Happy Birthday to Carolyn Porco, lead scientist for Cassini’s imaging science team and all around amazing planetary scientist and science ambassador.  

In honor of her birthday, here’s a round-up of Saturn-themed items we’ve featured on our blog.

Top panel: Saturn dress, Final Frontiersman t-shirt design, Saturn paperweight, aluminum cuff bracelet.

Bottom panel (clockwise): Saturn celestial buddy, Saturn tree ornament, Saturn dinner plate, Solar System vase.

The photo at the start of this post was taken by the Cassini spacecraft in November 2013 looking back at the inner Solar System, as Saturn transited in front of the Sun. It was part of a campaign pioneered by Carolyn Porco as “The Day the Earth Smiled” (aka pale, blue dot 2.0).

- Summer

Do you relish the notion of being a Saturnian, and gazing out from the lofty heights of Saturn at the same planets we see here from the Earth?

Then check out the image we, the imaging team on Cassini, just released today. Far in the distance, beyond the rings of Saturn, lies the hazy blue orb of Uranus, a planet that was last visited by a spacecraft of our making 28 years ago.

Enjoy the view! Blue Orb on the Horizon

One of the many intriguing findings that our Cassini cameras have made at Saturn has been the long, sinuous, finger-like projections emanating from the geysering moon, Enceladus, into the diffuse E ring in which the moon orbits.
Now, I’m happy to say that my research colleagues and I have published a paper online, in the Astronomical Journal, reporting the origins of these features in the strongest geysers erupting from the south polar terrain of Enceladus.
See for yourself in our new report how well we are able to match the structures of the tendrils with our computer simulations of icy geyser particles leaving the surface of the moon.

This result will ultimately give us a way to estimate the amount of material leaving the ocean of Enceladus and making its way into orbit around Saturn, and from there, just how long-lived the ocean may be.

As you can see, we’re still going strong, and will be til the end! Enjoy! Finger-like Ring Structures In Saturn’s E Ring Produced By Enceladus’ Geysers

Well, take a look at this! I have been oh-so-artfully rendered by artist Simon Kregar. And what a beautiful piece it is, with such intricate and meaningful details. Here’s what Simon has to say about his creation.

“This piece is called ’Across the Universe - Carolyn Porco’. It is acrylic on birch board.

I wanted to do this piece because I feel strongly that the work that Carolyn and others like her have contributed to the body of knowledge of humanity should be celebrated.

It is done in the style of art nouveau, and pays homage to Carolyn as a self-proclaimed child of the 60’s. Within the work, you can find elements from her life. In the upper left is the Voyager spacecraft and in the upper right is Cassini. In the lower left is Enceladus and the lower right Titan. In her lap rests Carl Sagan’s work of fiction ‘Contact’; Carolyn served as the consultant on the character, Ellie, to the movie based on the book. Her sleeves are adorned with the Star Trek insignia; she also consulted on the 2009 Paramount Pictures 'Star Trek’ reboot. The center panel contains elements from the famous 'Abbey Road’ Beatles’ album that she and her Cassini team re-created in 2001.

This piece will be unveiled tomorrow night at the 'Art of Space and Light’ art show put on by the international Association of Astronomical Artists in Tucson, Arizona.”

Thank you so much, Simon. It is, simply, out of this world.

A fabulous week in the UK, starting with appearances on BBC Stargazing LIVE and seeing the ‘Let It Be’ show at the Savoy Theatre in London…50 years after the Beatles first arrived in America…comes to an end with a night of debauchery in which Monty Python meets Spock and Captain Bleep! [Yes, that’s Eric Idle on the left and Professor Brian Cox on the right. And yes, those are glasses filled with merry-making liquids!]

While I was packing up my office recently for my imminent move west to join UC Berkeley and the California Academy of Sciences, I came across this incredibly lovely email written to me by Charles Simonyi during his 2009 stint aboard the International Space Station.

It was such a heartwarming gesture, containing a generous and uplifting message that came from 250 miles above our heads and made everyone in my CICLOPS group at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado feel appreciated and recognized on a cosmic scale! It was a jolt of 21st century reality, for sure, and the buzz around our lab lasted for days.

Many thanks in return to Charles … an explorer in body and soul, who lives life as we all should: on the edge, and always ready to test the bounds.

Really looking forward to my visit to England to do Stargazing Live with the one and only Brian Cox, on the nights of January 7 and 8, 2014. Should be billions and billions of fun.

He and I are shown here at Spacefest V in Tucson, AZ this past May. We’ll be reprising that act, hopefully joined by a panel of Apollo astronauts and Sir Richard Branson at Spacefest VI next May in Pasadena, CA. If you like space, the final frontier, don’t miss the voyages of Brian and Carolyn and a whole lot of other space cadets.