Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Stop and Be Amazed

Highly recommended viewing: spectacular new views of Saturn and its rings taken by the Cassini spacecraft and compiled by "The Big Picture" at Boston.com.

I am constantly astonished by what we take for granted. When I was born, the only views we had of other planets came from Earthbound telescopes. I was 5 when Mariner IV flew by Mars and shot the first successful photos of another world (not coincidentally, I write about Mariner IV in WHTTWOT). I remember when Pioneer and Voyager were launched toward Jupiter and beyond, remember Viking landing on Mars, Venera landing on Venus. Man I loved that stuff. Each picture as precious as gold (probably literally, on a cost-per-image basis), I absorbed them all. Even now, when I see photos returned from space, I get a tingle in my spine that means "no one else in the history of forever has seen that before now."

Today we've got near-permanent satellites orbiting Mars and Saturn, rovers crawling over Mars, a European probe (Rosetta) due to land on a comet in 2014. It's all too much for anyone to absorb now. But once in a while, something like The Big Picture comes along to smack me in the face and remind me what an amazing time we live in.

(All photos from NASA/JPL/SSI)


Sherwood Harrington said...

"Be amazed," indeed. You and I have been incredibly lucky to be alive in this particular age of exploration, haven't we?

Here's some more amazement: we're approaching a once-every-15-years equinox in the Saturn system. Since the rings (and many of Saturn's moons) are in the plane of its equator, that means that there are some pretty cool shadow phenomena going on. Click here to be taken to the Planetary Society's blog entry on the topic, which includes nifty links to even more.

Brian Fies said...

Thanks for the insight and link, Sherwood. Great stuff.