NASA’s shrinking budgets for planetary exploration may force it to decide between continued funding for the Saturn Cassini mission and the continued funding for its Mars missions.
I try to be measured in my praise for spacecraft images. Not every photo can be the greatest space image ever. But this enormous mosaic showing the flattened globe of Saturn floating within the complete disk of its rings must surely be counted among the great images of the Cassini mission.
With the recent announcement by NASA that the 36 year-old spacecraft Voyager 1 has officially entered interstellar space at a distance from the sun about four times further than Neptune's orbit, and with Voyager 2 not far behind, it seems worthwhile to explore how humans managed to fling objects so far into space.
The European Space Agency will announce two major science missions this November, one of which is likely to be devoted to solar system exploration.
Here it is: the view from Saturn of our Earthly home, one and a half billion kilometers away. We see Earth and the Moon through a thin veil of faintly blue ice crystals, the outskirts of Saturn's E ring. Earth is just a bright dot -- a bit brighter than the other stars in the image, but no brighter than any planet (like Saturn!) in our own sky.
An easy image processing trick -- using lower-resolution color data to colorize a black-and-white photo -- is relied upon by many space missions to keep data volumes low. Here's how to do it.
Remember the amazing photo of Saturn's north pole that I posted yesterday? Now, thanks to an amateur image processor, it moves, and the motions of the individual clouds within the belts are mesmerizing.
It's a quarterly feast day for me: the day that the Cassini mission delivers three months' worth of data to NASA's Planetary Data System. Here's a few images processed from the October 1, 2012 data release.
The apparently simple device of running Cassini images together like a flipbook makes for a dramatic movie, especially with the help of well-timed musical cues.