Voyage of the Moons

Well, this is fairly amazing.

“Software engineer, planetary and climate data wrangler, and science data visualization artist”, Kevin Gill has – as far as I can make out – melded together images from the Cassini spacecraft you may remember it from this post) during its journey past Jupiter and Saturn, and made them into a mini video:

The silence makes this all the more powerful, for me.

First up are Io and Europa passing over Jupiter’s Giant Red Spot (has anyone suggested using an ointment containing either salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide?), followed by Titan moving past Saturn’s rings, seen as a thin line, edge on.

It’s all rather mesmerising. The latter, especially, has a really otherworldly feel to it. I mean, I am aware that these are bother very clearly other worlds, but I’m sure you get what I mean.

Original link here (creative commons says help yourself – thanks, Kevin).
The rest of his photostream looks equally impressive.

Awkward questions

Awkward questions are going to be asked of the Indian Army, as it was revealed that they had been tracking over 320 unidentified flying objects over six months on the disputed Himalayan border between India and China. These were believed by the Indians to be Chinese Spy Drones and raised the tensions on the border. Worrying times:

Tensions have been high in the disputed Himalayan border area between the two nations in recent years, with India frequently accusing its neighbour of making incursions onto its territory. Things came to a head during a stand-off in April when Chinese troops were accused of erecting a camp on the Indian side of the de facto boundary known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC). By that stage, Indian troops had already documented 329 sightings of unidentified objects over a lake in the border region.

Except, it turns out that they weren’t actually Chinese Spy Drones at all. They were planets.

No, the Chinese hadn’t roped in Jupiter and Venus to assist in surveillance of the Indian troop movements; the planets were just doing their thing in the sky, as they do and the paranoid Indians erroneously identified them as spy planes.

I know. This sort of thing sounds implausible, but it happens, so here’s my quick guide to distinguishing between Chinese Spy Drones and Jupiter.

Firstly, there are some similarities: both are unmanned.

But that’s where it ends. A Chinese Spy Drone is, at most 5 m long. Jupiter has a radius of 69,911,000 m. It is a whole lot further away though, so it can look smaller.
A Chinese Spy Drone may weigh up to 2000 kg. Jupiter, at our best guess (no-one has found a bathroom scale large enough) weighs
1,898,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kg. Again, it’s ever so slightly larger than what you thought you were looking at, Private Gupta.

To be honest, this should be enough for someone to reasonable tell the difference between a Chinese Spy Drone and Jupiter, but just in case it’s not, only one of them would be taking covert surveillance video of your military positions.

And it’s not Jupiter.