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Thread: Saturnalia

  1. #1
    Raspberry Syncope FeedYourHead's Avatar
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    Default Saturnalia

    (Hi can an admin please make a sub-forum for Heaven Upside Down? It's time).

    I find this oddly and somewhat spectacularly coincidental. The son never sets. 15.

    Saying Goodbye to Cassini, the NASA Mission That Transformed Our Understanding of the Solar System

    "On September 15th, the spacecraft will plunge to its death in Saturn’s atmosphere. What has it taught us in the past twenty years?


    Spacecraft do not rust. Some merely fade away, like Voyagers 1 and 2, which, four decades after their launch, have departed the solar system and are now drifting into the wider cosmos, quite possibly for eternity. Many others, though, end their journeys abruptly and, often enough, intentionally. In 2003, nasa steered its Galileo probe, which had faithfully surveyed the Jovian system for years, into Jupiter’s crushing atmosphere, to avoid the possibility of introducing terrestrial microbes to the moon Europa, which harbors water and, perhaps, life. In 2014, the agency sent its Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, which was losing power and altitude, hurtling into the far side of the moon, to keep the wreckage away from the historic Apollo landing sites. As early as next summer, another Jupiter mission, Juno, could take a fatal dive into the planet’s cloud tops.

    This Friday, nasa’s Cassini spacecraft will come to a similar end. At 6:31 a.m., Eastern Daylight Time, after two decades of flight and thirteen years of spectacular discovery around Saturn, and with the blessing of its controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, California, Cassini will touch the gas giant’s dense atmosphere and be drawn into it. The end will come quickly. Cassini, travelling at seventy-six thousand miles per hour, will continue to relay data for a minute or two, until it begins to tumble; then its high-gain antenna will aim away from Earth and its signal will cease. In a matter of minutes or even seconds, the mounting pressure of the atmosphere will reduce Cassini to particles, long before the spacecraft reaches the surface of Saturn, if Saturn even has a surface. “It will be a plunge, not a crash,” Joan Stupik, one of Cassini’s guidance-and-control engineers, told me earlier this week.

    Cassini launched in 1997 and took seven years to reach Saturn, making tours of Venus and Jupiter along the way; Stupik joined the team in 2013, straight out of grad school for aerospace engineering. By then, the mission had made numerous major discoveries, many involving Saturn’s trademark rings. Saturn is thirty-six thousand miles in diameter, some nine times wider than Earth, but has a density lower than that of water. Its rings, which extend out nearly three hundred thousand miles, are composed almost entirely of bits of water ice—some as small as grains of sand, others gargantuan. Dozens of moonlets plow through the rings like ships, kicking up particles in their wake. (The disturbances are called propellers.)

    Saturn has another sixty-one moons besides, and these have provided Cassini’s most tantalizing surprises. Stupik’s first taste of scientific excitement came in March of this year, when Cassini’s camera zoomed in on a tiny moon called Pan that looked exactly like a frozen ravioli. “Nobody was expecting anything vaguely like that,” she said. “The scientists were running around saying, ‘Did you see this?’ ” Another moon, Enceladus, tiny and fractured, turns out to supply much of the ice to Saturn’s tenuous outer E-ring. Squeezed by the planet’s gravitational tides, Enceladus spews out geysers of water—water that clearly exists in abundance as a liquid below the moon’s surface. The chemical signatures suggest that the water also contains salt, ammonia, and the kinds of hydrocarbons that would be necessary to start and maintain primitive life. Titan, the largest Saturnian moon, and Jupiter’s Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto also appear to contain seas beneath their icy crusts, and the next generation of nasa missions aims to explore that realm.

    For most of history, scientists viewed Earth as a singular entity, its physics and substance unique in the solar system. The past half century of space exploration has turned that understanding inside out, according to Larry Soderblom, a geophysicist who has been with the Cassini mission since its onset, in 1990. Soderblom’s career has followed humankind’s trajectory into the solar system. He joined nasa in 1966, while still in grad school, to be part of the Mariner missions to Mars, and kept going—Viking, Voyager, Magellan, Galileo, the Mars Exploration and Pathfinder rovers. (“I’ve probably left some out,” Soderblom told me.) The Mars expeditions, he said, revealed a world startlingly similar to ours. There were valleys, extinct volcanoes, and a red, dusty surface that recalled the Sonoran Desert; it looked a planet where liquid water might once have existed, and subsequent missions have borne out that hypothesis. With the discoveries on Mars and another Earth neighbor, Venus, scientists adjusted their understanding. “The triad was Mars-Venus-Earth,” Soderblom said. “When we started with Voyager, then Galileo, then Cassini, we expected the outer solar system to be uninteresting, geologically. In our mind’s-eye view, they’d just be battered, dead objects.”

    That view, too, soon changed. The Jovian system was marvellously active—geysers and volcanic plumes on Io, hints of a subsurface sea on Europa—and the same was true at Saturn. On January 15, 2005, Cassini dropped a European Space Agency probe called Huygens, named for the seventeenth-century Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens, into the atmosphere of Titan. It parachuted to the surface, relaying data and imagery to Cassini for an hour and a half. “As we broke out of the clouds and could start to see the surface from thirty miles high, we were struck by the visual similarity to Earth,” Soderblom said. “Looking down, we saw drainage patters, river systems, shorelines that looked like intercostal waterways, with sandbars.” The orbiting Cassini, meanwhile, made out “lakes, volcanoes, evidence of rain, things that could be glacial, you name it—a plethora of things that looked like they came out of a textbook on Earth geomorphology.”

    Titan had all the hydrological features of Earth, without the water. The temperature on the mood is a stunning minus two hundred and ninety degrees Fahrenheit, barely a hundred and seventy degrees above absolute zero. Any water there would be frozen into ice with the hardness of steel. What Titan has instead is liquid methane, which on our planet is a gas. “You end up with a spectrum of phenomena that look like Earth but with a completely different chemical and physical environment,” Soderblom said. “As scientists, our natural tendency is to be conservative. But, time and time again, our imagination and predictions have fallen far short. As you go farther out, the juices, the liquids and lubricants that allow for geological activity, they change. On Earth, it’s water and molten rock; on Io, it’s sulfur and lava; on Titan, it’s methane.”

    Cassini the spacecraft is twenty-two feet long, with an array of instruments and a big white antenna poking out. “Think of one of those half-size school buses sitting on its end,” Stupik said. “It’s definitely personified for a lot of us who work on it. We check its health every day, each little piece of hardware, to see how it’s feeling. It’s a really well-behaved mission. It’s been an awesome place for a new engineer to learn how a spacecraft should run.”

    As happens to all vehicles, though, Cassini’s fuel is running low. Several years ago, it became clear that the probe would sputter to an end somewhere in Saturn’s neighborhood. nasa has strict protocols for protecting other planets from any organisms we might accidentally send out there. “If we’re going to explore the solar system for life or its precursors, we don’t want to discover something that we took there ourselves,” Soderblom said. But even the strictest decontamination procedure leaves behind microbes—microbes that are even hardier for having survived. To avoid potentially contaminating any of Saturn’s moons, the decision was made to have Cassini disintegrate in the planet’s arms; since 2010, the mission has been aimed toward its finality on Friday.

    Cassini’s swan song actually began on Monday, as the spacecraft flew past Titan one last time and gained a gravitational nudge—“a farewell kiss,” nasa called it—toward Saturn. nasa has cast the drama as a kind of star-crossed romance. “Cassini has been in a long-term relationship with Titan, with a new rendezvous nearly every month for more than a decade,” Earl Maize, the mission’s project manager, said in a press release on Monday. “This final encounter is something of a bittersweet goodbye.” But Soderblom described a far more intimate affair. “To me, an unmanned spacecraft is not really unmanned,” he said. “Think about how the flow of data works between the eye and the brain: it’s electro-optical, involving electrons, photons, and signals. All we’re doing with a spacecraft is putting on a really fancy pair of spectacles. We become one with the spacecraft. We are there, very much so. We don’t talk about Cassini flying over the rings of Saturn; we say we are flying over the rings, and we are descending to the surface of Titan. It’s metal, plastic, and glass, but the spacecraft is very alive in our minds. So it will be a real shock when it goes zipping through Saturn’s atmosphere like a meteor.”

    Such is the vastness of space that Cassini’s earthbound brain won’t experience its eyes closing for good until seventy minutes or so after the actual event; that’s how long it takes for radio signals to traverse the nine hundred million miles from Saturn to J.P.L. “I will cry a lot, I think,” Stupik said. “It’s very emotional.” An informal wake has been planned for sometime over the weekend, she said. “It’s a chance for all of us to be together in the same room, away from all the craziness, to reminisce and celebrate the past thirteen years.” Cassini’s scientists still have an abundance of data to digest, but on Monday the engineers will start shifting to other projects. Stupik will move to the Europa Clipper mission, which expects to launch a probe in 2022, with the aim of reaching Jupiter’s moon Europa between three and five years later. “I started my career on the last few years of the life of a spacecraft; now I get to help in the very beginning stages of the next,” she said.

    Lying around my house is one of those picture books of the Greek myths, in which Icarus falls from the sky while Daedulus, his father and the inventor of the feathered wings, looks on. The fable of Icarus is a tale of hubris, in which mankind’s ambition exceeds its wisdom: selfish and proud, Icarus can’t recognize that the goal he seeks will be the end of him. Perhaps, in Cassini, we have built his better twin. Twenty years wiser, it plummets for the benefit of the cosmos, toward a place that human design and, perhaps, nature will prevent it from ever reaching.

    Early on Friday morning, Soderblom told me, as he settles in to experience Cassini’s final moments, he’ll be joined by his son, Jason Soderblom, a planetary scientist at M.I.T. Father and son have written several papers together analyzing data from the Mars and Cassini missions, and the younger Soderblom will soon be joining the Europa Clipper team alongside Stupik. “So my gene pool moves on into the exploration of the next stage,” the elder Soderblom said.

    “The son never sets,” I said.

    “The son never sets,” he said."

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------

    And then from the Billboard interview:

    Earlier this year, your father died following a lengthy illness that he mostly kept a secret until the very end. Did his dying affect the creation of Heaven Upside Down?

    "I had just finished “Saturnalia,” which was the one song missing that was needed to complete the record. Almost immediately after, I spoke to my cousin in Canton, Ohio, who told me that I needed to come home to see my dad. I only got the chance to say hello to him, kiss him, tell him I loved him, and a half hour later, he had a seizure and died. I had a water bottle full of vodka, and it was hard to get by; I’m all the way on my knees in the corner, kind of crying dealing with it.

    Somehow, they revived him and put him in intensive care for the night, so I did what my dad would’ve wanted me to do, which is go to the strip bar with my cousin. While we’re there, the hospital calls asking for my permission about whether or not to resuscitate him [if he were to die again]. I asked if there was anything I could do tonight versus when the doctor told me to come the next morning. The nurse says, “Well, you could pray for him.” I got so pissed off that I said, “Fuck you,” and hung up.

    The next morning, I get there at 7 a.m., and it was terrible. I asked the doctor to give him a lot of morphine.
    My aunt was standing next to my dad and wanted to hold his hand when he finally passed, but he had his hand on his dick, so she couldn’t. He went out like a champ. And he would want me to tell you that."


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  3. #2
    Not man enough to b human Manson15Marilyn's Avatar
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    Saturnalia, the most popular of Roman festivals. Dedicated to the Roman god Saturn, the festival’s influence continues to be felt throughout the Western world.

    Originally celebrated on December 17, Saturnalia was extended first to three and eventually to seven days. The date has been connected with the winter sowing season, which in modern Italy varies from October to January. Remarkably like the Greek Kronia, it was the liveliest festival of the year. All work and business were suspended. Slaves were given temporary freedom to say and do what they liked, and certain moral restrictions were eased. The streets were infected with a Mardi Gras madness; a mock king was chosen (Saturnalicius princeps); the seasonal greeting io Saturnalia was heard everywhere. The closing days of the Saturnalia were known as Sigillaria, because of the custom of making, toward the end of the festival, presents of candles, wax models of fruit, and waxen statuettes which were fashioned by the sigillarii or manufacturers of small figures in wax and other media. The cult statue of Saturn himself, traditionally bound at the feet with woolen bands, was untied, presumably to come out and join the fun.

    The influence of the Saturnalia upon the celebrations of Christmas and the New Year has been direct. The fact that Christmas was celebrated on the birthday of the unconquered sun (dies solis invicti nati) gave the season a solar background, connected with the kalends of January (January 1, the Roman New Year) when houses were decorated with greenery and lights, and presents were given to children and the poor. Concerning the gift candles, the Romans had a story that an old prophecy bade the earliest inhabitants of Latium send heads to Hades and phota to Saturn. The ancient Latins interpreted this to mean human sacrifices, but, according to legend, Hercules advised using lights (phos means “light” or “man” according to accent) and not human heads.

    -- Encyclopedia Britannica
    I am your vulture, your immoral sculpture, mirrorman who understands. I know you. I am you, your fantasy, reality.

    Don't be surprised I can look you in the eye. It's hard to take you serious when you take me inside.

    How the fuck are we supposed to know when I'm a monster in the way you refuse to die? How the fuck are we supposed to know if we're in love or if we're in pain?
    "Are we in love or are we in pain?"

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  5. #3
    YoureAlreadyHere's Avatar
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    @FeedYourHead I watched an episode on cassini last night on the science channel- lots of fun https://www.sciencechannel.com/tv-sh...s-grand-finale
    --------------------------------

    Don't tell me what to do.

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  7. #4
    Enname's Avatar
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    I keep coming back to read this and just nod, despite having nothing to add. It is such a lovely parallel in so many ways, and I am also pleased with the ever so tangential and roundabout link between Cabrini, Australia (many of those in charge or involved with Cabrini were from here) and Manson.
    Quid ignorantia sit multi ignorant.

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