Good Night, Cassini, Good Work, I’ll Most Likely Kill You in the Morning

Tomorrow, Friday September 15, 2017, the Cassini orbiter comes to the end of its mission and will be driven into the atmosphere of Saturn.

To celebrate, The Ringer asked members of the Cassini science team to pick an image that they considered the most personally or scientifically significant. Below are my favorites of those images.

A false-color image of Saturn’s rings made from uncalibrated ultraviolet data, created and selected by Joshua Colwell, UVIS co-investigator:

The Ringer NASA False Color Saturns Rings by Joshua Colwell

The colors are incredible—the red is a real stand-out.

Titan and Epimetheus, selected by Morgan Cable, Project Science and system engineering assistant:

The Ringer NASA Titan and Epimetheus

The size differences of Saturn’s moons are amazing. Moreover, this photo almost looks like it’s framed by a professional photographer when, in fact, it’s from outer space. Love it.

Enceladus’s plumes, selected by Molly Bittner, systems engineer, Cassini Spacecraft Operations:

The Ringer NASA Enceladus Plumes

Jets of water bursting from a subsurface ocean. On an icy moon. In Saturn’s orbit. And NASA got photos of it!

Check out my previous post (with more photos), or follow the grand finale milestones, read the mission-end FAQs, browse graphics, documents, videos in a dedicated grand finale gallery, or read Cassini on Twitter.

Images courtesy of NASA via The Ringer.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

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3D Video of Flying above Mars

Jan Fröjdman hand-built a short tour of Mars using high-resolution images from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Here it is on Vimeo:

A Fictive Flight above Real Mars by Jan Fröjdman

Not only did Fröjdman add color to the original black-and-white photos, he transformed them into 3D. The four-and-a-half-minute video starts with an approach to Mars from beyond the moon Phobos and then moves to several clips of “flying” above the planet, looking down over craters, plains, and other features.

“This film is not scientific. As a space enthusiast I have just tried to visualize the planet my way,” Fröjdman says.

Scientific or not, it looks absolutely beautiful. Being a visual person, I just love being able to glimpse at the scenery. Kudos!

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Cassini’s Grand Finale Begins

The Cassini spacecraft is set to make its first dive through the gap between Saturn and its rings today, April 26, 2017. This dive, first of 22, opens the last stage of the Cassini-Huygens mission before the vehicle is driven into Saturn on September 15, 2017.

To celebrate, here are a few of the amazing photos sent back from the mission.

NASA Catching Its Tail 5329_PIA12826

NASA Colorful Colossusses 5631_PIA14922

NASA Spring at the North Pole 5805_PIA14945

NASA Water World 6275_PIA18343

Incredible. At this writing, the mission’s been running for over 19 years. It’s amazing what we can do when there’s a will.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter.

Follow the grand finale milestones, read the mission-end FAQs, browse graphics, documents, videos in a dedicated grand finale gallery, or follow Cassini on Twitter.

Images by NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI: Catching Its Tail; Colorful Colossuses and Changing Hues (Titan and Saturn); Spring at the North Pole; Water World (Enceladus and Saturn’s rings). Earth Day tweet photo with more info is available at The Day the Earth Smiled.

This post has been edited for formatting.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Online Finds: Trappist-1 Illustrations

A NASA Tumblr post about the newly found exoplanets in the Trappist-1 system included fantastic artist’s renderings of what the system and the planets might look like.

NASA Tumblr Trappist-1 Illustration System

“The planets also are very close to each other. How close? Well, if a person was standing on one of the planet’s surface, they could gaze up and potentially see geological features or clouds of neighboring worlds, which would sometimes appear larger than the moon in Earth’s sky.”

NASA Tumblr Trappist-1 Illustration Planet

One is even a retro-style travel poster! (See other NASA retro travel posters here.)

NASA Tumblr Trappist-1 Illustration Poster

Love ’em! Find more at NASA on Tumblr!

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Crossposted from the Playfully Grownup Home blog.

Images by NASA, via the NASA Tumblr blog.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Tips Needed: Years-Long Story Arcs on Screen?

Recently I’ve been thinking of Babylon 5 quite a bit from the storytelling point of view. When it first aired (1994-1998 in the U.S.), it was unique in my experience (which was, at the time, still quite limited) for a few things.

The Catholic Geeks babylon52

Firstly, I loved B5 for its complex, detailed, and consistent world. I hadn’t seen that level of commitment to worldbuilding on tv before. Also, the plot moved on several levels, from individual concerns to multi-species war, and involved political struggles, religious prophesies, racial tensions, social pressures, and personal rivalries of many kinds. At times it was heavy-handed, for instance in its discussion of authoritarianism vs. free will (“Who are you?” “What do you want?”), but not consistently across every plotline, if memory serves. (Note to self: It’s clearly time for a rewatch!)

What really sets B5 apart from other attempts, however, is that it’s carrying essentially one huge story arc over years of tv programming, not just one season’s worth. The creator, J. Michael Straczynski, conceived of the whole plotline before the series was written for tv. Apparently, it was specifically supposed to be a “novel for television,” with the core plot points figured out beforehand. (That’s my biggest beef with the current Doctor Who, for example: the writers are struggling to fold in new storylines into the existing canon—even very recently created canon—and it shows.)

Game of Thrones and The Expanse feel very similar to B5, being tv adaptations of stories already in existence, and I’ve really enjoyed those aspects of both. Before them, though, I can’t really remember seeing that many quality series that incorporate truly extended story arcs. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the Battlestar Galactica reboot all tried, even though none of them really implement as overarching a story as B5 does.

I’ve been wanting to see (and not just read) long plots lately, so I’d really appreciate your input. I still haven’t looked into Straczynski’s new series sense8—does anyone know whether it has a similar structure? Or can you recommend any other genre shows with long-term payoff?

Image via The Catholic Geeks

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

 

Book Trailer for Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Series by bironic

Assembled from a number of different sources, none of which have any sort of connection to author Ann Leckie’s writing, we now have an amazing book trailer for her Imperial Radch trilogy:

Ancillary Justice book trailer by bironic

It was made by bironic, the creator of the goosebump-inducingly glorious video Starships! On the creation process, bironic has this to say:

“A labor of love, nine months in the making. I watched or scanned through about 50 movies and TV shows (plus endless YouTube videos) in the hunt for clips that looked like my headcanon of critical moments, places and characters from the books, while trying not to use hugely recognizable actors and actresses. Not that you’d know it from the final source list, but the research process involved reading and learning a lot about the history of black characters in Western science fiction film and television as well as a crash course in modern African SF/F independent filmmaking, both of which were fascinating.”

Make sure to read the notes for the book trailer in full.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Galaxy Donuts Almost Better than the Real Thing

Sam (who goes by sobeautifullyraw on Instagram) shared her recipe for vegan donuts with most impressive galaxy glazing. Take a look at the results:

Instagram sobeautifullyraw Vegan Galaxy Donuts

I would imagine it’s easy to adapt the instructions for making the frosting with cow’s milk should you prefer that, or just use the icing to top regular store-bought donuts for a quicker project.

Sam really pulled no punches: topping the donuts, there’s vegan edible food glitter for individual stars. You can truly feast your eyes on these beauties!

Image by Sam (sobeautifullyraw) on Instagram

Geeks eat, too! Second Breakfast is an occasional feature in which we talk about food with geeky connections and maybe make some of our own. Yum!

Fizzled Towel Day Salmiakki Babel Fish

My Towel Day celebrating fizzled: the candy from my stash that I thought was salmiakki fish (for Babel fish) weren’t fish at all but cars.

Salmiakki Selection

Ohwell. At least I was able to nom some salmiakki. Also, I spotted news from my old haunts (Turku, Finland) on the towelday.org site:

“In Turku, Cosmic Comic Cafe presents its 10th annual Towel Day. Yes, Cosmic Comic Cafe has been celebrating towelness for a decade already! Theirs might be the first and oldest ongoing bad poetry night on Towel Day, they started in 2006. Unlike everywhere else in this galactic sector, their poetry night is not a competition: anyone’s and everyone’s poem (including Vogons) will be recited immediately. You churn it up, we blurt it out! The poetry shows start at 20.00 and repeats every hour till 23.00. The DJ will provide entertainment between shows. The programme ends at midnight with the Most Evil Laughter in the Universe competition. Froods carrying a towel will get a discount on Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters. While waiting for the t-day, the Finnish Towel Day site and Facebook page will be publishing daily horrible poems dug up from the last year’s archive, and introducing Towel Day activities around the globe.” [original emphasis]

(Also, apparently in Pieterburen, Netherlands, the seal rescue centre is collecting secondhand towels. Aww!)

Bonus video from 2015: ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti reads an excerpt from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy seemingly upside down on the International Space Station:

Towel day on the International Space Station by European Space Agency, ESA

Any Towel Day activities you’re up to?

Some things are just too silly not to share!

NASA Goes off to Outer Space for Star Wars Day

This May the Fourth, NASA rules. Check out what they posted on the NASA Tumblr account:

NASA Tumblr Saturns Moon Mimas

“Worlds That Will Make You Believe Star Wars is Real

“The fantastical planets in Star Wars preceded our discovery of real planets outside our solar system… but fiction isn’t too far from the facts. When we send our spacecraft into the solar system and point our telescopes beyond, we often see things that seem taken right out of the Star Wars universe.

“Is there a more perfect time than May the 4th to compare real worlds to the ones depicted in Star Wars?

“Probably not… so here are a few:

What follows is pictures (mostly artists’ renderings) and short descriptions of eight planetary bodies that could serve as models for various locations in the Star Wars universe. And don’t let the photo of Saturn’s moon Mimas above fool you; it’s the most scruffy-looking of the bunch.

NASA’s post isn’t earth-shattering or deep or anything. But it does show a sense of humor, and combines pop culture geekery with science geekery in a very satisfying way. (YMMV, of course.)

I’m gonna go take you to Jabba now follow NASA on Tumblr right now.

Image: Saturn’s moon Mimas (the so-called Death Star moon) via NASA on Tumblr.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Quotes: Shooting People Was Such a Stupid Activity

“Shooting people was such a stupid activity, why should everybody–anybody!–be so impressed? Silver wondered irritably. You would think she had done something truly great, like discover a new treatment for black-stem rot.”

– Lois McMaster Bujold: Falling Free

Silver, one of the genetically engineered, learning-oriented people known as quaddies, expresses her deep dislike of violence.

Bujold, Lois McMaster: Falling Free. Riverdale, NY: Baen, 1988, p. 266.

(This quote comes from my 21 new-to-me SFF authors reading project.)

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.