Images of Saturn and Earth

Just over a week ago the Cassini spacecraft was deliberately crashed into Saturn at the end of it’s extended mission orbiting the gas giant planet.

Saturn and its magnificent rings

NASA:  Cassini Spacecraft Ends Its Historic Exploration of Saturn

Cassini launched in 1997 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and arrived at Saturn in 2004. NASA extended its mission twice – first for two years, and then for seven more. The second mission extension provided dozens of flybys of the planet’s icy moons, using the spacecraft’s remaining rocket propellant along the way. Cassini finished its tour of the Saturn system with its Grand Finale, capped by Friday’s intentional plunge into the planet to ensure Saturn’s moons – particularly Enceladus, with its subsurface ocean and signs of hydrothermal activity – remain pristine for future exploration.

While the Cassini spacecraft is gone, its enormous collection of data about Saturn – the giant planet, its magnetosphere, rings and moons – will continue to yield new discoveries for decades to come.

Just prior to this:  Cassini Spacecraft Makes Its Final Approach to Saturn

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is on final approach to Saturn, following confirmation by mission navigators that it is on course to dive into the planet’s atmosphere on Friday, Sept. 15.

Cassini is ending its 13-year tour of the Saturn system with an intentional plunge into the planet to ensure Saturn’s moons – in particular Enceladus, with its subsurface ocean and signs of hydrothermal activity – remain pristine for future exploration. The spacecraft’s fateful dive is the final beat in the mission’s Grand Finale, 22 weekly dives, which began in late April, through the gap between Saturn and its rings. No spacecraft has ever ventured so close to the planet before.

Some of the last images taken by Cassini:

Saturn Hemisphere

Saturn’s northern hemisphere with rings in the background


One of Saturn’s moons, Enceladus, on the horizon
(Saturn has 62 confirmed moons)


Saturn Rings

Saturn’s rings

Saturn's rings and our planet Earth

An earlier (2013) photo of Earth from Saturn

And zooming in a bit closer:

New Earthrise Image from LRO spacecraft

A view of earth from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)

Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Between the rings

A cool photo:

Not all of us. I’m not sure what side of Earth is facing Cassini there so I don’t know whether that view is of us, or of the other lot on the other side of our planet.

A closer look:

And zoomed in you can see the moon more easily:

More information about the Cassini mission:

Different perspectives

If aliens arrived at Earth how would they see us? It depends on what direction they come from and orientation they have.

This photo taken from Apollo 17 shows Antarctic at the top.


Original file

While world maps have a commonly have north up and south down they can be drawn any way you like.


Via from Buzzfeed (with more interesting maps)

How some New Zealanders think some other New Zealanders see New Zealand:


How some other New Zealanders think some other New Zealanders see New Zealand:


New Zealand could just as easily be seen like this:


I try to see New Zealand from different perspectives and encourage others to do likewise, that’s one of the aims of Your NZ.

What’s north? What’s south? What’s right? What’s left? It depends on where you’re looking from.




The EarthWindmap is cool, a real time depiction of  surface winds on the Earth.

This current WindMap snapshot shows Cyclone now just to the west of Fiji.


It also shows interesting westerly wind patterns as they hit New Zealand, splitting around the South Island.

Earth overshoots available resources for the year

According to how much resources the Global Footprint Network calculates are available for us to use on Earth each year to ensure sustainablility we are in the red already, and eveything used now makes it hardert for us to continue to survive.

Christian Science Monitor reports in Resource overdraft: Planet Earth crosses into ecological red:

Thursday marked Earth Overshoot Day – the day when the world’s population officially exhausts all the natural resources the Earth can generate in a single year, as defined by the sustainability think tank, Global Footprint Network.

Overshoot depletes the Earth of its natural capital and catalyzes a buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, environmentalists say.

That buildup drastically harms the environment through deforestation, drought, fresh-water scarcity, soil erosion, and biodiversity loss, according to GFN.

All of these degenerative conditions lead to excessive ecological spending, and Overshoot Day serves as a reminder that the global population needs to implement greener solutions before natural resources drop to dangerous levels.

The UN provided the first reliable statistics on the matter in 1961. Since then, humanity’s demand for resources has quickly exceeded the amount nature could provide, with the planet reaching global overshoot in the early 1970s.

In 2000, Earth Overshoot Day landed in October. It’s occurrence in August this year reflects the rapidly expanding demands placed on the planet’s natural resources.

Of course you can argue about the calculations. But it’s harder to argue about the likelihood that humans use more resources than we generate or that Earth can replace naturally.

We continue to consume more per capita and that looks like getting worse as third world countries improve standfards of living. This cetiry there have been and will continue to be big changes in consumptiom i heavily populated countries like China and India.

And the world population continues to grow. Currently a world population calculator is at 7,360,175,026.

Population milestones:

  • 1 billion: 1804
  • 2 billion: 1927
  • 3 billion: 1960
  • 4 billion: 1974
  • 5 billion: 1987
  • 6 billion: 1999
  • 7 billion: 2012
  • 8 billion: 2024 (predicted)

So the population has more than doubled in my lifetime. While the rate of growth is predicted to slow down it is still increasing substantially. More graphically:


Source: Worldometers

So it is quite feasible that we are using more than we or Earth can produce, and we are polluting more than we can clean up.

And the overshooting ill effects are accumulative.

According to people like the Greens as a world we are already stuffed unless we take drastic action immediately.

That may or may or may not be a reaslitc assessment.

But there should be no doubt that humankind faces huge challenges, now and in the future. It may not get too bad in the rest of my lifetime, or for a few generations.

But at some stage it’s certain that Earth and it’s human population will suffer badly.

It might be a gradual deterioration.

Or it could be a sudden impact. An asteroid collision is claimed to have ended the age of dinosaurs, so something similar for humans can’t be ruled out.

More likely is a major volcanic eruption – a sudden reduction in sunlight and food production for a year or two could easily precipitate drastic widespread hardship.

The risks per lifetime probably aren’t high. But the risks are significantly invcreased of we are already accumulatively overshooting Earth’s resources.

What are we going to do about it? Most people will probably ignore it and hope that it won’t happen or will go away or that someone will invent something that will fix everything.

But what if someone invents something that doubles human lifespans?

The moon we never see

Here’s a view of the moon we never see. Until now. From NASA:


…satellite images of the far side of the moon, illuminated by the sun, as it crosses between the DSCOVR spacecraft’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) and telescope, and the Earth – one million miles away. Credits: NASA/NOAA
The dark side of the moon is facing us on Earth as the far side is in bright sunlight.

From a Million Miles Away, NASA Camera Shows Moon Crossing Face of Earth

A NASA camera aboard the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite captured a unique view of the moon as it moved in front of the sunlit side of Earth last month. The series of test images shows the fully illuminated “dark side” of the moon that is never visible from Earth.

The images were captured by NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC), a four megapixel CCD camera and telescope on the DSCOVR satellite orbiting 1 million miles from Earth. From its position between the sun and Earth, DSCOVR conducts its primary mission of real-time solar wind monitoring for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

And here’s the animation of images:

EPIC maintains a constant view of the fully illuminated Earth as it rotates, providing scientific observations of ozone, vegetation, cloud height and aerosols in the atmosphere. Once EPIC begins regular observations next month, the camera will provide a series of Earth images allowing study of daily variations over the entire globe. About twice a year the camera will capture the moon and Earth together as the orbit of DSCOVR crosses the orbital plane of the moon.

These images were taken between 3:50 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. EDT on July 16, showing the moon moving over the Pacific Ocean near North America.The North Pole is in the upper left corner of the image, reflecting the orbital tilt of Earth from the vantage point of the spacecraft.

The lunar far side lacks the large, dark, basaltic plains, or maria, that are so prominent on the Earth-facing side. The largest far side features are Mare Moscoviense in the upper left and Tsiolkovskiy crater in the lower left. A thin sliver of shadowed area of moon is visible on its right side.

“It is surprising how much brighter Earth is than the moon,” said Adam Szabo, DSCOVR project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Our planet is a truly brilliant object in dark space compared to the lunar surface.”

Once EPIC begins regular observations next month, NASA will post daily color images of Earth to a dedicated public website. These images, showing different views of the planet as it rotates through the day, will be available 12 to 36 hours after they are acquired.

Around what?

NASA discovered that there was a satellite rock orbiting the asteroid that passed close by Earth earlier this week.

NASA has discovered a tiny moon 70 meters (230 feet) in diameter circling the asteroid that passed very close to Earth earlier this week, a situation that occurs in just 16 percent of the cases of known asteroids.

The tiny moon is orbiting the asteroid, which itself is only 325 meters (about 1,060 feet) in diameter.

If this asteroid went close enough to the moon it could get trapped into orbit.

Then there would be a moon around a moon around the Moon.

Around Earth. Around the Sun. Around the Milky Way. Around the Universe.

Around what?

The other side

China’s Chang’e spacecraft has taken a photo of the Earth along with a view we don’t usually see, the other side of the moon.


EarthSky reported: Extraordinary shot of moon’s far side and Earth, from Chang’e

The Chinese Chang’e 5 test vehicle captured this extraordinary view of Earth over the far side of the moon on October 28, 2014. From Earth on this date, the phase of the moon was a waxing crescent. From the moon that day, the Earth was in a waning gibbous phase.

The Chinese Chang’e 5 spacecraft, which is testing lunar sample return technology, has rounded the lunar far side and is now on the return leg of its journey to the moon. It is landed back on Earth on Friday, October 31, 2014.

Moon Connection explains Why Do We Only See One Side of the Moon?

The same physical half of the Moon, the “near side”, is always facing Earth. That means there is a far side or so-called “dark side” that is never facing Earth and can only be seen from space. This is true regardless of the moon phase.

Why is this the case? We all know that the Earth rotates on its own axis, so theoretically, the Moon should also do the same, allowing us to get a full picture of the planetoid. Why are we limited to seeing only 50 percent? It turns out that the speed at which the Moon rotates has led to this particular phenomenon. Millions of years ago, the Moon spun at a much faster pace than it does now. However, the gravitational influence of the Earth has gradually acted upon the Moon to slow its rotation down, in the same way that the much smaller gravitational influence of the Moon acts upon the Earth to create tides. This influence slowed the rotational period of the Moon to match that of its orbit – about 29.5 days – and it is now “locked in” to this period.

If the Moon didn’t spin at all, then eventually it would show its far side to the Earth while moving around our planet in orbit. However, since the rotational period is exactly the same as the orbital period, the same portion of the Moon’s sphere is always facing the Earth.

We can actually see more than half the moon due to a ‘rocking’ motion.

Actually a little bit more than half of the Moon’s surface is observable from Earth. Since the Moon’s orbit is elliptical, and not circular, the speed of its orbital travel increases and decreases depending on how close it is to our planet. The rotational speed of the Moon is constant however – and this difference between orbital speed and rotational speed means that when the Moon is farthest from the Earth, its orbital speed slows down just enough to allow its rotational speed to overtake it, giving observers a small glimpse of the usually hidden area. The term for this “rocking” motion of the Moon is called libration and it allows for 59 percent of the Moon to be seen in total (over time).

There is no dark side of the moon, only a side we can’t see from Earth.

One reason that the far side of the Moon is frequently referred to as the “dark side” is because many people mistakenly think that it never sees any light from the Sun. In that sense the term “dark side” is wrong and misleading. In fact, since the Moon is constantly rotating on its own axis, there is no area of the planetoid which is in permanent darkness, and the far side of the Moon is only completely devoid of sunlight during a Full Moon – when the Sun is facing the Moon with the Earth in between.

What’s this got to do with politics? Nothing really, but I’ll make up an association.

There’s another side to most things, even though we may not find it easy to see it.