Saturn’s comparatively paper-thin rings are tilted edge on to Earth every 15 years. Because the orbits of Saturn’s major satellites are in the ring plane, too, this alignment gives astronomers a rare opportunity to capture a truly spectacular parade of celestial bodies crossing the face of Saturn. Leading the parade is Saturn’s giant moon Titan — larger than the planet Mercury. The frigid moon’s thick nitrogen atmosphere is tinted orange with the smoggy byproducts of sunlight interacting with methane and nitrogen. Several of the much smaller icy moons that are closer in to the planet line up along the upper edge of the rings. Hubble’s exquisite sharpness also reveals Saturn’s banded cloud structure.
Archives for March 2009
The above image of Almahata Sitta 15 reminded me of a wonderful piece of work by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (author of The Little Prince) — also quite the aviation pioneer. This essay comes from his aviation memoirs, Wind, Sand and Stars (1939), translated by Lewis Galantière, and I read it first in the lovely anthology Bedrock: Writers on the Wonders of Geology.
But by the grace of an airplane I have known a more extraordinary experience than this, and have been made to ponder with even more bewilderment the fact that this earth that is our home is yet in truth a wandering star.
I just had to post, weekend or no — the above is the Expedition 19 hatch opening at the International Space Station, filmed earlier today. What I kept noticing is how thrilled to pieces Charles Simonyi looks; truly, like a kid in a candy shop. He is just SO happy to be back! I think that’s how I’d be, if I were up there; looking around the whole time and grinning ear to ear.
As mentioned Wednesday, a Soyuz took off earlier today, carrying Expedition 19 to the International Space Station. This phenomenal launch photo by Bill Ingalls gives me excited fits; hope you enjoy. There’s quite a few more to look at, as well; I think downloading and enjoying the largest resolution available (otherwise known as ENORMO-VISION) is the only way to go.
In other heart-stoppingly-beautiful image news, the Flickr blog had a feature today on “stellar” Flickr photography, talking a bit about the International Year of Astronomy and such; this image by orvaratli was featured. The colors are what get me, and apparently such a shot is not common: “the combination of clear skies, snowy foreground and highly active Aurora is a rare thing in Iceland but it makes a great shot.”
Last, but absolutely not least, the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Program (LOIRP) released their second image last weekend, a fantastic view of Copernicus crater. For those unfamiliar with the program, the above link gives the history nicely, and I look forward to many more images in the future!
Speaking of ENORMO-VISION, the full-size, full-resolution version can be downloaded for the low, low ticket price of 2.2 GIGABYTES (…the satellite internet says NO. Will have to wait on that one until I’m somewhere fast… and for a few hours solid.)
Enjoy the pics — maybe Friday picspam will become a regular thing?
Around this time last year (give or take a month), Jupiter started sporting a third Red Spot, to go with the Great Red Spot and Red Spot Jr. Unfortunately Red Spot the Third was short-lived, being torn apart by the other two shortly after formation.
This photo shows the launch pad at Baikonur Cosmodrome awaiting a Soyuz rocket launching tomorrow for the International Space Station. Of note on this crew swap is Charles Simonyi, the fifth private explorer to visit the ISS (in spring 2007), who revisits the station for a twelve-day stay. He will return to Earth with swapped crew members (also in a Soyuz capsule, which is being swapped out for the one he arrives in.) Looks like he’ll just miss the crew of STS-119, which undocks from the ISS later today.