Sneak Peeks of the Earth and Saturn Panorama from Cassini on July 19

The Day the Earth Smiled: Sneak Preview
In this rare image taken on July 19, 2013, the wide-angle camera on NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has captured Saturn’s rings and our planet Earth and its moon in the same frame. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
See below our wider context mosaic of the Earth, Saturn and its majestic rings[/caption]

Breathtaking raw images of the Earth and Saturn system snapped by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on July 19 during the worldwide ‘Wave at Saturn’ campaign are streaming back across 1 billion miles of interplanetary space.

Science team members are now busily processing the images to create individual color composites and a panoramic view of the ‘pale blue dot’ and the entire Saturnian system.

NASA just released the first individual color composite focusing on Earth – see above. And its spectacular!

See below our preliminary mosaic showing the Earth in context with nearly half of Saturn and floating in between its incomparably majestic rings.

Partial context mosaic of the Earth and Saturn taken by NASA’s Cassini orbiter on July 19, 2013.   This mosaic was assembled from five wide angle camera raw images.  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer/Marco Di Lorenzo
Partial context mosaic of the Earth and Saturn taken by NASA’s Cassini orbiter on July 19, 2013. This mosaic was assembled from five wide angle camera raw images and offers a sneak peek of the complete panorama. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer/Marco Di Lorenzo

To capture all of Saturn and its wide swath of rings, Cassini’s wide angle camera snapped a mosaic of 33 footprints.

“At each footprint, images were taken in different spectral filters for a total of 323 images,” says Carolyn Porco, Cassini Imaging Team leader of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

Cassini took the pictures of Earth between 2:27 and 2:42 p.m. PDT on Friday, July 19 from a distance of about 898 million miles (1.44 billion kilometers) away from the home to every human being that has ever lived.

The images show the Earth and the Moon as dots barely about a pixel wide but do reveal the ‘pale blue dot’ that is home to all of humanity and our whitish colored neighbor.

Coincidentally, the first humans (Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin) set foot on the Moon 44 years ago nearly to the day of Cassini’s new images on July 20, 1969.

Distant views of the Earth from our robotic explorers, especially from the outer reaches of our Solar System, are few and far between, and are therefore events for space and astronomy enthusiasts and everyone else to savor.

“One of the most exciting Cassini events in 2013 will be the unusual opportunity on July 19 to image the whole Saturn system as it is backlit by the sun,” explained Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

“With Saturn covering the harsh light of the sun, we will be gathering unique ring science and also catching a glimpse of our very own home planet.”

Cassini previously took an absolutely fabulous mosaic of Saturn and Earth back in 2006 that stands as one of the landmark images of the space age.

Besides being picturesque, such mosaics also serve science. For example, the 2006 image “revealed that the dusty E ring, which is fed by the water-ice plume of the moon Enceladus, had unexpectedly large variations in brightness and color around its orbit,” says Spilker.

“We’ll want to see how that looks seven Earth years and a Saturnian season later, giving us clues to the forces at work in the Saturn system. We’ll do this analysis by collecting data from our visual and infrared mapping spectrometer, composite infrared mapping spectrometer and ultraviolet imaging spectrograph in addition to the imaging cameras.”

This simulated view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows the expected positions of Saturn and Earth on July 19, 2013, around the time Cassini will take Earth's picture. Cassini will be about 898 million miles (1.44 billion kilometers) away from Earth at the time. That distance is nearly 10 times the distance from the sun to Earth. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
This simulated view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shows the expected positions of Saturn and Earth on July 19, 2013, around the time Cassini will take Earth’s picture. Cassini will be about 898 million miles (1.44 billion kilometers) away from Earth at the time. That distance is nearly 10 times the distance from the sun to Earth. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“July 19 marked the first time people on Earth had advance notice their planet’s portrait was being taken from interplanetary distances,” says NASA.

I waved fondly at Saturn and hope you had the chance to wave at Saturn from all across the globe. NASA reports that nearly 20,000 participated in organized events. Countless others waved too.

Cassini was launched in 1997 and achieved orbit at Saturn in 2004. The mission is scheduled to continue until 2017 when it will commit a suicide death dive into the gas giant.

“We can’t see individual continents or people in this portrait of Earth, but this pale blue dot is a succinct summary of who we were on July 19,” said Spilker in a NASA statement.

“Cassini’s picture reminds us how tiny our home planet is in the vastness of space, and also testifies to the ingenuity of the citizens of this tiny planet to send a robotic spacecraft so far away from home to study Saturn and take a look-back photo of Earth.”

Ken Kremer

JPL Waves at Saturn As NASA's Cassini spacecraft turned its imaging cameras to Earth, scientists, engineers and visitors at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., gathered to wave at our robotic photographer in the Saturn system on July 19, 2013. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
JPL Waves at Saturn
As NASA’s Cassini spacecraft turned its imaging cameras to Earth, scientists, engineers and visitors at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., gathered to wave at our robotic photographer in the Saturn system on July 19, 2013. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Cassini Watches as Meteors Hit Saturn’s Rings

From tell-tale evidence, we know that Earth, our Moon and other bodies in our Solar System are constantly barraged with both small meteoroids and larger asteroids or comets. And sometimes – like in the case of seeing meteors fling across our sky, or flashes on the Moon or Jupiter getting hit by Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 — we even get to watch as it happens. Now, for the first time the Cassini spacecraft has provided direct evidence of small meteoroids crashing into Saturn’s rings.

Researchers say that studying the impact rate of meteoroids from outside the Saturnian system helps scientists understand how different planet systems in our solar system formed.

Saturn’s rings act as very effective detectors of many kinds of surrounding phenomena, including the interior structure of the planet and the orbits of its moons. For example, a subtle but extensive corrugation that ripples 12,000 miles (19,000 kilometers) across the innermost rings tells of a very large meteoroid impact in 1983.

“These new results imply the current-day impact rates for small particles at Saturn are about the same as those at Earth — two very different neighborhoods in our solar system — and this is exciting to see,” said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “It took Saturn’s rings acting like a giant meteoroid detector — 100 times the surface area of the Earth — and Cassini’s long-term tour of the Saturn system to address this question.”

The Saturnian equinox in summer 2009 was an especially good time to see the debris left by meteoroid impacts. The very shallow sun angle on the rings caused the clouds of debris to look bright against the darkened rings in pictures from Cassini’s imaging science subsystem.

This animation depicts the shearing of an initially circular cloud of debris as a result of the particles in the cloud having differing orbital speeds around Saturn. Image credit: NASA/Cornell

“We knew these little impacts were constantly occurring, but we didn’t know how big or how frequent they might be, and we didn’t necessarily expect them to take the form of spectacular shearing clouds,” said Matt Tiscareno, lead author of the paper and a Cassini participating scientist at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. “The sunlight shining edge-on to the rings at the Saturnian equinox acted like an anti-cloaking device, so these usually invisible features became plain to see.”

Tiscareno and his colleagues now think meteoroids of this size probably break up on a first encounter with the rings, creating smaller, slower pieces that then enter into orbit around Saturn. The impact into the rings of these secondary meteoroid bits kicks up the clouds. The tiny particles forming these clouds have a range of orbital speeds around Saturn. The clouds they form soon are pulled into diagonal, extended bright streaks.

“Saturn’s rings are unusually bright and clean, leading some to suggest that the rings are actually much younger than Saturn,” said Jeff Cuzzi, a co-author of the paper and a Cassini interdisciplinary scientist specializing in planetary rings and dust at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. “To assess this dramatic claim, we must know more about the rate at which outside material is bombarding the rings. This latest analysis helps fill in that story with detection of impactors of a size that we weren’t previously able to detect directly.”

Source: JPL

Outer Space – Mind Blowing Video from Jupiter and Saturn

Video Caption: This mesmerizing video unveils incredibly amazing sequences around Jupiter and Saturn from NASA’s Cassini and Voyager missions set to stirring music by “The Cinematic Orchestra -That Home (Instrumental)”. Credit: Sander van den Berg

Don’t hesitate 1 moment ! Look and listen to this mind blowing video of the Jupiter and Saturnian systems.

If you love the wonders of the hitherto unknown Universe unveiled before your eyes – and long to explore – feast your eyes on this short new video right now titled simply; “Outer Space”. Continue reading “Outer Space – Mind Blowing Video from Jupiter and Saturn”