along the way it provided video
of its descent.
Now a 3D visualization of its landing, based on data from the spacecraft itself, has been created
Cosmos: A Personal Voyage
is a thirteen-part television series of one hour shows written by Carl Sagan
, Ann Druyan
, and Steven Soter
, that was aired at the tail end of 1980 and was - at the time - the most widely watched series in the history of American public television. It is best introduced by an audio excerpt of one of his books, The Pale Blue Dot
. Inside is a complete annotated collection of the series. [more inside]
What lives where in the Solar System. Fantastic Adventure
covers from 1939/40 depicting the kind of lifeforms they think each planet can support. [more inside]
The wonders of space.
This is a stunning black and white video taken from actual Cassini and Huygens mission footage.
Take a tour of the solar system! Tonight, see the wonders of Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn! There's only one catch: You'll need to actually step outside to do it. [more inside]
is a jaw-dropping IMAX film currently in production that uses only photographic images from space probes to create a tour of the solar system in a one smooth, continuous camera shot – no 3D, no models, no matte paintings - by a single filmmaker in his basement
If you find the site overloaded, you can also see the trailer for the film at APOD
or on Vimeo
. Also of note: some amazing photographs
of the Sun
and other celestial objects by Alan Friedman
, and a shot of Saturn’s moon Dione seen past Rhea
, reminiscent of 2001
The Cassini team announced a possible cyrovolcano on Titan.
A key difference between this find and cyrovulcanism on Enceladus
is the probable existence of a thousand-meter peak and lobe-shaped flows similar to terrestrial vulcanism. Their video release
explains the evidence with 3-d models of the features.
More speculative, Guillaume Robuchon speculates that Pluto might have liquid water
under an icy surface, assuming it has enough of a rocky core to support heat production through radioactive decay.
This Summer’s Sexiest Images From Saturn.
From a billion miles away, the Cassini spacecraft
continues to send spectacular images of Saturn and its moons. Cassini
has been flying since 1997 and arrived at Saturn in 2004 after flybys of Earth, Venus and Jupiter. Its mission was originally slated to end in 2008, but it got its first 27 month extension to witness Saturn’s equinox. This year, it was given another life extension until 2017
to keep exploring until Saturn’s northern hemisphere summer solstice. [previously
] [more inside]
8 Wonders of the Solar System, Made Interactive.
"What might future explorers of the solar system see? Find out by taking an interactive tour through the eyes of Hugo Award-winning artist Ron Miller. Text and narration by Ed Bell." [Via]
Kraken Mare lake
on Saturn's largest moon Titan was finally located and photographed
. It's the first photo of a lake of liquid on another planetary body.
Saturn is no more.
"Other industries could learn from the Saturn Corporation
Certainly GM is taking what they have learned from their Saturn
investment and incorporating it into their existing plants and
facilities where practical. It will not be an overnight
experience. Like Saturn, it will take time, investment and a
strong commitment to regain the role of world leader in the
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.
August 11th marks the coming of Spring to Saturn's northern hemisphere, when the 170,000 miles wide rings turn edge-on to the sun
and reflect almost no sunlight. The rings
are only some 10 meters (30 feet) thick and made of mud and ice
. As Saturn shifts towards its once every 15 year equinox, out-of-plane structures will cast long shadows
across the rings' broad expanse, making them easy to detect
). Though you can't see the rings with the unaided eye, professional and amateur astronomers have captured the gas giant
in its transition towards the equinox.
The hydrocarbon lakes
on Saturn’s moon
may contain hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all of Earths known oil and natural gas reserves.
This life-like movie sequence captures Saturn's rings during a ring plane crossing--which Cassini makes twice per orbit--from the spacecraft's point of view. The movie begins with a view of the sunlit side of the rings. As the spacecraft speeds from south to north, the rings appear to tilt downward and collapse to a thin plane, and then open again to reveal the un-illuminated side of the ring plane, where sunlight filters through only dimly.
The Great Crossing
-- The Movie (7 MB)
Riddle: What has an eye
on the bottom, and a hexagon
on the top? [ answer inside ]
Saturn is gorgeous.
And humans have never seen it from this angle before. (Full sized version
In Saturn's Shadow.
Pictures of Saturn like none you've seen before, taken by Cassini while the planet was in between the probe and the sun. You can just make out Earth
in the photos. Previously
At forty miles (64.4 km) from Pluto to Sun, the Maine Solar System Model
is the largest complete three-dimensional scale model of the solar system in the world. What, you didn't know there was more than one
? And yes, Pluto is staying put
on Saturn's moon Enceladus.
Here's hoping space tourism can pick up the pace a little.
Cassini Flies by Tethys and Hyperion,
and the photos so far have been awesome
. I especially want to point out this fascinating view
, which, if you look at it closely
, reveals what appears to be a string of small impact craters, in a straight line over older terrain. What kind of meteor impact could have produced such an excellent formation of craters? Hyperion photos are coming. (Kokogiak's got backup
in case the JRUNS strike.)
Rocks Among the Rings.
The Planetary Society's Emily Lakdawalla has compiled some of the loveliest imagery of Saturn's ring-and-moon system from Cassini
. More on Saturn from the Planetary Society here.
Also see the Cassini at Saturn photoset
, from our very own kokogiak, and watch for updates on the latest Enceladus flyby
Unidentified Titan Object
Saturn's moon Titan shows an unusual bright spot that has scientists mystified. The spot, approximately the size and shape of West Virginia, is just southeast of the bright region called Xanadu and is visible to multiple instruments on the Cassini spacecraft.
It worked! Huygens has successfully landed on Saturn's moon Titan and the Cassini orbiter is sending good data back to Earth as I type.
Isn't it amazing how we can take a probe the size of a compact car, send it on a 7 year journey in the most inhospitable environment imaginable, deploy a sub-probe that has been dormant for that entire time and land it where we had planned on another solar body so far away that it takes 67 minutes to get a signal back and forth. Exploration and research has never been so cool.
European Space Agency's Huygens Probe Ready for Spectacular Mission to Titan
Mission managers for the European Space Agency's Huygens probe said the spacecraft is on course for its descent to Saturn's mysterious moon Titan on Friday, Jan. 14. The probe, which detached from NASA's Cassini orbiter last month
, will be the first object to explore on-site the unique environment of Titan
, whose chemistry is thought to be very similar to that of early Earth, before life formed. The data gathered during the probe's 2 1/2 hour descent through Titan's atmosphere will be transmitted from the probe to the Cassini orbiter and then back to Earth.
Make sure to stay tuned in this morning for updates.
Saturn's enigmatic moon Titan
holds on to its mysteries. Radar images
reveal quite a bit of variation but no clear interpretation. The hazy atmosphere prevents the sudden shock of discovery that characterized the Voyager and Galileo flybys of the moons of Jupiter, revealing little more than fuzzy Rorschach blobs.
With less than 1% of the surface mapped, researchers suspect that Titan has a young surface
shaped by processes that have yet to be revealed.
" It was beyond description, really, it was mind-blowing," she said. "I'm surprised at how surprised I am at the beauty and the clarity of these images. They are shocking to me."
"Standard orbit, aye, sir."
Following a nail-biting ring-plane crossing and 96-minute engine burn, Cassini has arrived
, and is now in orbit around Saturn, 84 light-minutes away, sending in the first closeup pictures of the planet's rings
. Also see the Planetary Society's details on the Orbit Insertion
, Spaceflight Now's mission updates in weblog-like format
, and raw images from the spacecraft
as they come. Kudos, JPL! (Aside: the press has yet to tire of Lord of the Rings