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Cassini Probe Does Titan Flyby

michael posted more than 9 years ago | from the wave-for-the-camera dept.

Space 115

EccentricAnomaly writes "Today, Cassini had its first close encounter with Titan around 8:30AM PDT. Data from the flyby will start coming down around 6:30PM PDT, and you can watch the pictures live on NASA TV. If you want higher resolution or just to stare at one picture for a while, the raw images will be put on the web right away, with pretty press images to follow the next day. And if you want to know about the observations planned for the flyby, you can read this PDF or watch this animation."

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115 comments

4Gbit Solid State Recorders (5, Interesting)

fembots (753724) | more than 9 years ago | (#10636232)

From NASA's faq - "Cassini stores the gathered information on two Solid State Recorders (SSR) with a combined capacity of 4 gigabits, about the volume of a compact disk (500MB)."

It seems scientists are pretty confident that they can unload much data during Cassini's 9 hours downlink session.

Imagine if there were some downtimes when earth communication cannot be established for a couple of days...

Re:4Gbit Solid State Recorders (0)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 9 years ago | (#10636394)

Yeah, the next probes sent to space really should use microdrives for backup at least. I mean, put an IPod on a probe and not only will the probe be able to store tens of GBs of data, but it could even play MP3s on a simulated speaker through the entire mission. Besides, if a probe finds a representative of an intelligent race out there, it could use its IPod to swap music.

Bad idea. (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10636473)

What would the aliens think if they get a peace offering of music, only to get sued by RIAA shortly thereafter?

Re:4Gbit Solid State Recorders (5, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 9 years ago | (#10637755)

Yeah, the next probes sent to space really should use microdrives for backup at least. I mean, put an IPod on a probe and not only will the probe be able to store tens of GBs of data, but it could even play MP3s on a simulated speaker through the entire mission. Besides, if a probe finds a representative of an intelligent race out there, it could use its IPod to swap music.

This is why NASA does not hire 14-year-olds.

Re:4Gbit Solid State Recorders (1)

r_j_howell (519954) | more than 9 years ago | (#10640828)

The guy I took my first UNIX class from worked at NASA as a computer operator when he was 15. To hear his side of the story, *he* is the reason why NASA doesn't hire teenagers.

Re:4Gbit Solid State Recorders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10639548)

the next probes sent to space really should use microdrives for backup
(You are probably being facetious, but in case you aren't...) Disk drives won't work in the vacuum od space, because air is needed to keep the heads flying above the disk surface. I suppose that the drives could be sealed in an airtight container, but that's extra weight. Also, you would need two of them mounted face-to-face so that the gyroscopic effects of the spinning disks would be cancelled out.

uh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10639899)

hate to burst your bubble, but disk drives are already hermetically sealed. otherwise you'd be getting head crashes all the time.

Re:uh... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10640821)

Hmmm I was wondering if changing the gas inside would help performance / reliability / heat

Re:4Gbit Solid State Recorders (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10640701)

You clearly don't know anything about electronics/systems that operate in space. IPods would quickly broke because:
  1. Temperatures ranging from -200 C to 300 C (at least)
  2. Sound pressure and shaking during a launch
  3. Malfunctioning of electronics caused by cosmic rays and solar wind
Additionally, every gram which NASA sends to the orbit costs a LOT of cash. Materials/design of IPod would weight too much and take too much space.

Re:4Gbit Solid State Recorders (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 9 years ago | (#10640863)

Dude, lay of the pipe, this obviously would have to be a new an improved - IPod Space Model

Re:4Gbit Solid State Recorders (5, Funny)

Macphisto (62181) | more than 9 years ago | (#10636416)

Imagine if there were some downtimes when earth communication cannot be established for a couple of days...

Good Lord, man! What in blazes are you planning?

Re:4Gbit Solid State Recorders (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10636468)

Bill G. said: "4Gbit Solid State Recorders should be enough for everybody."

Re:4Gbit Solid State Recorders (5, Informative)

badfrog (45310) | more than 9 years ago | (#10636514)

Interference has always been a huge factor, the Space Shuttle still used iron-core memory in its systems in the late 80s, because it wasn't affected by radiation. Can't just pop in some SDRAM and expect it to work out there.

Re:4Gbit Solid State Recorders (5, Informative)

HunahpuMonkey (613489) | more than 9 years ago | (#10636543)

> From NASA's faq - "Cassini stores the gathered information on two Solid State Recorders (SSR)
> with a combined capacity of 4 gigabits, about the volume of a compact disk (500MB)."
>
> It seems scientists are pretty confident that they can unload much data during Cassini's 9 hours
> downlink session.
>
> Imagine if there were some downtimes when earth communication cannot be established
> for a couple of days...

According to CNN [cnn.com] that very problem exists. The buffers in those recorders are in danger of writing over the data before it can sucessfully be sent to Earth.

"The flyby of Titan was expected to go smoothly in space, but bad weather on Earth could affect Cassini's transmissions to the Deep Space Network, scientists said.

Cassini has only one chance to send data back to Earth before it is overwritten with data from its next set of observations, scientists said."

put a DSS receiver in orbit? (1)

nounderscores (246517) | more than 9 years ago | (#10639748)

With all the orbiting equipment we've shot up there over the years, why not a powerful radio antenna, with huge memory storage.

It doesn't have to go very far from earth's surface, so the fuel costs will be lower than sending rad-shielded hard drives to saturn.

Re:4Gbit Solid State Recorders (2, Insightful)

jnik (1733) | more than 9 years ago | (#10636681)

It seems scientists are pretty confident that they can unload much data during Cassini's 9 hours downlink session.

Imagine if there were some downtimes when earth communication cannot be established for a couple of days...

What would more storage buy you? It wouldn't increase the downlink bandwidth, and there's only so much time available to transfer it down, so you'd just get further and further behind. Losing downlink time means losing data, period.

Telemetry bandwidth is always an issue; instruments always produce data at a rate greater than can be sent to the ground.

Re:4Gbit Solid State Recorders (4, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | more than 9 years ago | (#10636857)

Not *always*. When Cassini isn't doing an encounter, it's sitting around doing pretty much nothing (regular bits of telemetry data, random readings, occasional snaps of Saturn or distant shots of moons, etc). Greater storage space, even if not accompanied by an increased bandwidth improvement, allow you to gather more data from your insturments during flybys, which you can transmit during the less-important inter-flyby periods.

Re:4Gbit Solid State Recorders (3, Informative)

jnik (1733) | more than 9 years ago | (#10638058)

When Cassini isn't doing an encounter, it's sitting around doing pretty much nothing

Hardly true. Now, granted, I don't have the Cassini instrument duty-cycle schedule right here, but I can at least take a quick look at the projected orbit plots. It looks like apicenter is about 60-70 Rs. Frontside magnetopause distance is 20-25 Rs (roughly), the flanks are likely further out, and I'd put money on the tail extending at least 70 Rs. Even on the front side I'm sure there's plenty of science to be done in the sheath, bow shock, and even upstream solar wind.

So the plasma instruments and magnetometer would be busy for probably half the distance of each orbit. I imagine the cosmic dust analyzer is probably useful the whole time, and the UV cameras (I'm too lazy to compare the resolution to Hubble...). That's a lot of data.

And it really does come down pretty slow. At 35 kbit/s, that's roughly a day and a half, best case, to empty the recorders, out of approximately two weeks for an orbit (not always being in "view", either, and the DSN sometimes needed for other things...).

I'm sure somebody would find some use for extra storage if it were there, but the limitation doesn't mean Cassini's spending any great amount of time idle.

Re:4Gbit Solid State Recorders (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 9 years ago | (#10638724)

You *can* fill up the link with whatever you want. But having up-to-the-second telemetry and magnetosphere readings has a much lower priority than getting all of the data you can from a brief but incredibly valuable flyby.

Re:4Gbit Solid State Recorders (1)

EccentricAnomaly (451326) | more than 9 years ago | (#10640965)

So the plasma instruments and magnetometer would be busy for probably half the distance of each orbit. I imagine the cosmic dust analyzer is probably useful the whole time, and the UV cameras (I'm too lazy to compare the resolution to Hubble...). That's a lot of data.

These measurements aren't data intensive, and they don't fill up the SAR.

The problem is Titan encounters are followed immdiately by Saturn periapses.... both of which generate lots of data. If you decide to keep Titan data to download a second time that means you have to throw away some other important measuremnt of Saturn, the rings, or one of the other moons.

But that's what you get with spacecraft. Their computers and data storage always lag behind. Cassini was launched 7 years ago, it was designed 14 years ago... and when it was designed it had to use rad hardened electronics which lag behind comsumer electronics.

Re:4Gbit Solid State Recorders (2, Interesting)

deglr6328 (150198) | more than 9 years ago | (#10636919)

I can see how you might fit the images, spectra and other data in 500MB of storage but how do they fit the synthetic aperture radar data in there? It must be huge!.....anyone know?

Re:4Gbit Solid State Recorders (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10637022)

Yes. It's EZW-encoded based on the time and the shifted return frequency. It's only about 2.4 MB per minute.

http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/operations/encoding.c fm

Re:4Gbit Solid State Recorders (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 9 years ago | (#10638734)

Ok, now *that* is just funny.

3 people modded that "informative"? Even the link is fake.

Mental note for the future: on Slashdot, you can make up whatever you want, as long as it *sounds* educated.

Re:4Gbit Solid State Recorders (2, Informative)

djvern (824535) | more than 9 years ago | (#10637692)

Actually, we have a saying: "The rain in Spain falls mainly on DSS-63" The rain is a very large concern for everyone here tonight. We have already requested a backup downlink session tomorrow in case of problems tonite. Basically, we stole a 70 meter antenna from another project. The critical data will make it down at the end of the Madrid pass, as there is dual coverage with a 34 meter Goldstone, CA station. Best of luck.

Probe on TV? (0, Troll)

Saturn SL1-WNY (807134) | more than 9 years ago | (#10636238)

I know I'm excited to see how this is going to turn out, glad I got satellite tv! .________________________________________________.
| ______________________________________._a,____ | Press contact:
| _______a_._______a_______aj#0s_____aWY!400.___ | Gary Niger
| __ad#7!!*P____a.d#0a____#!-_#0i___.#!__W#0#___ | gary_niger@gnaa.us [mailto]
| _j#'_.00#,___4#dP_"#,__j#,__0#Wi___*00P!_"#L,_ | GNAA Corporate Headquarters
| _"#ga#9!01___"#01__40,_"4Lj#!_4#g_________"01_ | 143 Rolloffle Avenue
| ________"#,___*@`__-N#____`___-!^_____________ | Tarzana, California 91356
| _________#1__________?________________________ |
| _________j1___________________________________ | All other inquiries:
| ____a,___jk_GAY_NIGGER_ASSOCIATION_OF_AMERICA_ | Enid Indian
| ____!4yaa#l___________________________________ | enid_indian@gnaa.us [mailto]
| ______-"!^____________________________________ | GNAA World Headquarters
` _______________________________________________' 160-0023 Japan Tokyo-to Shinjuku-ku Nishi-Shinjuku 3-20-2

GNNA IS TEH FAGS (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10636379)

YOU MOTHERFUCKING FAIL IT, DOUCHEBAG!

You ASCII didn't line up either, you stupid piece of shit. Pwnd!

Re:GNNA IS TEH FAGS (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10636407)

GNNA IS TEH FAGS

isn't that sorta redundant?

welll (0, Flamebait)

Anubis350 (772791) | more than 9 years ago | (#10636242)

isnt titan saturns 3rd moon? if so, isnt this..... yup you guessed it, "Close encounters of the third kind" ::ducks::

ObStarWars (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10636385)

That's no moon....

Re:welll (1)

ookabooka (731013) | more than 9 years ago | (#10636958)

So. . .Earth is the 3rd planet from the sun, and I am currently a lot closer to the Earth than any other planet, does that make it also "Close encounters of the third kind" or would it not qualify because it is more permanent and not quite an "encounter"?

Links to the actual Quicktime and GIF files (5, Informative)

waynegoode (758645) | more than 9 years ago | (#10636266)

The links on the webpage open pop-up windows to show the video. You can't right click and save the files. I did a little right-clicking and source viewing and found the URLs of the actual files.

The animation link web page, I meant to say (2, Informative)

waynegoode (758645) | more than 9 years ago | (#10636322)

I am refering to the last link, the one about animations, http://ciclops.lpl.arizona.edu/view.php?id=500

Sorry I left that out.

Re:Links to the actual Quicktime and GIF files (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10637055)

So who wants to place their odds as to whether Titan has liquid on its surface? :) I'll give a 40% chance that there's liquid.

4 Gig recorders (3, Interesting)

Baumann (238242) | more than 9 years ago | (#10636294)

They have to be confident. If the system goes for N days without contact, I suspect they'll have far greater worries than just overfull download buffers. Say like - why isn't our little lost machine talking to us?

The raw pictures will be put up right away? (3, Interesting)

Dancin_Santa (265275) | more than 9 years ago | (#10636311)

What if they spy aliens? Won't that cause a little alarm amongst the general population?

Not to worry... (1)

loteck (533317) | more than 9 years ago | (#10636487)

There's no stars, so the pictures are obviously being faked from a studio in New Mexico.

Re:The raw pictures will be put up right away? (0)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 9 years ago | (#10636518)

Or what if god just appeared in new york and re-errected the twin towers? Imagine the shock and awe!!!
(some questions are really dumb. mine was, yours too)

Re:The raw pictures will be put up right away? (1)

Pleione (825378) | more than 9 years ago | (#10639432)

The only difference between the two questions are the entities involved. Extraterrestrial life most likely exists. "God" is somewhat doubtful.

Re:The raw pictures will be put up right away? (4, Funny)

mikael (484) | more than 9 years ago | (#10636519)

What if they spy aliens? Won't that cause a little alarm amongst the general population?

No, the central government of Titan have contingency plans to reassure the Titanian public that anything they see is merely a weather balloon, a stray asteroid or a reflection of Venus.

Titanian? (3, Funny)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 9 years ago | (#10637002)

Yes but rumors will spread like wildfire on the Titanian internet. Which the Titanians will be browsing with their Apple Titanian powerbooks.....

Re:Titanian? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10639226)

Wait that's not right.. their governments are restricting information about the existance of the alien world they bought all their computers from?

Perhaps they would be interested in holding onto part of the lottery winnings I have found but must put somewhere else for a few days...

Xanadu (1)

TiggertheMad (556308) | more than 9 years ago | (#10636644)

Aliens are the least of NASA's worries. If the scientologist lawyers hear about the probe, expect a lawsuit...

Re:Xanadu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10636679)

Is that where they keep Xenu trapped by laser beams to prevent those nasty thetans from getting to us?

/can't believe Catherine Bell is a scientologist. Posting Anon to prevent harm to my person.

Re:Xanadu (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10637058)

do u ever 1der if..

S c i e n t o l o g y

IS WATCHING YOU?

Re:The raw pictures will be put up right away? (1)

MalachiConstant (553800) | more than 9 years ago | (#10640221)

I hope they can see me from way up there. It's been so lonely since Salo left. Take me back to Indiana you bastards! (if you don't recognize my nick, never mind.)

Aliens (4, Interesting)

Indy Media Watch (823624) | more than 9 years ago | (#10636370)

I understand from the webpage that NASA TV can be received by anyone with a satellite decoder and presumably TV stations to rebroadcast images.

They include "live mission feeds" and live images that we can see from the Cassini prove.

Knowing NASA's lineage, is there any form of delay applied to these 'live' feeds? Or could we one day see something which may otherwise be classified (alien waving at the camera, dead astronaut) on the screen in real-time?

Re:Aliens (1)

jerichohol (821580) | more than 9 years ago | (#10636431)

There is no conspiracy, even if we see an alien waving at the camera, we should take it as face value just like the landing of the moon.

Come on there is no why that studio looked real

Re:Aliens (1)

NarrMaster (760073) | more than 9 years ago | (#10636522)

Ever been to the moon? Do you know what the moon's surface looks like when you're on it? How do you know what it doesn't look like?

/thinks you guys need to loosen the tinfoil.

Re:Aliens (1)

Forbman (794277) | more than 9 years ago | (#10638722)

I have been. It really is the consistency of crusty snow, with a light green palor to it. I took a chunk into my rollagon, and it tasted a bit like...well...chicken, which I thought was a bit odd.

Re:Aliens (4, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 9 years ago | (#10636638)

Well normally when pixar do the special effects for these missions there are no issues. I believe the faking effects for this mission have been outsourced to Bollywood due to budget constraints so please dont be alarmed if the mission actually turns out to be a love story between Cassini and Hygens and several hirsuite men in colourful outfits burst into a song and dance routine halfway through it.

Re:Aliens (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10636722)

Show me a government agency where policy dictates a broadcast delay on the off chance of spotting an alien and I'll show you NASA headed by Jerry Falwell. Wait, another four years of Bush coming up ... it could happen!

Re:Aliens (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 9 years ago | (#10636957)

Oh great... faith based rocketry....

Jerry: "Hey, Pat! Jesus told me to have the engineers pressurize the oxygen lines with hot hydrogen from the high pressure turbopump now. It's lighter."

Pat: "Just a minute, Jerry. I'm busy having my people strip all of the insulation off the wires on the craft to save weight. The Lord will protect us from it sparking over..."

Re:Aliens (1)

Nehi the Ganchark (818676) | more than 9 years ago | (#10639113)

Even though the chances are remote, finding undeniable evidence of alien life on Titan will forever change how we look at the universe and how life actually works. Suppose there is something alive on Titan... what is its biochemical makeup? How does it metabolize? Reproduce? If there is something there, it'll be quite unlike anything we've ever encountered.

It would be interesting to see the general political, scientific, and public reaction here on Earth if the Huygens probe due to be released in January manages to snap an image of a gaping maw full of teeth just before it goes silent...

Re:Aliens (1)

at_18 (224304) | more than 9 years ago | (#10639907)

"Live" means live from the control room. There isn't any realtime video camera on the Cassini.

The images come from something like a CCD photocamera optimized for astronomical observation. They are saved on an internal memory buffer and transmitted back several hours or even days later. Even if there's some ET waving at it, Cassini would probably not even see it.

Not like your digital camera (1)

mdp1173 (815076) | more than 9 years ago | (#10640857)

Space probes don't send back jpegs or gifs. The images have to be assembled and processed to remove compression artifacts and "hot spots" where an errant gamma ray or ion hit a CCD and caused a big bright spot.

There will always be a delay between the raw data is recieved through the Deep Space Network and when it will show up on a computer screen at JPL because it has to be properly assembled. Not tin foil (I hate that term...it's actually aluminum foil) hat stuff, just the nature of the game.

sci.space.news (4, Informative)

noselasd (594905) | more than 9 years ago | (#10636421)

Subject: Cassini Image: Eyes on Xanadu
From: baalke@earthlink.net (Ron)
Newsgroups: sci.space.news
Followup-To: sci.space.policy
Date: 26 Oct 2004 09:25:07 -0700

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/multim ed ia/pia06107.html

Eyes on Xanadu
October 25, 2004

Cassini image of Titan, revealing the bright continent-sized terrain
known as Xanadu

This image taken on Oct. 24, 2004, reveals Titan's bright
"continent-sized" terrain known as Xanadu. It was acquired with the
narrow angle camera on Cassini's imaging science subsystem through a
spectral filter centered at 938 nanometers, a wavelength region at which
Titan's surface can be most easily detected. The surface is seen at a
higher contrast than in previously released imaging science subsystem
images due to a lower phase angle (Sun-Titan-Cassini angle), which
minimizes scattering by the haze.

The image shows details about 10 times smaller than those seen from
Earth. Surface materials with different brightness properties (or
albedos) rather than topographic shading are highlighted. The image has
been calibrated and slightly enhanced for contrast. It will be further
processed to reduce atmospheric blurring and to optimize mapping of
surface features. The origin and geography of Xanadu remain mysteries at
this range. Bright features near the south pole (bottom) are clouds. On
Oct. 26, Cassini will acquire images of features in the central-left
portion of this image from a position about 100 times closer.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the
European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in
Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission
Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard
cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team
is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission, visit
http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and the
Cassini imaging team home page, http://ciclops.org

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

And

Cassini-Huygens makes first close approach to Titan

Today the NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini-Huygens spacecraft makes a fly-by of Saturn's
largest moon Titan - the closest ever performed.

Read more:
http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Cassini-Huygens /SEMB2E 0A90E_0.html

good flavor (4, Interesting)

Striker770S (825292) | more than 9 years ago | (#10636493)

it seems that everybody is looking at mars and wondering why are space program is not really doing too much. Its good to show the public the vast and very unique moons of the gas giants. I am looking forward to see if they are going to do a "fly by" on the moon with the completely water frozen surface, orbiting jupiter (or maybe it was saturn). as long as NASA doesnt screw up and place anything backwards or messes up on unit conversions, then they have my support again!

Re:good flavor (2, Informative)

red floyd (220712) | more than 9 years ago | (#10636524)

n the moon with the completely water frozen surface, orbiting jupiter (or maybe it was saturn)

Europa, the second Galilean moon (Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto).

Life on Europa? (2, Informative)

CRepetski (824321) | more than 9 years ago | (#10637721)

A flyby of the second Galilean moon could prove to be especially beneficial, as it has some of the most favorable conditions for life (or past life) in our solar system.

Re:Life on Europa? (1)

another_henry (570767) | more than 9 years ago | (#10640652)

Not that favourable. Radiation from Jupiter's equivalent of the Van Allen belts gives a dose of about 600 Rem/day on Europa (a certain lethal dose for a human). Admittedly it's a far cry from the 45000Rem/hour a spacecraft would catch orbiting in the middle of the Jovian magnetosphere, and perhaps simple life could handle a few rays.

Re:good flavor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10636552)

You do realize we're landing on Titan, not just flying by?

Re:good flavor (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10637395)

it seems that everybody is looking at mars and wondering why are space program is not really doing too much

Nobody's doing too much because the rest of the Solar System is a dead wasteland. If Mars had something to offer, then we'd see all the world's powers scrambling to get first dibs. The best use of resources at this point would be to continue improving new launch/reentry technology and perfecting space stations.

Really Glad NASA didn't screw up this one!!!! (0, Troll)

woodsrunner (746751) | more than 9 years ago | (#10638349)

The cassini launch was a big controversy since if it blew up before leaving the atmosphere it would have been enough explosives to blow the earth up leaving Mars as the third planet from the sun....

glad they used the right "O" rings!

The hubris of the whole mission leaves me ambivilant about the accomplishment.

Re:Really Glad NASA didn't screw up this one!!!! (2, Informative)

Silverlancer (786390) | more than 9 years ago | (#10639472)

Not exactly. Cassini isn't the first mission to use a nuclear power system first of all, and second of all if it did explode there would be no explosion and the radioactivity would be spread so much that it would be lost among Earth's background radiation. Read up before you comment.

Great... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10636577)

I've been looking forward to watching NASA TV for the Titan fly-by for some time now. The stream is about to get Slashdotted. :(

Also sampling Titan's atmosphere... (4, Informative)

jangobongo (812593) | more than 9 years ago | (#10636830)

Not only will the Cassini be taking pictures, but its ion and neutral mass spectrometer will "scoop up" and sample Titan's atmosphere as it passes at a distance of 1,200 kilometers (745 miles).

"One important goal of this flyby is to confirm scientists' model of Titan's atmosphere to prepare for the Huygens probe descent," according to this article at SpaceDaily.com. [spacedaily.com]

Re:Also sampling Titan's atmosphere... (1)

djvern (824535) | more than 9 years ago | (#10638515)

Attitude Control Systems (ACS) has data already showing a drag torque from Titan's atmosphere. Too awesome.

raw images (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10637556)

The raw images may be higher resolution but guess what....they are also "raw"! That means they haven't been processed yet. The image data isn't very useful unless you have the necessary parameters / algorithms to process the data.

There will be several steps in processing the image data, bad pixel correction (I guess these CCDs should have very few); white/black balance; tonal / grey calibration; others? I'd be surprised if there weren't a few others.

I guess the white/black balance is the most important thing I mentioned ....responsiveness accross the CCD won't be the same and must be compensated for. I don't know if they've got a seperate grey calibration step (you'd need calibration data to reproduce it)....you could fiddle with tone curves yourself to make stuff pleasing to the eye / see different stuff.

Can anyone supply more details on the calibration?

So far as I know it's not worth downloading the raw images unless you want to exercise some bandwidth....I think that Nasa might give out the calibration data to some people (remember British scientists discovering possible new moon?)....Anyone know all the ins and outs?

Re:raw images (3, Informative)

H01M35 (801754) | more than 9 years ago | (#10638221)

From the FAQ [nasa.gov]
Why does the contrast look different between images?

The camera measures light from an object at each point in an image and assigns it a number from zero to 4095 depending on its brightness. Sometimes the scientist can't afford to send this amount of data for each pixel because of the amount of storage it takes. The camera has the ability to convert this range of values to those from zero to 255. The camera does this according to a preset table of values designed by the scientists. This table devotes many of the 256 levels for less bright things and less levels for brighter pixels. Part of calibrating an image on the ground is to reverse this table and get back pixels in the range of zero to 4095. Because you're looking at the raw data, images sent back in this mode will have dimmer things look brighter compared to the brighter parts of the image than in images not in this mode.

Why does the image look bizarre/psychedelic?

As in the previous question, the other way the camera can send back less data (by sending pixels with values from zero to 255 instead of zero to 4095) is to send back only the lower binary digits of the number. This is like having a list of amounts of money and only recording the amount of cents for each one and assigning the brightness in an image to the amount of leftover cents. Pixels with brightness values just under 255, like amounts just under a dollar, will appear almost white, while pixel values just over 255, like amounts just over a dollar with not many cents, will appear dark. The ideal use of this mode is for image scenes that are dark with almost all of the pixel values less than 255. If the scene is simple with gradual increases in brightness, then even if the original values get over 255 and go dark again, the scientists can figure out what the real value was. If the scene is very complicated or the original values are much brighter than 255, the image can have many bright and dark transitions with strange contours. In this case, the image will look very bizarre but not have much scientific value.

Seems like they want more detail in the dimmer areas. There's also an interesting look at the filter combinations that they can use.

I want my Goop! (3, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 9 years ago | (#10638367)

This is cool. It is a map pointing out where the lander is targeted [nasa.gov] . The map was made from prior flybys and also shows where today's mission is to image.

If the dark stuff really is liquid goop, as some speculate, I wish they would target a little to the north to land right in the stuff and float. I would much rather see images from floating on a lake of goop than yet more rocks. We got enough of rocks from Mars, Venus, the moon, and Eros. Time for liguid landings. Please NASA, retarget for the sake of Goop!

Re:I want my Goop! (2, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 9 years ago | (#10638518)

They've done some preliminary image processing. Here is an example [nasa.gov] . Notice the crisp boundaries in the third image. It looks just like a water (liquid) boundary. Dust or rocks rarely have such distinct boundaries of color for this much area. This adds to the hydrocarbon lake theories. This is so cool!

However, it still means that the probe may land on an oval-shaped island (matching it with the prior map), which would be a bit of a disappointment, as described above. NASA, please target the damned liquid! The probe is designed to float.

Holy Shit!!! (4, Funny)

Thaidog (235587) | more than 9 years ago | (#10638384)

It's the death star! Red Alert!
http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/gs2.cgi ?path=.. /multimedia/images/large-moons/images/image17.jpg& type=image

Re:Holy Shit!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10639249)

I was waiting for someone to make death star jokes.

your url didn't copy well so here it is again:
that's no small moon. [nasa.gov]

Re:Holy Shit!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10639489)

Cmdr Riker: "Shields up! Rrrred alert!"

Mod me troll but... (2)

macz (797860) | more than 9 years ago | (#10638593)

There comes a point when I hope that robot spacecraft like this fail and the logical conclusion is that "Well... I guess we will have to send people."

I am glad that our knowledge is expanding by orders of magnitude, but inwardly I long for a vast open ocean (of space) being the only thing separating us from a "new world" where we can go, colonize, and spread the virus of humanity before we kill ouseleves living in our own filth.

Naturally it will be a robot that finds this new world first, but there is just some atavistic, medieval reaction to the idea that a robot is our emmisary to the stars.

Re:Mod me troll but... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10640081)

There is a plan made up by some NASA engineers called HOPE, which would be a manned mission to Callisto in 2045. Sadly I don't think it will happen, at least not that soon, but one could hope, right? At least it shows that these people are thinking about something more than just moon and mars... even though we don't have permanent settlements on either one, we will, and when we do, it's good to have some plans on what to do next. Colonization of Callisto and perhaps Ganymede would be beautiful.

You guys fried their new supercomputer! (2, Interesting)

iamlucky13 (795185) | more than 9 years ago | (#10638851)

NASA just finished building their new supercomputer [slashdot.org] , and it's already been slashdotted. Actually, the second try worked, but the first one gave me a server busy message.

The NASA TV feed is pretty interesting. They just went through a series of photos from one of the cameras taking shots at different wavelengths which very dramatically displayed the effect of wavelength "windows." They also mentioned that they sampled the upper atmosphere on the way through, so maybe there will be something interesting to tell as a result of that.

coastline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10639058)

To me... some of thoe images look pretty damn much like an obvious goop > land coastline... but also.... look closely in the dark goop.... see those bright rings? Only thing I've seen like that before would be atolls. We all know what that means.

Re:coastline (1)

freddled (544384) | more than 9 years ago | (#10640487)

My first thought too . . . http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/gs2.cgi?path=.. /multimedia/images/titan/images/pia-titan-1-2.jpg& type=image [nasa.gov] . . . There is a regular ring on the 'land' side too, but my instinct tells me that these are camera or image processing artefacts. The interface between the light and dark, though, looks exactly like a coastline with islands and indentations formed by wave/tide action. It could be dark terrain overlaid with ice or clouds or both. You have to be careful to understand what light and dark actually mean - I don't know what wavelengths these were taken at but if the camera is optimised to see through methane/hydrocarbon smog then that would appear darkest. If the dark part is a liquid ocean then why does the top right show up as so hazy? I'm more interested in the rings. The obvious one is associated with an indentation in the coast to its 'north'. If you go left from there, there is another one much fainter but that is associated with a diffuse 'stain' or pan of material and also has a 'coastal' feature to its north. Intriguing.

Re:coastline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10640681)

I swear I see a face in picture #4596. I bet it was put there by colonists from the Mars Face civilization. Undisputable evidence of extraterrestrial intelligent life.

No siren jokes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10639122)

Doesn't anybody read Vonnegut anymore?

Umm... What's the circular shape in this image? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10639412)

Does anyone else think the circular shape in this image is a little too... umm... circular? What could that thing be?

http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/multimedia/images/raw /c asJPGFullS05/N00023162.jpg

Re:Umm... What's the circular shape in this image? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10639588)

A crater?

Re:Umm... What's the circular shape in this image? (1)

g4n0n (659895) | more than 9 years ago | (#10639747)

I'd assume it's some form of calibration mark. Since it's on alot of the other images aswell.

all planets are ours! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10639571)

Monolith's be damned. Next stop: Europa!

Leave me alone! (1)

MalachiConstant (553800) | more than 9 years ago | (#10640238)

First I get my memory erased, then I get sent all over the solar system, THEN I become an object of scorn for the whole world.

When I finally get some peace and quit out here on Titan you bastards send probes to look at me.

Go look for Mr. Rumfoord! Leave me alone!

(If you don't recognize my nick ignore me.)

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