The stark beauty of Cassini's Saturn

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June 2 2011 11:30 AM

The stark beauty of Cassini's Saturn

Speaking of Cassini...

The spacecraft has been orbiting Saturn for nearly 7 years now, and has returned many thousands of images of the rings, moons, and planet back to Earth. Many times, the images are part of a series -- tracking the large moon Titan, for example, or following one of the outer, faint rings -- and while looking at them, videographer Chris Abbas got an idea. What if he strung them together into a video...?

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death from the Skies!  

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[You definitely want to make sure HD is on, and make this full screen!]

Wow. I was pretty surprised something like this would have as much drama as it does! I was also surprised at how fitting it was that Abbas used the raw, unprocessed data. In many of the sequences you can see black donuts caused by dust in the camera system (the donut shape is due to the way light refracts (bends) around small particles near the detector), cosmic ray hits on the detector, and other things that astronomers call "defects" because they get between us and the science we're trying to do.

But art doesn't always perfectly intersect science. In this case, those defects add to the overall sense of the video itself. I'm impressed. The music was a good choice, too. All together it makes for a dramatic, eerie, beautiful, unbalancing ride through the solar system's sixth planet.



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