Farewell Cassini…

A passionate tribute to the soon-to-be-departed Cassini spacecraft.

Cumbrian Sky


As you read this, an incredible space journey is coming to an end. After spending the past 13 years looping around Saturn, exploring and studying its glittering rings and many, many moons, the Cassini space probe is preparing to end its mission by plunging into the atmosphere of Saturn, where it will burn up like a shooting star. Before then, in these final hours, as it falls towards Saturn Cassini will gather priceless data about the planet’s churning atmosphere, and take its final photos of the planet and its moons, after already taking almost half a million…

For space scientists and enthusiasts alike this is a very sad time. Cassini has been a staggeringly successful mission, and people are very loyal to it and proud of it. Launched in  October 1997 the probe then took almost seven years to fly out to Saturn, flying past – and taking photos of…

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Weather Story for Thursday

Florida’s utility crews are working to get the lights back on <link> <link> and the National Park Service struggles through the debris of Irma to assess the too-much-to-catalog damage in its Caribbean Parks <link>.

Today’s weather in the NYC metro area and much of the northeast is driven by the ragged remains of Irma.  <link to forecast discussion>   Showers and thunderstorms are likely today, scattered throughout the area.  <link to radar loop>  Some of the energy and moisture associated with Irma could produce strong storms today, especially later this afternoon.

The weekend will not completely clear out as a broad upper air low pressure system enhances cloudiness.  We’ll have to keep an eye on Jose <link to NHC advisories>.  The  forecasts out to five days have the storm finally moving northward, but well off the east coast of the United States.   Strong ocean swells from Jose, combined with typically higher tides at new moon early next week may produce minor coastal flooding. noaa

Celebrating Cassini’s Huygens Probe to Saturn’s Moon, Titan

Back when I was Aerospace Education Coordinator for our local Civil Air Patrol Squadron, the Huygens Probe was sent from the Cassini spacecraft to Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.

Titan turned out to be totally cloudy.  The Voyager 1 spacecraft’s cameras couldn’t see much through the cloud deck as it passed by Titan on its way out of the Saturn system* and, then, on its way out of the solar system.  So one of Cassini’s jobs was to use various wavelengths of light, including radio waves to see the moon’s surface.  Also, just before going into orbit around Saturn, Cassini released Huygens toward Titan.  It was not intended to soft land, but it would have floated in a Titanian ocean.  The story about how it sent its data back via Cassini is a book in itself, as a problem was found and corrected while Cassini was on its way to Saturn.

Click here for the link to the movie Huygens’ decent into Titan’s atmosphere.  Scroll down and look for this movie on the web site:

movdisr9This is the first frame of the movie, a time lapse of the data from Huygens’ trip to the surface of Titan.  I projected the movie is on the 3-story high wall at our CAP meeting site, so we could see all the details.

*Voyager 1 was targeted to pass by Titan, a most interesting place, but didn’t see much.  Of course, if they hadn’t sent V1 there, we wouldn’t have known what we needed to do to see Titan’s surface.   But, also interesting, V1 would have been targeted to Pluto if it hadn’t been sent past Titan.  Voyager 2 was targeted to go on the Uranus and Neptune, where we enjoyed its great success, but was not able to be sent to Pluto.


Breakout line of showers approaching NYC area for Wed. afternoon

It looks like a lovely day out there – artistic feathery clouds and some chunky cumulus clouds. However, a breakaway line of showers and perhaps a thunderstorm from used-to-be storm Irma is heading up the NJ Turnpike toward NYC.  This is a piece of the cache of moisture scooped up by an upper air loop in the jet stream over the midwest US.

The larger fraction of the moisture should arrive later tomorrow, much attenuated.  The models show some leftover patchy chunks of cloudiness for the Westchester Astronomers Starway to Heaven on Saturday evening.

1pm Radar: northeast


More Monday Morning Moon

Here’s some other photos of the gibbous moon, taken this morning.

These were taken through my 8-inch telescope by literally holding the Canon XS camera with it’s 55mm lens up to the eyepiece.  The wide photo in the previous post was through a 40x eyepiece and the close-ups are through a 150x eyepiece.


apollo 15 site 2017 09 11

The shadows in the crater Maurolycus are from the wall of the crater, as the Sun starts to set over the crater.  Over Tycho, the Sun is still high in the lunar sky.southern moon labeled 2017 09 11



Lots to see on a Monday morning moon

There’s a lot of rugged terrain on this morning’s gibbous moon.



Storm surge !

Watch the storm surge at Naples, FL


Four feet higher in minutes.. . . .