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Space NASA Science

Cassini Returns Amazing New Imagery from Saturn 118

Posted by Zonk
from the extremely-attractive-planet dept.
SeaDour writes "The Cassini spacecraft has recently entered a highly-inclined orbit around Saturn, revealing some never-before-seen images of the planet's ring system as seen from above and below the planet. 'Sailing high above Saturn and seeing the rings spread out beneath us like a giant, copper medallion is like exploring an alien world we've never seen before. It just doesn't look like the same place. It's so utterly breath-taking, it almost gives you vertigo.' The spacecraft will eventually return to its standard orbit parallel to the ring plane in late June."
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Cassini Returns Amazing New Imagery from Saturn

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  • Vertigo? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by catbutt (469582) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @10:58PM (#18233498)
    I mean, its neat and all, but is showing a different perspective, that really provides no new information, really worth all those over-the-top effusive words? "Alien world we've never seen before"? Or just one we have seen before, but from a 45 degree different angle?
    • Re:Vertigo? (Score:5, Informative)

      by CheshireCatCO (185193) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @11:35PM (#18233786) Homepage
      The different angles are actually very important when working on the rings. The photometry changes radically at different phase angles, from different latitudes, and when viewing different ring longitude. From the variations we can deduce a great deal about structures in the rings, particle sizes, and so forth.
      • Can we determine the best way to make artificial shepherd moons to steer the particles into large ore harvesting facilities? Let's get this space colonization started, wooooo! Seriously, are rings and planets around gas giants good places to setup shop for the outer solar system? I mean Titan alone can provide billions of tons of methane.
        • by fymidos (512362)
          So what? who would need methane in a space colony?
          • by Whiteox (919863)
            Someone should mod this up +1 Funny.

            Methane - Space Colony?(People in enclosed spaces) Get it????
          • They wouldn't need methane in the colony, per se. (As a matter of fact, they'd want to avoid methane in the colony. Especially the chili induced variety). However, methane could be valuable as a propellant, or as a starting point for some food processing technology.
            • by Grishnakh (216268)
              I'm not sure I see how methane could be useful as a fuel.

              On earth, yes, methane gas can be burned to produce energy. However, this is because earth has an oxygen-rich atmosphere. Out in space, there is no extra oxygen floating around, so burning methane would probably do nothing (disclaimer: IANAC (chemist)).
              • I didn't say fuel, I said propellant. You know... reaction mass. Shove it into a gas core nuclear rocket and zoom around the solar system.
                • by Grishnakh (216268)
                  Oh ok. I didn't think about that.

                  It's too bad that idea is completely infeasible. The problem is it's nuclear, and that's against the treaties about nuclear weapons in space. Yes, propulsion != weapons, but try convincing politicians of that.

                  We humans are doomed to our own stupidity.
                  • It's sad to think of it this way, but I'm confident that our greed and insatiable demand for power will win out over our stupidity. Besides, we already have dozens of nuclear powered (as in generating electricity) spacecraft floating around the solar system, and in a few cases, flying out of it. Furthermore, as you point out, propulsion is not weapons.
        • Can we determine the best way to make artificial shepherd moons to steer the particles into large ore harvesting facilities?

          Yes, if we have about another century of experience with robotic spacecraft. Of course, we won't get that if we burn most of our space budget on joy rides to the moon and Mars, both of which will likely get canceled before they ever get off the ground.
        • by justo (2858)
          um, perhaps the rings are essential to the way the star sol is able to navigate in our galaxy, and stripping them might be like pulling out your retina.

          the solar system is an organism, too.
        • Seriously, are rings and planets around gas giants good places to setup shop for the outer solar system? I mean Titan alone can provide billions of tons of methane.

          A billion tons of methane isn't that useful without 6 billion tons of oxygen to burn it.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Looks like a cheap photoshop effect to me..
  • by Sparr0 (451780) <sparr0@gmail.com> on Sunday March 04, 2007 @11:03PM (#18233534) Homepage Journal
    Wouldn't the 'equatorial' orbit be coplanar with the rings, not parallel?
  • Their servers now look like rings of Saturn too.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 04, 2007 @11:05PM (#18233546)
    Go here http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/multimedia/images/index .cfm [nasa.gov] to get bigger and more images from NASA, instead of the currently ddo.. I mean /.ed news sites.
  • Other pics (Score:4, Informative)

    by ischorr (657205) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @11:13PM (#18233618)
    The linked photo site was almost immediately Slashdotted so I'm not sure what they contained, but there are pictures on NASA's site here:

    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/media/20 070301.html [nasa.gov]
  • seeing the rings spread out beneath us like a giant, copper medallion is like exploring an alien world we've never seen before.

    Its too bad Mars (probably) doesn't have tangible rings. Because as they say, "if you can't support a medallion, you can't support a family". And if you can't support a family, then you must be a liberal arts major and trying to colonize Mars.

    Or something
  • And where would that be exactly? Surely, by convention the probe is above the planet - wherever it is in its orbit?

    • Nope, at least not if you're interested in Saturn. The rings, being planar, make a strong case for an "above" and a "below". So we frequently do use those terms, at least speaking loosely. I can't recall the same being true for other planets, although it might be.
  • by jd (1658) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {kapimi}> on Sunday March 04, 2007 @11:40PM (#18233824) Homepage Journal
    ...planet. Y'know, it doesn't have the same ring(s) to it.
    • by Dannon (142147)
      I am sick and tired of these motherf*ckin' snakes on this motherf*ckin' ring plane!

      (couldn't resist...)
  • the planet's ring system as seen from above and below the planet

    How do you tell above vs. below in the context?

    • by catbutt (469582)
      I think "above" in the solar system is the direction that is perpendicular to the plane of rotation of the planets, and that roughly corresponds to north (but is actually 23.5 degrees from earth-north).
      • and earth magnetic north is not constant.
      • by mi (197448)

        I think "above" in the solar system is the direction that is perpendicular to the plane of rotation of the planets

        Ok, so you've identified the line along which both the "above" and the "below" align. Now, which direction is "up"?

    • "Above" and "below" are relative to the ecliptic plane. (It is not dependent on the spin of the planet, which can vary quite a lot from one planet to the next. Look at Venus and Uranus.) That said, until 2009 the Sun will be shining on Saturn's southern hemisphere. So if you're looking at the lit face of the rings, you're below the planet. Conversely, if the rings are unlit by the direct sunlight, it's the north face. Confusingly, this will all change in August of '09. Not that I'm complaining, it's
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 05, 2007 @12:35AM (#18234186)
    Thanks to American taxpayers for footing a couple hundred million dollars for some great desktop backgrounds.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Thanks to American taxpayers for footing a couple hundred million dollars for some great desktop backgrounds.

      The U.S. contributed $2.6 billion [wikipedia.org] dollars to this mission.

    • by ganjadude (952775)
      To be fair the Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency.
    • Dang, I wish I paid for the cheap, discounted space agency you apparently contract out to for great desktop backgrounds! The Cassini project actually will cost about 3.2 billion dollars. (Portions paid in Euros, because our friends in Europe decided that they, too, had too much taxpayer money on hand). See: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/faq/mission.cfm [nasa.gov]

      (Incidentally, 3.2 billion is also how much karma I have lost for pasting that link on Cassini stories. Let no one say that I'm unwilling to sacrifice for sc
  • by Insurgent2 (615836) on Monday March 05, 2007 @12:36AM (#18234200)
    Am I the *only* one here who noticed the extensive glacial retreat evident when comparing these images to the ones from when it arrived in 2004?!?!?
    • The only reason Saturn, Mars, and Earth would all warm up simultaneously would be from changes in solar output, which would endanger the grants of hundreds of atmospheric scientists who've bet their (and their grad students) careers on the cause being atmospheric CO2!
  • ...fly that thing into one of the more placid ring planes and really get attention.
    • We're not even allowed to fly through most of the thinnest rings, let alone the ones visible from Earth. Still, plowing through the B ring is my favorite end-of-mission scenario. If you have to destroy the spacecraft, you might as well doing it in a fun way.
  • by Jugalator (259273) on Monday March 05, 2007 @03:01AM (#18234944) Journal
  • ...revealing some never-before-seen images of the planet's ring system...

    Well at least not by the carbon-based sentient life forms on the 3rd planet from the sun in this very same solar system.

  • Unless the spaceship is extraordinarily busy, they should be capturing movies of their orbits over the poles. On at least one orbit, they should capture color, wide angle mosaics of the entire planet during the entire orbit and reconstruct a wide field orbit movie. Such a movie would be over 4000x4000 resolution and when projected in IMAX, possibly the most amazing sight humans have ever had.

    The same thing should be done on Mars, with the rovers shooting an entire day of wide angle mosaics to reconstruct

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