Tag Archives: Solar System

Around Saturn With Cassini

The Cassini spacecraft is an amazing piece of awesome, dudes.

Launched in 1997 as the Cassini-Huygens space probe, the Huygens probe was dropped onto Saturn’s moon Titan in 2005 and returned some amazing data and pictures.

Since then, the Cassini has made its way through and around the astonishing Saturn orbital system, getting close flybys of the ringed gas giant as well as its numerous moons. All in all, it’s sent home some astonishing pictures of what just might be the most appallingly beautiful sight in our entire solar system.

I’ve been fascinated by those pictures for years, staring rapturously at the view from another world. I thought they couldn’t get any better.

And then I saw “Waltz Around Saturn,” a video put together by Fabio di Donato and thrown onto the Vimeo video site. Fabio spliced together most of the photos Cassini sent back and then put it to some wonderful classical music. I just can’t get enough of this amazing thing. I tried to embed the Vimeo video, but they apparently don’t allow it. So I went surfing on youtube.com and found the same video. It’s a different user name, but I think it’s by the same guy. Either way, I’ve not got a version of this on the site so you should enjoy it. A lot.

So, here. I’m sharing it with you dudes and dudettes.


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Not Just A Boring Hole In The Ground


This right here. It’s really not just a boring hole in the ground. It’s a boring hole in the ground. . . on Mars!

As you should know, we sent the Curiosity rover up to Mars a while back and used a jet-assisted aerial crane to lower the rover to the surface of the planet. Which was the epitome of cool, the apex of awesome.

Now Curiosity is doing what it’s supposed to be doing: It’s roving the surface of Mars and conducting some rather remarkable scientific experiments. And just last week it did something no other object of person has ever done. Curiosity went and drilled a hole on another planet.

Sure it’s probably the most boring-sounding bit of awesome ever, but it’s the last bit, the another planet bit that makes it top out on the awesometer.

Just look at this thing.


Curiosity is doing all the drilling so it can grab some of the previously unexposed rocks and begin chemically evaluating them, subjecting them to laser analysis and stuff like that.

We’re looking for evidence that there once was free water on the surface of Mars and to answer the age-old question: Was there ever life on Mars beyond tiny single-celled organisms?

And were they cold, calculating intellects looking on the planet Earth with disdain and longing?

Odds are, probably no.

Still, I just can’t get enough of the supremely cool pictures that Curiosity keeps sending back from Mars. We can look at the pictures and see that it’s only a dry, rocky soil with a slightly reddish hue. No big dealie.

Until we remember just how that picture was taken, where it was taken and what it had to go through to get back to us.

I made sure to download this picture to my phone. I’ve got a group of students at Awesome Elementary School who are doing research reports on the solar system. I showed this picture to one of the students there and she simply shrugged her shoulders until I explained where the picture came from. Then she was riveted and called over some of her friends to take a look.

To stare at a picture taken on another planet, by looking into the slab of technology I pulled from my pocket and used to display photographs.

Truly, we’re living in a remarkable age. I only wish it were a little later in said age so I could take advantage of it. Yes, dudes, I’m still whining about not getting a chance to walk on an alien planet.

Until I can stop whining and actually accomplish my dream, I’ll keep seeking out these sorts of pictures and staring at them in wonder and awe.

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Descent To An Alien World

I have one regret: That I will never be able to set foot on an alien world.

I will never walk under altered gravity, stars burning brightly colored pinpoints in a stygian black sky. I will never see the sun as a small bright spot in the sky.

If it’s possible to miss something you’ve never experienced, then I miss this. Which is why I’m always on the lookout for bits of video like this. It’s amazing is what it is, dudes. Simply amazing. A little background first.

Titan is a moon orbiting Saturn and it’s the cloudiest moon in our solar system. It is seriously strange. It’s large enough to have collected an atmosphere and the mix of chemicals is volatile enough that it causes a roiling cloud bank to form across the whole of the planet/moon. Of course, we hairy apes are curious.

There’s only one thing that will make us want something more than we already do: And that’s to have something blocking us from getting it.

We want to know what’s happening on the different planets and moons. With Titan’s cloud cover, that’s just not going to happen.

Or at least it wasn’t going to happen until the European Space Agency got into the act and decided to send the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft and probe out to the Saturn system to have a look around. Huygens  detached from the Cassini spacecraft in late 2004 and began its approach to the cloud-covered worldlet of Titan.

In 2005, Huygens arrived at Titan and immediately began its descent. One tiny probe, about the size of a truck tire, against an entire environment. Probe wins.

As Huygens began its descent, it took picture after picture and faithfully relayed the images to Cassini and, from there, on to earth. And then, and this is where I start liking this more and more, someone here on earth decided to get a little fancy with the pictures.

This unknown person stitched together all the still images and made an amazing time-lapse video of Titan. Huygens comes to rest on the surface of the moon in a dry, shallow sea bed and survived for approximately 90 minutes, all the while snapping pictures.

This, then, is the result. And it’s marvelous. It feels like your eyeballs are actually there. Now if only the rest of my body could follow along.

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