Night on Saturn

Oct 17, 2006 4:35pm

I don’t know about you, but I needed a little break from the threat of nuclear conflict and the idea of the earth giving way beneath our feet, so I found this picture: This was taken by the Cassini spacecraft, which has been orbiting Saturn since 2004, as it passed through Saturn’s shadow.  You can click to enlarge, or if you want to get into real detail, you can find a very large version HERE. (More in a minute on why you’d want to.) The image comes from a NASA website called "Astronomy Picture of the Day." What’s worth noting about this image?  A few things: First, Saturn’s not all dark at night.  It’s lit by sunlight reflected from its rings.  The Earth, in a comparable picture, would be black, perhaps with lights from some of the larger cities.  If you could stand on Saturn (it may not be possible; nobody knows what’s beneath those murky layers of ammonia and methane gas), the nights would be something to behold. Second, look how bright the rings are in this view, even when completely backlit.  Sunlight is bouncing among the pieces of ice that make up the rings. Finally (and this is why you may want to go to the large version), do you see the tiny DOT to the left of Saturn, just above the edge of its brightest rings?  That’s us. ============================== Earthquake Update: Thankfully, there still seem to be no reported deaths or major injuries after Sunday’s quake in Hawaii, even though aftershocks continue.  People were certainly scared, and there will be a lot of cleanup to do, but there’s less damage on the big island than authorities expected.  (More HERE.) One line from an AP story: "Otherwise, life is returning to normal, not just for residents but also tourists, who continue to arrive by the planeload."

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