Thursday, July 18, 2013

Wave at Saturn

Set a reminder for tomorrow afternoon, from 5:27 to 5:42 p.m. EDT, to go outside and wave at the sky. We're going to be doing a group photo.

The Cassini orbiter, currently orbiting Saturn, will be in position to do a spectacularly rare thing: shoot a photo of Earth. There have only been two prior shots of Earth from the outer solar system, because, first, the Earth is incredibly far away from Saturn - ten times the distance of the Earth to the Sun (so far that the Earth will only register as just a few pixels - so don't worry too much about what you're wearing), and, second, the Earth, from that vantage point, is right next to the Sun (sort of like Mercury is for us), so it's hard to get a decent shot.

Here are the only two previous shots of Earth from out there: the famous "pale blue dot" shot by Voyager in 1990 from 3.7 billion miles away, and a previous Cassini shot from 2006. The difference this time is that we'll be doing our first intentional portrait. The previous two photos were serendipitous candids, where the Earth essentially photobombed the shots.

So this time, the plan is for everyone to go outside and wave.

1 comment:

DValve said...

Here's a bit of astromony trivia I read recently that I'm blown away by. Have you heard of the Carrington Event? In 1859, a Brittish astronomer named Richard Carrington observed a very larger solar flare, the kind that only occur when the sun reaches peak activity, about every 150 years. This giant flare was historically important because it confirmed the relationship between solar activity and electromagnetic activity on earth. A smaller electromagnetic storm knocked out the power grid for 8 hours in Quebec in 1989. The flare in 1859, however, was so large, and the ensuing aurorae so bright, that people in the northeastern U.S. could read newsprint by its light; gold prospectors in the Rockies woke up and started making breakfast, thinking it was morning. Telegraphs in Europe and North America failed; operators were literally shocked by the power surges. But the best part is that, given the sun's 150 year activity cycle, we may be in for a similar event any time now. I'm thrilled by the possibility of the night sky lighting up with glowing glowing colors in my own neighborhood (but I'm thinking it may be wise to stay current on my important data backups.)

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