Astro Bob blog: Follow Carolyn to SaturnEvery wonder who's in charge of giving us all those amazing photos of Saturn and its rings? Meet Carolyn Porco.
By: Bob King, Duluth News Tribune
Follow Carolyn to Saturn
Like father, like son. Back in January Cassini took this picture of the shadow of Saturn slicing across the rings at the same time that Prometheus, a 53-mile-diameter moon, cast its shadow across the planet's F ring. Hi-res image. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
I'm tempted to say that even a robot can take great pictures when the subjects are Saturn's rings and moons. Some of the photos returned daily by the orbiting Cassini spacecraft are stunningly beautiful. Robots aren't much good however without the help of a team of scientists at the controls directing the craft's cameras and other instruments, downloading the data and making sense of it all.
Planetary scientist Dr. Carolyn Porco (right) is the imaging science team leader and responsible for the wide and narrow angle cameras Cassini uses to photograph and map Saturn, its rings and the surfaces of the planet's moons. Porco and her team have discovered seven new moons of Saturn, new rings, the first liquid hydrocarbon lake on Titan and the plumes of water vapor blasting from the moon Enceladus. Before Cassini, Porco was involved in the Voyager program and did important work connecting Saturn's magnetic field with the curious dark "spokes" that occasionally darken its rings. Her first astronomical experience was seeing Saturn through a telescope from a rooftop in the Bronx when she was 13. To be in charge of the visual end of the Cassini Mission is a dream come true.
Porco loves sharing the adventure of space with the public. "It's a joy, really, to be able to take our images and composite them in an artful way, which is one of my cardinal working goals. It's about poetry and beauty and science all mixed together," she said in an interview with Space.com several years back. I couldn't agree more.
Here's a rather subtle feature on Saturn -- a large swirl of clouds in the planet's northern hemisphere taken on Valentine's Day this year. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Want to see what Carolyn and her team have been up to? Bookmark this website and you'll always find a reason to sit back and wonder how you were lucky enough to be born during humankind's first ventures into outer space.
I checked this morning at the Fireball Sightings log site and see that there are now seven reports on Monday's fireball. Those who saw the meteor all concurred it was at least as bright as the full moon and two even said it equaled the sun! A fellow meteorite hunter from Illinois is in touch with someone from the possible fall area who thinks he found a meteorite Monday morning while mowing his lawn. It was described as a black rock about 3 1/2" long. We'll know later today if it's the real thing or one of the many "meteorwrongs" out there.
(Carolyn Porco photo: NASA)