Thursday, November 11, 2010

Get Well Soon

Cassini, the hardest working probe in show business, is sick. It went into safe mode last week just before it was to do a close fly-by of Saturn's moon Titan, the second largest moon in the solar system, and the only one with an atmosphere. There are supposed to be lakes of liquid methane down there, and maybe critters as well (the conspiracy buffs on Coast to Coast believe Cassini isn't broken at all, but rather the scapegoat in a massive cover-up).

Not to worry. Cassini has gone into safe mode six times before, and came out fine each time. Plus, 53 other fly-bys of Titan scheduled.

The JPL says, "The spacecraft is very tolerant of error. It'd be hard to break it."

Menwhile, here's a gorgeous picture of Saturn and the rings Cassini took in healthier days, a tumble of light and shadow, spheres and rings. The triangular slab of shadow is the shadow of Saturn itself, so the sun must be off to the lower left, well out of the frame.

Thanks to Bad Astronomy for the pic.