It’s Wondrous Out There!
In Star Trek: The Next Generation, in the very first episode, the mischievous character “Q” made his first appearance and showed the Enterprise crew some important and beautiful things. That’s the way the cosmos rolls: it’s full of very interesting things to discover and explore. As Q said, it’s full of treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross; but it’s not for the timid.
Timid would be sitting on Earth, looking up at the skies, but doing nothing to learn about what’s in them. Or refusing to use one’s brain to learn about the natural processes that created the objects we see “out there”. It would be a terrible waste of human intelligence and of space.
The folks who built and manage the Cassini spacecraft aren’t timid. They had a dream to send a spacecraft to the ringed planet Saturn, and for years now, that mission has been sending back some of the coolest images of the planet, its moons, and rings that are even better than we could ever have imagined. We don’t have to imagine what it would be like to see that planet; now we know. Now, if we WANT to know more, we should probably just go there. And, someday, humans will. Until they do, we have the Cassini (and before that, the Voyagers 1 and 2) images to look at; like this one — showing us just what it looks like to fly above Saturn’s rings.
The spacecraft was about 209,000 kilometers from Saturn when it caught this image. What amazes me are the shadows being cast by the “fountains” of ring particles being sprayed up under the gravitational influence of nearby moonlets. The rings themselves look so solid that you might think you could settle your space ship down on them. But, you’d be amazed when you got up close, because you’d be setting “through” a collection of particles, with nothing to hold on to. In fact, those rings are really quite thin — only about 30 FEET.
I don’t know about you, but I find that pretty wondrous!