Friday, July 19, 2013

19 July 2013 It gets lonesome way out there

Cassi Creek:
          Half an inch of rain between 1630 and 1730 yesterday.  Lots of local flash flooding for the second straight day.  We remain fortunate.  Cassi Creek remains clear and within its banks. 
          Today and tomorrow, present a rare opportunity to become part of a NASA project involving the Cassini Solstice mission.
As the planet Saturn eclipses Cassini’s view of the sun, photographs and other imagery will be collected and forwarded to NASA.  It is expected that a very distant image of Earth will be captured.  So, go out and wave to Saturn.
          You should present your smiling faces between 1847 and 1901 EDT.  If you wish, you can obtain a certificate documenting your participation in the Cassini Solstice project.
For those of you who don’t have the photo/imaging capability to shoot your own Saturn studies, here are some great links from NASA dating from 2006.

          It  remains hard for most of us to comprehend the immense distances between the sun and the various planetary components of our solar system. 
“Cassini launched in October 1997 with the European Space Agency's Huygens probe. The probe was equipped with six instruments to study Titan, Saturn's largest moon. It landed on Titan's surface on Jan. 14, 2005, and returned spectacular results.
“Cassini completed its initial four-year mission to explore the Saturn System in June 2008 and the first extended mission, called the Cassini Equinox Mission, in September 2010. Now, the healthy spacecraft is seeking to make exciting new discoveries in a second extended mission called the Cassini Solstice Mission.
The mission’s extension, which goes through September 2017, is named for the Saturnian summer solstice occurring in May 2017. The northern summer solstice marks the beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere and winter in the southern hemisphere. Since Cassini arrived at Saturn just after the planet's northern winter solstice, the extension will allow for the first study of a complete seasonal period…”

The Los Angeles Times has a very good article about the Saturn imagery. 
Looking sunward from Saturn, the sun is greatly diminished in size and intensity.  Our badly abused and over-populated planet is barely visible with the longest of lenses, the best of filters, and the aid of computers to locate it. 
Looking in the other direction, beyond the rocks and ice that make up the Kuipfer Belt.  The Voyager missions were launched in 1977 and still function as designed.  Their mission has been extended and they now travel through the Heliosphere, at the extreme edge of the beginnings of interstellar space.  At their distance from the sun, it is a pale small glint among the rest of the stars.  It calls to mine the closing lines of Cisco Houston’s “Way Out There.”
“The twin Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft continue exploring where nothing from Earth has flown before. In the 36th year after their 1977 launches, they each are much farther away from Earth and the Sun than Pluto. Voyager 1 and 2 are now in the "Heliosheath" - the outermost layer of the heliosphere where the solar wind is slowed by the pressure of interstellar gas. Both spacecraft are still sending scientific information about their surroundings through the Deep Space Network (DSN).

The primary mission was the exploration of Jupiter and Saturn. After making a string of discoveries there -- such as active volcanoes on Jupiter's moon Io and intricacies of Saturn's rings -- the mission was extended. Voyager 2 went on to explore Uranus and Neptune, and is still the only spacecraft to have visited those outer planets. The adventurers' current mission, the Voyager Interstellar Mission (VIM), will explore the outermost edge of the Sun's domain. And beyond.
Interstellar Mission
Interstellar Mission.  › larger image

Mission Objective
The mission objective of the Voyager Interstellar Mission (VIM) is to extend the NASA exploration of the solar system beyond the neighborhood of the outer planets to the outer limits of the Sun's sphere of influence, and possibly beyond. This extended mission is continuing to characterize the outer solar system environment and search for the heliopause boundary, the outer limits of the Sun's magnetic field and outward flow of the solar wind. Penetration of the heliopause boundary between the solar wind and the interstellar medium will allow measurements to be made of the interstellar fields, particles and waves unaffected by the solar wind. “

“So long Pal, sure gets lonesome out there!”

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