Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Saturn

Today at lunch we had the incredible luck to hear a presentation by Carolyn Porco, a planetary scientist on the team of the Cassini Imaging project. She brought with her some amazing images of Saturn and Saturn's moons and rings, which they have been exploring for years since the international Cassini spacecraft went into orbit around Saturn.

She is a very articulate and moving speaker and brought me to tears several times. She talked about the day when a probe was sent to the surface of Titan, ending over 300 years of speculation about what we might find there..and how that day should have been one when all humanity could celebrate and feel common cause. But do you even know when that was? (2004) She mentioned that next week, NASA will celebrate its 50th anniversary. And in that short time, humans have gone to every planet in our solar system. She talked about the way in which our species hurls itself out into the "maw" of space, just on the impulse to explore and to find out how we fit into the giant scheme of the universe.

Her ending images were so powerful. She reminded us of the power of the image of Earthrise, taken in 1968. She compared that image with one taken of a solar eclipse of Saturn. There is a tiny blue dot just to the left and above the rings. That dot is Earth.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Last months astronomy magazine had an outstanding summary with pictures of course of the Cassini mission. It was so wonderful I told several people here at work about it . The picture on your blog I had not seen, it looks like a superball dropping into a pond.
John