Wednesday, April 26, 2017

[U -- Poetry] Cassini Has Plunged Through Saturn's Icy Ring Plane -- But Runs Silent, Until Early Tomorrow, Now...

A couple of hours ago (local time), after twisting with unwasted grace -- to face its large dish into the path of potential damage, much like a shield -- Cassini likely whizzed through a gap in the Saturnian rings, completely unscathed.

But because she is running silent, we won't know whether she hit a stray block of ice or rock (perhaps even just the size of an SUV), and was damaged or obliterated, until very late tonight. So we wait -- and hold our breath:

. . . .If all goes as planned:

-- 5 p.m. PDT (8 p.m. EDT) on April 25: Cassini is approaching Saturn over the planet’s northern hemisphere in advance of its first of 22 planned dives through the gap between the planet and its rings.

-- 1:34 a.m. PDT (4:34 a.m. EDT) on April 26: As it passes from north to south over Saturn, Cassini begins a 14-minute turn to point its high-gain antenna into the direction of oncoming ring particles. In this orientation, the antenna acts as a protective shield for Cassini’s instruments and engineering systems.

-- 2 a.m. PDT (5 a.m. EDT) on April 26: Cassini crosses the ring plane during its dive between the rings and Saturn. The spacecraft’s science instruments are collecting data, but Cassini is not in contact with Earth at this time.

-- No earlier than around midnight PDT on April 26 (3 a.m. EDT on April 27): Earth has its first opportunity to regain contact with Cassini as the giant, 230-foot (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, listens for the spacecraft’s radio signal.

-- Likely no earlier than 12:30 a.m. PDT (3:30 a.m. EDT) on April 27: Images are scheduled to become available from the spacecraft. . . .

While we wait -- we will gaze skyward, facing generally south; smile expectantly, and read appropriately relatable poetry -- sharing bits of that here -- with an edited image -- late in the day. Onward -- and, in honor of this shepherded moon-lette -- do today "dare mighty things", just as the Cassini team has, for over 13 years now.


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