Monday, October 30, 2006
Dark Rings and Smooth OperatorsHere's the latest full color image from Saturn, looking down on the dark side of the rings. The bright sliver on the lower left is the crescent of the day side of the planet. Looks like Blogger has its act together today. Let's see if I can replicate some of last Friday's lost post on moons. Blogosphere, meet Janus: Janus is one of Saturn's relatively small shepherd moons. Janus is 113 miles across--about the size and shape of Connecticut and Rhode Island put together. Old tiney space artists (as well as George Lucas) assumed that these small moons would be craggy, rocky bits. Yet the truth is not so. Check out this gallery of solar system moons ... First Telesto: And Mars' moon Phobos: These babies have craters, yes, but their contours are surprisingly rounded compared to what we thought we'd find in space. It turns out that we have erosion in space: radiation from the sun, solar wind particles, and the like. There's also a presumption that there are fine grains of dust covering these small bodies. Dust made of ice, as in the case at Saturn. Dust made of teeny particles of stone, as in the case at Phobos and our own moon. Static electricity is also a space event. Scientists are a bit worried about the possible effects of electric charge when astronauts go exploring. Will computers freak out? I blogged on this a few months ago, but all this dust in space is potentially hazardous to space travellers if it gets in their machinery, or especially, their lungs, where it can asphyxiate in minutes if it gets dragged back into the crew compartment. Anyway, that's decades in the future. For now, enjoy the pretty pictures.