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Space Science

Phoebe Pictures Released 123

EccentricAnomaly writes "NASA has begun to release some pictures from Cassini's Phoebe flyby last Friday. If you look at the thumbnail of this image or if you look at the right of these images, you can see a group of craters that look like a skull just south of the equator and something that looks like George Washington (wearing his wig) near the north pole. Come up with some good names for features, and you can submit your ideas to the IAU. There's a process for naming a newly discovered crater, fossa, or sulcus. By the way, the naming convention for Phoebe is people associated with Phoebe or the Greek islands."
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Phoebe Pictures Released

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 14, 2004 @08:39AM (#9418787)
    Joey, Monica, and Chandler
      • Imagine two ice miners, working the surface of Saturn's moon Phoebe. The year is 2643. They are talking about the crater they are digging in: "Smelly Cat". They talk about all the possible permutations, the fact that cats can't live on the surface of Phoebe, the fact that if they could they wouldn't be detectable by smell, what sort of cat would live on Phoebe, exactly why the poor beast smells in the first place. Could the smelly cat not be an attribute of the cat, but instead be what the cat does? A cat that smells all day? They even wonder what a smelly cat is in French, and decide that it's probably a 'chat royale avec fromage'.

        But these poor souls have no idea that just over 500 years before them there was a completely inconsequential but highly amusing television show, where a song called "Smelly Cat" played a minor character definition role. The point of this story is that we MUST have a crater named smelly cat, just to fuck with people's minds.
  • by sdo1 ( 213835 ) on Monday June 14, 2004 @08:39AM (#9418788) Journal
    Queue the wackos....

    • Some faces they never talk about. Like the other face on Mars []. (It did have a guest spot in the Watchmen graphic novel.)
    • by Zocalo ( 252965 ) on Monday June 14, 2004 @08:59AM (#9418903) Homepage
      Not yet... The real wackos will be eagerly waiting for the pictures of monolith shaped objects, ideally on Iapetus.

      Not only is Iapetus one of the moons actually discovered by Cassini (in 1671), but it has one black hemisphere and one white hemisphere. It is thought that dust accumulated from Pheobe is responsible for the coating on the darker hemisphere. Intriguingly, there is also a small black dot in the middle of the white hemisphere, exactly as described in 2001 (the book, not the film)...

      • So did life imitate art or the other way round, i.e was the dot known when the book was written?
        • by Zocalo ( 252965 ) on Monday June 14, 2004 @09:21AM (#9419046) Homepage
          Life immitated art. The unusual colouration was known about for a long while - Cassini himself observed it when the moon seemed to "disappear" - and is a reason why Clark chose Iapetus for the location of the monolith. However, while the novel was written in the late 1960s, the anomaly in the pale surface was only detected by the Voyager flybys. There is a comment about the "black dot" in the foreward of one of the sequels, I forget which one, but Clark received a photo of the anomaly from NASA with the comment "Thinking of you..." or words to that effect.
        • In order for life to imitate art, someone had to see the art and imitate it. I didn't put the dot there, so who did?

          Life resembling art is either a coincidence or due to the art using designs similar to what happens in reality. In this case, the symmetry of a dot in the center can be due to several natural processes.

          • Yeah, but it sounds better to say it the way the grandparent did than:

            So, is that art imititing life, or did was the dot always there and just noticed after Clarke wrote about it in his book, making for a very strange coincidence that is nothing more than an amusing anecdote to talk about on slashdot?
            • I prefer:
              • Was the dot already known when Clarke wrote about it?
              • Did Clarke guess it might be there? (there might have been an oddity which could be explained by a dot, but in fiction he doesn't need to prove his explanation is the only one)
              • Did someone look closely for the dot because Clarke wrote about it?
              • Was the dot discovered later although nobody was looking for it?
              • Did someone fake the dot because Clarke wrote it was there?
              • Did someone create the dot on the surface because Clarke wrote it was there?
      • Not only is Iapetus one of the moons actually discovered by Cassini (in 1671), but it has one black hemisphere and one white hemisphere. It is thought that dust accumulated from Pheobe is responsible for the coating on the darker hemisphere.

        Well, since the colour of Iapetus' dark hemisphere is a different hue than Phoebe's, that theory is in question. See's page on Iapetus [].

      • NASA's recent observations of Phoebe seem to call that into doubt. Phoebe appears to be a block of ice covered by a dark layer of dust. In short, it seems that Phoebe is itself simply coated from some external source. The real question is, "where is this dust coming from?"
      • Dust on Iapetus (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Rhodnius ( 749829 ) on Monday June 14, 2004 @03:40PM (#9422929)
        The theory that Iapetus was darkened by dust from Phoebe is alluring, but doesn't really hold up to scrutiny. It looks logical when you see a drawing of the Saturn system, with the half-dark moon sitting next to the dark moon, but that's about where the plausibility ends.

        First, the moons are far, far apart. Phoebe orbits 5x farther from Saturn as Iapetus does - a difference on the order of 10 million km. Phoebe would have to be emitting a tremendous amount of dust for Iapetus to pick up any remotely visible amount of it.

        Second, their orbits are inclined approximately 160 degrees apart. Iapetus orbits almost in Saturn's equatorial plane; Phoebe is nowhere near it. There's no astrophysical reason for the dust to get into Saturn's equatorial plane and stay there waiting for Iapetus. (Saturn's rings remain compressed into the equatorial plane by tidal forces near the planet, but those forces become extremely weak that far out. Iapetus orbits 30x farther from Saturn than the outermost large ring, and tidal forces decrease with at least the square of distance.) The volume of space that would have to be dusted by Phoebe to visibly darken Iapetus is simply prohibitively large.

        Third, if Iapetus is darkened by dust, why not any of Saturn's other moons? OK, we don't yet know if Titan is, but the other moons should show some evidence of the same process, and they don't.

        Fourth, Iapetus isn't half-and-half black and white like a chessboard or that race in Star Trek. Voyager showed that the dark area is a roughly circular area, roughly centered on the leading orbital hemisphere, with a highly irregular border. And there are light spots within the dark area - not a single dot in the center, but a few separated irregular areas. It's a surface feature of the moon with lower albedo, not "this half is black."

        The dark area occupies a proportion of Iapetus's sphere similar to the proportion of the Pacific Ocean compared to Earth's sphere. Discounting the Velikovskyists, we're fairly sure that the Pacific Ocean was formed by Earthbound processes on our planet, so Iapetus's geological history could well have had something of similar scale.

        I doubt we'll ever know for sure until an Iapetus lander spacecraft, which isn't even remotely in NASA's future plans yet. Yes, something weird happened on Iapetus, but it wasn't dust from little Phoebe.
        • It's a surface feature of the moon with lower albedo, not "this half is black."

          It's as dark as lampblack. It's so dark that the 'black' side is as dark 'white' side at night. ...and it's almost impossible to find the Iapetus terminator as a result.

          Also, Phoebe has much more variation in color than previously thought, so it's still too early to conclude the Phoebe is not the source of the dark side on Iapetus... Computer models show that it is possible.
        • something weird happened on Iapetus, but it wasn't dust from little Phoebe.

          Maybe it was dust from Monica or Rachel?
  • Fakes! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 14, 2004 @08:40AM (#9418792)
    In 07_1.jpg that photo, I think I see a wire. I declare these are fakes! Tin foil hats set to maximum strength! Full conspiracy ahead!
    • Useless comment, I know, but still: If I had mod points right now, I'd have given you one -- Anonymous Coward or not! You hit it right on the nail! :D
    • Atlantis! (Score:4, Funny)

      by pjt33 ( 739471 ) on Monday June 14, 2004 @08:56AM (#9418884)
      Looks more like concentric circles [] to me. Maybe we've found the true location of Atlantis.
    • ? could you repost that URL ? There's a wacky character between the 2 and 07 that I can't figure out...
      • Damned, you are easily confused... That "unknown" character is the amazingly obscure "space" (which for this subject matter is a bit coincidental). You can easily delete that "wacky character" and then the URL works fine.

        This has always happened with moderately long URLs on Slashdot (at least those not posted as hyperlinks).
    • In 07_1.jpg that photo, I think I see a wire.

      It's probably one of The Clangers []. Otherwise it's the soup dragon.
    • Re:Fakes! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rei ( 128717 )
      No wire, but there is something wrong with the image: namely, poor photoshop artists. My current monitor has excellent contrast near the color black (while my home monitor has excelent contrast near white), and it's caused me numerous problems in photoediting contests.

      Increase the image contrast near black (or use a monitor that shows it well), and you'll notice some obvious brush strokes in space. Now, one can let the conspiracy theories fly as to why they're there.... realisticly, they were erasing art
  • by Anti Frozt ( 655515 ) <[chris.buffett] [at] []> on Monday June 14, 2004 @08:43AM (#9418820)
    • "...something that looks like George Washington."

    You brainwashed fools. That actually is George Washington. He's been hiding on Phoebe all this time, waiting for the state of affairs in the United States to hit rock-bottom before making his triumphant return and lifting American society to its pinnacle.

    Judging from the clarity of the picture, it looks like he's making his final launch checks ;)

  • Aparently these moons occupy two of the most chaotic orbits in the solar system so it's no surprize that they should end up on the front page of slashdot.
    • Speaking of chaos... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by leonbrooks ( 8043 )
      Is it just me, or do many of those random features look more like gas vents or subsidences than they do impact craters?

      Some of the smaller craters look almost as if they've got ant-lions [] hiding under them.
  • I wonder how many "good names" these guys go through for each of these features. I wonder how long NASA spends discussing and debating them. I wonder how much of our tax payer dollars are effectively pissed away. Just have one guy name the damn features and get back to work.
    • Not a good idea.
      Eventually he'd get bored and start giving out names like "megagalaxusprimord", "hypertron" , "honeyiloveyoupleasedontleave" , "ihatethisjob", "imastar" and "uranus" .

      Not to worry though! You can name your very own star here []. Just don't come back to me when the aliens find out what you named their mother (earth)
      • by BTWR ( 540147 ) <americangibor3&yahoo,com> on Monday June 14, 2004 @09:32AM (#9419153) Homepage Journal
        I always wonder how stupid people have to be if they believe they are really "naming" stars.

        Actually, I take that back. It's more of a Slashdot-we're-nerds sort of thinking to know offhand that they're bogus, but if you ever see one of those advertisements, they really seem legit: "Your star will be registered in the A.E.A.S.C. database" or whatever - that can mean "some excel file somewhere." They make users think they are officially naming the celestial body.
        You'd have just as much sucess with an ad "Name an orphan in Liberia after your sweetheart! It'll be registered in L.O.L. database!" - it'd have just as much "official-ness."
        I guess you're better off printing your own "star" coordinates off your own computer and save the $39.99...

        • My favorite part is where they say that the collection "will be registered with the United States Copyright Office". If it's copyrighted, then it must by legitimate, right?

          (this post © 2004 Just Some Guy)

    • Actually, we usually hire undergrads to do this (@ $6/hr). It doesn't cost very much at all. We also only name the features that end up discussed in scientific papers (so we can refer to them as something other than "the crater north and slightly west of the previously discussed crater").
  • by Snarf ( 109692 ) on Monday June 14, 2004 @08:49AM (#9418852)
    Why not name the features after other characters played by Lisa Kudrow?
  • Stunning (Score:5, Interesting)

    by the_twisted_pair ( 741815 ) on Monday June 14, 2004 @08:50AM (#9418856)
    Really, I mean it: this is an ancient bit of rock whirling about in space, and we can study it from the comfort of home. Perversely, images like this always remind me that life is so short; doesn't anyone else see things like this and feel disheartened at mortality ? There is so much I will never have time to know, still less understand.
    • Re:Stunning (Score:5, Interesting)

      by CFBMoo1 ( 157453 ) on Monday June 14, 2004 @08:59AM (#9418908) Homepage
      Yeah it's pretty upsetting really. I'm quite jelous at all the people in the future who will take space travel for granted rather then appreciate it or look at it with awe as we do now.

      It's kinda like driving a car, everyone is so used to it that it's ho-hum. Sad to say I can see that happening with space travel, boring nothing ho-hum till some alien species decides were food, cheap labor, and/or whatever.

      If I could get on a ship and travel the galaxy and see everything I would. Unfortunatly I can't and probebly never will. Course there's a lot to see on our own planet as well. Though it's mostly a "been there, done that" deal, except for maybe the ocean floor. Mmmm crushing pressure. :)

      • Re:Stunning (Score:5, Insightful)

        by 3fingers ( 759034 ) on Monday June 14, 2004 @09:35AM (#9419178)
        If I could get on a ship and travel the galaxy and see everything I would....

        Well get on a plane and travel the earth - there is more unbelievably beautiful and amazing stuff here than anyone could see in 10 lifetimes, go to Ko Phi Phi in Thailand, Inis Mór in Ireland, see the Pyramids, Yosemite, sail the Chang Jiang etc etc etc etc or you could sit by your computer and wish your life away in some space travelling dreamland........your choice

        • I'd rather see attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion, or watch C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate.
      • Re:Stunning (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I'm quite jelous at all the people in the future who will take space travel for granted rather then appreciate it or look at it with awe as we do now.

        IF they have it as commodity. It's one of these things, just like "food pills", "rocket cars" and "personal helicopters" that children always think are 20 years away. Read children's (or even "big kids"') prophecies from, say, 1982, and you hear the same story. They didn't dream of tiny mobile phones, or portable DVD-players, or iPods. Likewise, you can't

    • Re:Stunning (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BigGerman ( 541312 )
      And this is just single, stupid, run-of-the-mill moon. How many breathtaking images can be taken throughout our solar system? Orange sunsets on Titan? dust storms on Mars?
      Space has the appeal because it is there. That is why I think space tourism is real. People will go and pay for the opportunity to see this.
      Will it be beyond our capability to launch a space hotel into long comet-like elliptical orbits?
  • Springfield (Score:5, Funny)

    by junklight ( 183583 ) <mark AT junklight DOT com> on Monday June 14, 2004 @08:53AM (#9418863) Homepage
    There ought to be a rule that *somewhere* on every planet,moon, star etc. is called springfield.
    • Anyone know how to get sprayed coffee out of a keyboard?
      • Use a small screwdriver to lever the keys off. Wash them in water. Replace them in the correct positions. Takes an hour or two, mainly because the space bar is a pain to get back on.

        The memories of the time I knocked a bottle of Pepsi over my keyboard are still strong.

        • Use a small screwdriver...

          No no no...just power the machine down, unplug the keyboard, rinse it out real good with warm water (a MUST with non-diet soda, since the sugar gets sticky real fast), set it up to dry (preferably leaning up against something, so all excess water runs off the PCB) overnight, or if you're in a dry, varm environment, a few hours. Good as new!

  • Me: Hm - looks like they're about to take pictures of Phoebe. Should be pretty cool.

    My Lovely Wife: Well, out of all the cast of "Friends" I thought she had the best career options.

    Me: ...

    (Really, she's only like this on astronomy.)
  • Screw this. (Score:5, Funny)

    by torpor ( 458 ) <<ibisum> <at> <>> on Monday June 14, 2004 @08:55AM (#9418875) Homepage Journal

    I'm sick of looking at black and white pictures of far-off places where the use of nuclear fusion not only makes sense but is also the only way to bring life to desolate locales.

    I wanna go there. Where is my Eagle lander damnit?!! Where is my General Enterprises Hull? Where is my Millenium Falcon? Where is my Beaver-1?

    Screw all this mechano-assembly 'space sciences', screw all this "lets invade Iraq so we can feed our fat society even more plastic landfill", screw all this "nuclear fusion will kill the Earth", I want my space-hardened nuke-powerplant packin' HumVee, and I want it NOW!!

    Seriously. I'd move to Phoebe TODAY. But the closest I can get is a shitty winnebago on some beach in the Netherlands, or some crap like that. What's the frickin' holdup people?

    Sheesh. New World Order my ass. Those guys have no clue what they're doing ... Vote Me For King, and I'll make it -compulsary- for all schoolkids to learn fusion plant physics on Phoebe ...
    • Seriously. I'd move to Phoebe TODAY. But the closest I can get is a shitty winnebago on some beach in the Netherlands, or some crap like that.

      You and me both, brother. But Mars has better real estate prospects.

      And it's fission, not fusion.

    • by SEWilco ( 27983 )
      Every Hummer will soon have a nuclear plant to power the electric armor. Yes, I mean the civilian version, to protect against shopping cart attacks and door dingers trying to use the half parking space left on each side of one.
    • Someone with a 3 digit uid and running for king? You got my vote too, man.

    • "Where is my Eagle lander damnit?!! Where is my General Enterprises Hull? Where is my Millenium Falcon? Where is my Beaver-1?"

      Be thankful it doesn't come with a Sirius Cybernetics Corporation product!
    • Where is my General Enterprises Hull?

      If you're referring to the works of Larry Niven, I believe you mean General Products Hull. And we don't have those because we haven't met Pierson's Puppeteers yet.
      • I knew someone would correct me on that, which is why I didn't bother to be 100% accurate, but yeah. General Products. Persons' Puppeteers.

        Seems like Phoebe would be a pretty good place to find a puppeteer or two, anyway...
  • Phoebe (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    is the goddess of Wise Counsel, Thoughtful Replies and Snappy Answers, so she's one of those rare people who can FP on Slashdot and not get instantly modded down.

    She can also honestly state "I am the offspring of Uranus" which is guaranteed to get a titter among those Titans who are into Beavis and Butt-Head.

  • by DCowern ( 182668 ) * on Monday June 14, 2004 @08:56AM (#9418887) Homepage
    I've got a bad feeling about this.
    • It's an outpost:
      First images from the Cassini flyby of Phoebe reveal it to be a scarred, cratered outpost with a very old surface and a mysterious past,
      A scarred outpost with a mysterious past! That ought to be good for a few more books and talkshows by the face kooks.
    • least the dot is off-center so it's not aimed directly at us.
  • cross thread info (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zogger ( 617870 )
    sorta offtopic, but I just finished with the two lastest BSD articles, and when I got to this one, and with the heavy image loads and whatnot, and now not only being slashdotted but also being referenced in a ton of other online news places, etc, I figured I'd take a peek and see what is that site running? [] at netcraft. Hmm, well neither BSD nor linux, it's running solaris 8 using netscape server. Just a FWIW.
  • Pronounciation? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Not being a native English speaker, could someone clear this up for me?

    How do you pronounce Phoebe? I've been saying it as 'foe-bay'. Is this correct? Horribly wrong?
    • Horribly wrong! ;-) It's Fee-Bee
    • Re:Pronounciation? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dustpuppy_de ( 322556 ) on Monday June 14, 2004 @09:45AM (#9419275) Homepage
      Not being a native English speaker, could someone clear this up for me? How do you pronounce Phoebe?

      Since it's not named after the character from the TV Series "Friends", but after an old greek goddess, it is completely irrelevant how the america-centric Slashdot crowd pronounces it. I'm from Germany, we say "Föbe", with Umlaut, but only the Gods know what the old Greek said. Or maybe a classical philologist.
      In any case, the english pronounciation "Fee-Bee" is most probably totally wrong.
      • Re:Pronounciation? (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        The ancient Greeks pronounced things far differently than many people would probably expect. Although I will not even bother to try and type out the name Phoebe in the Greek alphabet (its not the character system the ancient Greeks used anyway), I will say ancient times, ph, th, ch, were all pronounced as aspirated consonants....(p + h, t + h, etc.). Take the english words hot house...say it fast enough and you have the approximate sound of th. OE was probably pronounced closer to the oi in o
  • Dear Friends,
    I suppose it is very human to see faces or features in an inantimate object.
    when I look at this asteriod / moon, the word/ pattern that comes to me is hammered.

  • How long do you have to stare at these things before you see something? I keep expecting a zombie/ghost face to sudden appear and make me wet my pants. ...again.
  • by colinmc151 ( 714382 ) on Monday June 14, 2004 @10:15AM (#9419551) Homepage

    One of the Greek islands is the island of Lesbos (where the poet Sappho first wrote about love between women, and yes this is where the term lesbian comes from). This would be seriously cool on several counts:

    • Phobe being a female figure in Greek mythology this fits better than a lot of male oriented names.
    • It would annoy the U.S. right wing seriously, which at this point is a very good thing.
    • Because of the previous point, this may make it easier to get cash for space exploration, as in:
      • To the left talk about how more money would allow more heroes of the left be honored.
      • For the right talk about such features have to obliterated

    In other words everyone who loves space exploration wins :-) .

  • by Shimmer ( 3036 ) <> on Monday June 14, 2004 @10:22AM (#9419626) Homepage Journal
    You can see a group of craters that look like a skull just south of the equator and something that looks like George Washington (wearing his wig) near the north pole.

    Is this really the most important/interesting thing that Slashdot can tell us about the Phoebe mission so far? What next, a bulletin about a cloud that is shaped like a bunny rabbit?
  • I can't see the skull...The thumbnail kinda looks like a T-rex, but for the life of me, I can't see the skull.
  • Smelly Cat, Smelly cat what are they feeding you?
    Smelly Cat, smelly cat it's not your fault...

    They won't take you to the vet.
    You're obviously not their favorite pet.
    You may not be a bed of roses,
    And you're no friend to those with noses.

    Smelly cat, smelly cat what are they feeding you?
    Smelly cat, smelly cat it's not your fault!

    Had to say it.
  • "There's nothing but pebbles out here" ... Oh Sh*t (que battle music), The Turanic Raiders are attacking! Argh!
  • by ( 647348 ) on Monday June 14, 2004 @05:33PM (#9423848) Homepage

    The pictures mentioned earlier are still not taken from the closest point to Phoebe.

    In the Imaging Diary [] you'll find the latest pictures, amongst which one taken from 2365 kilometers [] (1,470 miles).

  • Don't google that at work.....

    "Thats no moon, its a spaceship..." saturn_deathstar_thumb.jpg

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling