January 6th, 2005

krazy koati

Dancing on the moon

Not to change the subject any but I'd just noticed some new pictures the Cassini probe has taken of Iapetus, the utter freak moon of Saturn. Astronomers have long suspected something odd is going on there; one hemisphere is six times as bright as the other, like it were trying to be a lighthouse. Stanley Kubrick and Sir Arthur C Clarke set the deep-space Monolith at the center of the moon's bright side, in the early stages of story planning when Discovery was going to Saturn rather than Jupiter (and it's still found there, in the novel). And then one Voyager picture showed, in the middle of the bright hemisphere, a little black spot.

Cassini just took this picture, though, showing another unexpected feature of the moon. Specifically, it's just found the little seam in the plastic from where the two halves of the model were glued together by an inexpert model-builder. Iapetus isn't just a case of Nature letting us know there's something peculiar there; Nature in this case is jumping up and down screaming at us to pay attention.

Is Sean Geoffrey Christopher inducted into NASA yet? It's right about time for him, seems like.

Trivia: Asteroid number 34, discoverd 19 April 1855 by R. Luther of Düsseldorf, is named Circe, after the enchantress who transformed Odysseus's companions into pigs. Source: Dictionary of Minor Planet Names, Lutz D. Schmadel.

Currently Reading: In Memory Yet Green: The Autobiography of Isaac Asimov 1920-1954, Isaac Asimov.