Friday, July 19, 2013

Wave at Saturn

Wave at Saturn Details:

In just a few hours we all have the chance to get our picture taken by one of the most amazing cameras, so comb your hair and smile big for Cassini! This evening, from 5:27-5:42pm Eastern Time you have the opportunity to be in the picture as Cassini will be taking an image of the Earth from behind Saturn.

From a distance of nearly 10 AU (or about 1.44 billion kilometers) the Earth will be about 1.5 pixels in size on Cassini’s megapixel camera. The view will be similar to this:

Image and more details at:
Those of us located in North America will be facing Saturn (and therefore the Cassini spacecraft) at this time. If you’re not located in North/South America fear not, you still can get photographed. Thanks to the MESSENGER spacecraft, which is currently in orbit around Mercury, there will be pictures taken tomorrow morning that will cover the other side of the Earth!

While having a few photons from the entire planet land on a pixel at Cassini may not be the glamour shot you were hoping for, I still encourage you to take a moment to enjoy the opportunity. So rarely do we have a chance to be a part of something so much larger than our standard day-to-day activities. Think about it:

* There’s a spacecraft named Cassini 929 million miles away from the Earth.
* It launched in 1997 and took until 2004 to reach Saturn.
* It’s been orbiting Saturn and taking pictures and various types of measurements ever since and transmitting that information back to Earth on radio waves.
* From that distance everything and everyone on the Earth resides in basically a single pixel.

It’s really pretty fantastic. The first photos of the Earth from the Moon inspired generations of young scientists, engineers, artists, writers, dreamers… it put our world in perspective. It gave context to this amazing world we call home; demonstrating how beautiful, and how small, and how delicate it truly is against the vastness of space. We have had very few opportunities to see the Earth in such a unique way. In 1990 the Voyager 1 turned back toward the Earth at the request of Carl Sagan to take a last look at the Earth from 6 billion kilometers away as it sped (and continues to speed!) to the outer reaches of our solar system.

If you have a minute to Wave at Saturn, I encourage you to maybe take just another 3 minutes to watch this inspiring video, which won the NASA Earth Day Video Contest in 2011. 

‘One Earth’ by Fiona Conn

If you can't view it here, check out this link:

Saturday, June 22, 2013


As if you needed an excuse to look up at the night sky, this Sunday (June 23) the full moon will seem especially big and bright. It will be most striking when it’s near the horizon.

What causes a Supermoon?

The Moon is an elliptical orbit around the Earth, meaning that its distance from the Earth can vary from a minimum of 357,000 km to a maximum of 407,000 km. The average perigee and apogee are 363,300 km and 405,500 km, respectively, and the variation over the course of the year is due to the Sun's gravitational influence as the Earth and Moon move along their orbit throughout the year. The coincidence of a full moon and the perigee (closest distance) is what dictates a Supermoon, which is what will occur on Sunday.

What to expect:

On Sunday the Moon will be at true perigee at 7:32am, and will be visible at sunset that evening. The Moon will appear to be about 7% bigger than an average full moon (14% bigger than when the Moon is at apogee). The effect will be most noticeable when the Moon is rising/setting as objects on the horizon lend scale to the night sky.

It should be beautiful if the clouds permit :-)

Tonight's moon (from my point and shoot camera) is already looking very big an bright!
For more information about the Moon, this Sunday’s supermoon, and the Moon Illusion, read out this article from Sky and Telescope's Blog: