NASA Cassini probe interacts with Earth

Deep space exploration is an enigma to most people on Earth.

But a special event Friday evening allowed those on the ground to interact with a space probe currently orbiting the planet Saturn.

Wave at Saturn, a worldwide event, took place between 5:27 and 5:42 p.m. EDT Friday.

Participants of the event were told to look at the sky during the specific window of time and wave at NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, as a photographer captured the
waving crowd.

Locally, WonderLab Museum of Science, Health and Technology provided members of the community a chance to gather and wave at the spacecraft as it passed by our planet.

Cassini was scheduled to take a mosaic-style photograph of Earth through the view of Saturn’s rings, from its orbit about 900 million miles away from Earth.

This event marked the first time in history the public has received advance notice from NASA that a spacecraft was photographing the Earth from interplanetary distances, according to NASA’s website.

WonderLab’s event Friday evening included a craft station where guests could make a sign to wave at the Cassini probe and hands-on activities to educate visitors about interplanetary travel and the history of space exploration in the U.S.

Telescopes donated by the Stonebelt Stargazers and NASA Solar System Ambassador Dan Cervantes were also available for the public to view Saturn and the probe through the early evening sky.

Cassini is gathering data for NASA scientists to study Saturn’s rings, planetary activity and moons.

The spacecraft was launched Oct. 15, 1997, and arrived in Saturn’s orbit July 1, 2004.
Cassini’s primary mission was to last four years, but since its launch the probe has made multiple discoveries from the study of Saturn’s moons Titan and Dione and the planet’s surface.

The most recent discovery by Cassini found hints of activity on the surface of Saturn’s moon Dione on May 29.

Saturn’s Dione moon showed signs of early life.

“A picture is emerging that suggests Dione could be a fossil of the wondrous activity Cassini discovered spraying from Saturn’s geyser moon Enceladus or perhaps a weaker copycat Enceladus,” Bonnie Buratti of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who leads the Cassini science team that studies icy satellites, said in a press release on the NASA website. “There may turn out to be many more active worlds with water out there than we previously thought.”

The Cassini probe is a cooperative project between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency.

There is not a set date for the probe to return to Earth at this time.

Amanda Jacobson

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