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Posted on August 6th, 2013

Reaching Orbit – Cassini

Recently, the people of Earth were caught on camera by the Cassini spacecraft from the Saturn system. On July 19, 2013, Cassini took an image of the Earth in order to complete a mosaic of Saturn system while it was backlit by the Sun. The entire mosaic consists of 33 scenes and a total of 323 images.

Cassini’s mission is to study Saturn, its rings and its moons. It reached the system on January 14, 2005 on what was originally intended to be a 4-year mission. The mission has been extended through 2017 in order to study a complete season (i.e. one full orbit around the Sun) of the Saturn system.

Cassini is one of two parts of the overall Cassini-Huygens mission. Cassini orbits the Saturn system while the Huygens probe parachuted to Titan’s surface. Cassini consists of twelve instruments, four of them study the system in the infrared, ultraviolet and visible parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. Five of the instruments collect non-visual data on the system’s composition as they measure the electrical charge and energy of particles, studying their temperature, velocity, composition, flow and density. They also measure cosmic dust, Saturn’s magnetic field and radio waves emitted from the planet. Cassini’s last two instruments detect radar and radio waves to make measurements of terrestrial surfaces and their terrain.

Since it’s voyage began, Cassini-Huygens has collected massive amounts of data and made many discoveries. For instance, Titan was discovered to have large methane lakes and an underground ocean of water and ammonia. Saturn’s rings were observed to have small moons and consist of colliding particles and chaotic movement instead of stately rings. Water jets from one of its moons affects Saturn’s magnetic field. While all of this is technology gravy, there is a more visually-appealing outcome of this data collection: click on the video below to check out an awesome video that was created from scenes collected by Cassini. Be warned that this is not suitable for people with photosensitive epilepsy.

An epic video of compiled scenes from Cassini. While the music is awesome, watching it without the music makes you feel like you’re watching a scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey. (Video Credit: Fabio di Donato).

Katie Nelson
Geospatial Ninja
(303) 718-7163

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