Archive for the ‘ Sarah Milkovich ’ Category

Behind the scenes @ Cassini – A guided tour with Sarah Milkovich

I have a multiplanetary working life.  It’s gotten rather complicated.

Half of my time, I am a science planning engineer on Cassini, and the other half of my time I am the Investigation Scientist for the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.  (Sometimes it seems like the hardest part of operating spacecraft is getting the work done in between all the meetings.)

Today I’m going to talk to you a little bit about some of my work for Cassini.  I hope you’ve been following along with us last year as we observed the Saturn equinox (check out all our great images on the Astronomy Photo of the Day archives!) and had some fabulous moon flybys.

Cassini is a hugely complicated spacecraft to operate, and there are a large number of people who work behind the scenes to get the stunning data that you see online.  I want to give you a taste of the amount of effort, and the many decisions, that get made by a lot of people who you rarely ever hear about in the press releases.

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Editor’s quicknote

These words have as single objective, to congratulate one of Beyond the Cradle collaborators for her latest success.

Sarah Milkovich has become, officially, the HiRISE investigation scientist.

In a recent exchange of words, Sarah expressed her hapiness for being back “on” Mars and the window for new stories back here at BtC is now open after a time where…well…time wasn’t abundant.

So,  dear Sarah, here I am, waiting by the mailbox, waiting for you, your Mars, your HiRISE, your writing, and for that cold to go away fast.

Knowing how happy you are with the recent news and how long  the battle has been let me just tell you how proud I am to count with you, to learn with you, onboard this vessel of adventure, discovery and knowledge.

JPL Open House

Go visit Sarah!

sarahThe JPL Open House is a huge annual event. Scientists and engineers will be staffing the information displays, ready to show demos and answer questions about the spacecraft and instruments that they design, build, and operate, and the data that they analyze. Info, including hours and directions as well as links to videos from last year, can be found here.

Now, we know that not everyone can hop over to Pasadena for a weekend.

 There will be an online live video chat at various times both days: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2009-073

The chats will also be archived, so you can email in a question ahead of time and watch the video later for an answer. You can also follow along on http://search.twitter.com/search?q=%23jplopen.

There are pictures from this week’s set-up on various JPL Twitter feeds, including the full-scale model of the next Mars rover, MSL, and ATHLETE, a 6-legged robot which is being developed for the moon. I saw a demo of it last fall, it was really awesome.

I’ll be at the Cassini exhibit, next to the giant inflatable Saturn, on Sunday morning!

Moonlets shadow

cassini_m

Do you want to see discovery as it happens?

And how YOU can make the difference?

Run to the unmannedspaceflight forum where one of its members has spotted the shadow of, not one, not two but thousands of moonlets in one of Saturn’s rings.

Great catch Floyd!

 

[EDITED] Beyond the Cradle most recent collaborator, Sarah Milkovich, Cassini Science Planning Engineer, provided us with some context for the current situation:

 

Currently, we are approaching Saturn’s equinox.  Like the Earth, Saturn’s spin axis is tilted, so as Saturn moves through its orbit, the sun shines on different portions of the planet.  The sunlight is in the process of moving from the southern to the northern hemisphere, and at equinox it will cross the rings.  The sun will shine on the edge of the rings, casting a very thin shadow onto Saturn, and the rings themselves will be dark.

So right now, the sun is getting lower with respect to the rings, which means that the shadows cast by the moons are getting longer, (which you can see in these images and movies on the imaging team’ website), and if there’s enough vertical relief within the rings we can see shadows from that as well. All of this will allow us to see more of the structure and variations within the rings themselves.

We’re also going to be looking at how the changing illumination conditions (and therefore changing temperature distributions) affect the moons and the atmosphere of Saturn itself. We’ve already begun to see some changes in the color of Saturn’s northern hemisphere – this is a mosaic of images taken in 2004, and you can see that the northern hemisphere (where it isn’t covered in shadows from the rings) is blue.  Compare that to this image taken in 2008, and you can see how the northern hemisphere is more golden, with a hint of blue at the pole. 

The Saturnian equinox will occur in August, so expect to see more changes in the future!

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