It’s Friday, Sept. 15 and our Cassini mission has officially come to a spectacular end. The final signal from the spacecraft was received here on Earth at 7:55 a.m. EDT after a fateful plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere.
After losing contact with Earth, the spacecraft burned up like a meteor, becoming part of the planet itself.
Although bittersweet, Cassini’s triumphant end is the culmination of a nearly 20-year mission that overflowed with discoveries.
But, what happens now?
Mission Team and Data
Now that the spacecraft is gone, most of the team’s engineers are migrating to other planetary missions, where they will continue to contribute to the work we’re doing to explore our solar system and beyond.
Mission scientists will keep working for the coming years to ensure that we fully understand all of the data acquired during the mission’s Grand Finale. They will carefully calibrate and study all of this data so that it can be entered into the Planetary Data System. From there, it will be accessible to future scientists for years to come.
Even beyond that, the science data will continue to be worked on for decades, possibly more, depending on the research grants that are acquired.
Other team members, some who have spent most of their career working on the Cassini mission, will use this as an opportunity to retire.
In revealing that Enceladus has essentially all the ingredients needed for life, the mission energized a pivot to the exploration of “ocean worlds” that has been sweeping planetary science over the past couple of decades.
Jupiter’s moon Europa has been a prime target for future exploration, and many lessons during Cassini’s mission are being applied in planning our Europa Clipper mission, planned for launch in the 2020s.
The mission will orbit the giant planet, Jupiter, using gravitational assists from large moons to maneuver the spacecraft into repeated close encounters, much as Cassini has used the gravity of Titan to continually shape the spacecraft’s course.
In addition, many engineers and scientists from Cassini are serving on the new Europa Clipper mission and helping to shape its science investigations. For example, several members of the Cassini Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer team are developing an extremely sensitive, next-generation version of their instrument for flight on Europa Clipper. What Cassini has learned about flying through the plume of material spraying from Enceladus will be invaluable to Europa Clipper, should plume activity be confirmed on Europa.
In the decades following Cassini, scientists hope to return to the Saturn system to follow up on the mission’s many discoveries. Mission concepts under consideration include robotic explorers to drift on the methane seas of Titan and fly through the Enceladus plume to collect and analyze samples for signs of biology.
Atmospheric probes to all four of the outer planets have long been a priority for the science community, and the most recent recommendations from a group of planetary scientists shows interest in sending such a mission to Saturn. By directly sampling Saturn’s upper atmosphere during its last orbits and final plunge, Cassini is laying the groundwork for an potential Saturn atmospheric probe.
A variety of potential mission concepts are discussed in a recently completed study — including orbiters, flybys and probes that would dive into Uranus’ atmosphere to study its composition. Future missions to the ice giants might explore those worlds using an approach similar to Cassini’s mission.
Learn more about the Cassini mission and its Grand Finale HERE.
The end is now upon us. Within hours of the posting of this entry, Cassini will have burned up in the atmosphere of Saturn … a kiloton explosion, spread out against the sky in a pyrrhic display of light and fire, a dazzling flash to signal the dying essence of a lone emissary from another world. As if the myths of old had foretold the future, the great patriarch will consume his child. At that point, that golden machine, so dutiful and strong, will enter the realm of history, and the toils and triumphs of this long march will be done.
For those of us appointed long ago to undertake this journey, it has been a taxing 3 decades, requiring a level of dedication that I could not have predicted, and breathless times when we sprinted for the duration of a marathon. But in return, we were blessed to spend our lives working and playing in that promised land beyond the Sun.
My imaging team members and I were especially blessed to serve as the documentarians of this historic epoch and return a stirring visual record of our travels around Saturn and the glories that we found there. This is our gift to the citizens of planet Earth.
So, it is with both wistful, sentimental reflection and a boundless sense of pride in a commitment met and a job well done that I now turn to face this looming, abrupt finality.
It is doubtful we will soon see a mission as richly suited as Cassini return to this ringed world and shoulder a task as colossal as we have borne over the last 27 years.
To have served on this mission has been to live the rewarding life of an explorer of our time, a surveyor of distant worlds. We wrote our names across the sky. We could not have asked for more.
I sign off now, grateful in knowing that Cassini’s legacy, and ours, will include our mutual roles as authors of a tale that humanity will tell for a very long time to come.
probably not consciously. he treats him kind of like a son sometimes, but that’s not very unusual for tony. tony has to be watched closely or he adopts stray genius children everywhere he goes.
mostly it’s pretty long distance–he emails and videocalls them, sets up scholarships, funds research, talks them through school problems, introduces them to employers… i know for a fact that at least half of the starkphone beta testers are sleep-deprived students across the country who tony has run into at some convention or facility tour and decided to keep. some of them come to work at Stark Industries eventually, but a fair number go into other fields.
he has a strange ability to pinpoint exactly which kid in any given cluster is an untapped well of talent looking for mentoring. we have a number of bets running on if he’s doing it consciously or not.
either way, he does it a lot.
he’s not very cuddly or touchy-feely with them, and he gets hilariously defensive if you poke him about it, but he’s actually a really good mentor, and he does really care. i mean, sometimes he uses the ‘do the exact opposite of what i would do’ method of role modelling, but…
Would there be a scientific way to determine how far Team Rocket would need to blast off to disappear into the sky? – Requested by @jc-75
Prepare for trouble, and make it double! If you are part of the pokémon fandom, you probably know Jessie, James, and Meowth’s motto by heart. Equally famous, however, is the fact that Team Rocket “blasts off” a lot. Nearly once every episode, Team Rocket is hurled into the sky, disappearing in a tiny sparkle.
Things look smaller the farther away they are: that much everyone knows. The relationship is not linear, however: something that is twice as far away does not necessarily appear twice as small. The numbers are actually related through angles and trigonometry: sines, cosines, and tangents.
Because of that, for this problem we want to use angular distances. Angular distance is a measurement of how much of your field of vision something covers. A full circle is 360 degrees. A full moon, for example, has an angular diameter of about 0.5 degrees: it covers half a degree in the sky.
Angles can be divided up into smaller units. There are 60 arcminutes in one degree, and 60 arcseconds in one arcminute. The human eye has an angular resolution of 1 arcminute (0.02 degrees). That is the smallest thing we can see in the sky: If something covers less than 1 arcminute, or eye can no longer detect it and it effectively disappears from view, like Team Rocket fading into the sky.
So: how far away does Team Rocket have to be to cover less than 1 arcminute in angular distance? I can’t find any official heights for Jessie and James, so I will estimate 6′0″ (1.8 meters) as an upper limit. After that, it’s just about drawing triangles.
Using 1 arcminute as the angular distance and 1.8 m as the height, you can easily solve for distance. Team Rocket effectively disappears at a distance of 6188 meters (3.84 miles).
Angular resolution is dependent on the size of the eyeball, so pokémon with large eyes like Claydol or Froakie would be able to see Team Rocket farther away than that. But for humans, that’s how far Team Rocket needs to blast off to disappear.
Team Rocket blasts off at least 6188 meters (3.84 miles) away in order to disappear from view.
Could we appreciate how bitter Peter Parker would be when he saw how Team Cap treats Tony? He'd be furious! At first he would just observe, but when he saw how it really hurts Tony and how Tony seems to make himself smaller everytime they say something mean, how Tony, Mr. Stark, Iron Man, Pete's biggest hero, looks like he's about to break, Peter just can't. He says something that shuts team Cap up and then makes sure to tell Tony how much he appreciates and cares about him, every single day.
There are two things most people don’t know about Peter: 1) He’s Spiderman (though the circle of those in the know seems to grow at an alarming rate lately). 2) When you hurt someone he cares for, he is vicious. (The circle of those who realise this through personal experience is currently also growing at an alarming rate.)
It doesn’t start slow either. There’s no building up to it, because there’s nothing like offending everyone who’s worked their asses off to get you back home for the last six months in under an hour after your arrival. Seriously?
So, Peter who, as childish as it is, already isn’t very happy with those no-longer-exiled dickheads–because he’s seen just a bit of the injuries Mr. Stark had after those fights and it was already too much, and also because he’s been here, he’s seen how hard Mr. Stark worked, how much time and energy it cost him, how exhausted he always is–and he’s just not ready to put up with this shit, damn the consequences.
So he doesn’t.
The second the first passive-aggressive comment is thrown into Mr. Stark’s direction–Peter sees the way the man’s shoulder’s slump, as though the hurtful words are physically dragging him down, sees the way his face closes off–he sees red.
“Yes, well, nobody asked for your opinion, so take that clue and keep your mouth shut!” he hisses, followed by some much less pleasant words. He hits way beneath the belt and he knows it, he just doesn’t care. It’s not even about the accords or the fight in Germany that could’ve gotten him killed, it’s the entitled attitude that really gets to him. Especially since it’s directed at/against Mr. Stark.
“Spider-” Mr. Stark starts, and Peter knows that tone, knows the man wants to calm him down–and he’s still protecting his identity even with just the team around, and Peter is just so done.
“No,” he interrupts. “I don’t- We don’t have to put up with this. They’re back, yay and yippee, justice has been served, whatever. A pardon doesn’t excuse their behaviour right now. If nothing else they should at least appreciate the effort you put into getting them into this room. But since they clearly don’t, I prefer to spend my time with people I actually value, so let’s just go!”
With that he takes Mr. Stark’s hand and pulls the unresisting man out of the conference room, slams the door shut behind him because if he’s going to act his age he’s gonna own it, and into the elevator. It’s only there that he slowly pulls off the mask and spends a very long, awkward minute staring at Mr. Stark, where it seems neither of them quite know what to say.
“You probably should get home, your aunt will be worried,” is what Mr. Stark ends up saying eventually, looking as uncomfortable in his skin as Peter feels–and that’s not right at all.
“She won’t expect me home until dinner,” Peter says without thinking, “Besides I like spending time with you–in the lab. I mean, if you don’t have anything else to do. Which, it’s cool if you do, I get it. I just-”
“You like the lab?” Mr. Stark interrupts, sounding surprised.
“Of course!” Peter grins, relieved to have his panicked babbling interrupted. “It’s great, the equipment’s great and I’m learning a lot more from you than all my teacher’s together! It’s brilliant!”
And the way Mr. Stark straightens at those words is better, is great, because like this he looks as though he could take over the whole world with just his mind and a smile, already sharing an idea on how to improve the mobility of Peter’s newest suit, and this is how it’s supposed to be.
Jupiter, we’ve got quite the photoshoot planned for you. Today, our Juno spacecraft is flying directly over the Great Red Spot, kicking off the first-ever close-up study of this iconic storm and passing by at an altitude of only 5,600 miles (9,000 kilometers). In honor of this historic event, below are 10 things to know about the planet’s most famous feature.
1. A Storm That Puts Others to Shame
The Great Red Spot is a gigantic, high-pressure, ancient storm at Jupiter’s southern hemisphere that’s one of the longest lasting in the solar system. It’s so large, about 1.3 Earths could fit inside of it. And you can bet you’ll get swept away—the storm’s tumultuous winds peak at about 400 mph.
2. How Old Is It?
The Great Red Spot has been swirling wildly over Jupiter’s skies for the past 150 years—maybe even much longer. While people saw a big spot on Jupiter when they started stargazing through telescopes in the 1600s, it’s still unclear whether they were looking at a different storm. Today, scientists know the Great Red Spot has been there for a while, but they still struggle to learn what causes its swirl of reddish hues.
3. Time for That Close-Up
Juno will fly over the Great Red Spot about 12 minutes after the spacecraft makes the closest approach to Jupiter of its current orbit at 6:55 p.m. on July 10, PDT (9:55 p.m. on July 10, EDT; 1:55 a.m. on July 11, Universal Time). Juno entered orbit around Jupiter on July 4, 2016.
4. Oh, So Mysterious
Understanding the Great Red Spot is not easy, and it’s mostly Jupiter’s fault. The planet a thousand times as big as Earth and consists mostly of gas. A liquid ocean of hydrogen surrounds its core, and the atmosphere consists mostly of hydrogen and helium. That translates into no solid ground (like we have on Earth) to weaken storms. Also, Jupiter’s clouds make it hard to gather clear observations of its lower atmosphere.
This false-color image of Jupiter was taken on May 18, 2017, with a mid-infrared filter centered at a wavelength of 8.8 microns, at the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii, in collaboration with observations of Jupiter by NASA’s Juno mission. Credit: NAOJ/NASA/JPL-Caltech
5. Help From Hawaii
To assist Juno’s investigation of the giant planet’s atmosphere, Earth-based telescopes lent their helpful eyes. On May 18, 2017, the Gemini North telescope and the Subaru Telescope—both located on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea peak—simultaneously examined Jupiter in very high resolutions at different wavelengths. These latest observations helped provide information about the Great Red Spot’s atmospheric dynamics at different depths and at other regions of Jupiter.
6. Curious Observations
Observations from Subaru showed the Great Red Spot “had a cold and cloudy interior increasing toward its center, with a periphery that was warmer and clearer,” said Juno science team member Glenn Orton of our Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. “A region to its northwest was unusually turbulent and chaotic, with bands that were cold and cloudy, alternating with bands that were warm and clear.”
This composite, false-color infrared image of Jupiter reveals haze particles over a range of altitudes, as seen in reflected sunlight. It was taken using the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii on May 18, 2017, in collaboration with observations of Jupiter by our Juno mission. Credits: Gemini Observatory/AURA/NSF/NASA/JPL-Caltech
7. Hot in Here
Scientists were stumped by a particular question: Why were the temperatures in Jupiter’s upper atmosphere comparable to those found at Earth, even though Jupiter is more than five times the distance from the sun? If the sun isn’t the heat source, then what is? Turns out, the storm in the Great Red Spot produces two kinds of turbulent energy waves that collide and heat the upper atmosphere. Gravity waves are much like how a guitar string moves when plucked, while acoustic waves are compressions of the air (sound waves). Heating in the upper atmosphere 500 miles (800 kilometers) above the Great Red Spot is thought to be caused by a combination of these two wave types “crashing,” like ocean waves on a beach.
8. Color Theory
Scientists don’t know exactly how the Great Red Spot’s rich colors formed. Studies predict Jupiter’s upper atmosphere has clouds consisting of ammonia, ammonium hydrosulfide, and water, but it’s still unclear how or even whether these chemicals react. “We’re talking about something that only makes up a really tiny portion of the atmosphere,” said Amy Simon, an expert in planetary atmospheres at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “That’s what makes it so hard to figure out exactly what makes the colors that we see.” Over at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, researchers concluded that the ruddy color is likely a product of simple chemicals being broken apart by sunlight in the planet’s upper atmosphere. “Our models suggest most of the Great Red Spot is actually pretty bland in color, beneath the upper cloud layer of reddish material,” said Kevin Baines, a Cassini scientist at JPL.
This image of a crescent Jupiter and the iconic Great Red Spot was created by a citizen scientist, Roman Tkachenko, using data from Juno’s JunoCam instrument. JunoCam’s raw images are available here for the public to peruse and enhance.Want to learn more? Read our full list of the 10 things to know this week about the solar system HERE.
So I noticed some really undeserved hate being directed at the TF2 community, and I’ve noticed that we’re getting smaller in size and that a lot of major contributors to this fandom are leaving or moving on to other things, so I thought I might as well try to give everyone a little reminder.