Cassini’s final fling

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© NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute                                                     Taken: Jul. 16, 2017 4:33 PM  Received: Jul. 17, 2017 4:03 PM
The camera pointing toward Saturn, image taken using MT2 & CL2 filters. Image has not been validated or calibrated. A validated/calibrated image will be archived with the NASA Planetary Data System.

Having oft writ and more frequently reflected on the exquisite glory of the universe, one of the chief conduits to images of its wonders dives into oblivion on Friday, Fifteenth September.

The Cassini Space probe, ESA, ISA & NASA’s lovechild, has touched, tasted, seen and inhaled Saturn and its moons Titan and Enceladus since 2004. Extended twice, this twenty year lonely voyage, whose costs must surely be seen as having been maximally recouped, has doubtless given the European, Italian and North American space agencies dividends beyond wildest expectation.

What has it given the rest of us?

What it means to dream, to wonder, to ignite imaginings: these are not ephemeral intangibles but sparks that blaze thinking into strides of endeavour and achievement.

I’m guessing Captain Bligh would have no more an understanding of GPS as he sat, soggily, in his skiff in the middle of the Pacific than we do of … teleportation? functional telepathy? warp-factor motion? universal kindfulness? everyday listening skills?

Playing with unimaginable concepts – as a child with a cardboard tube – gives them a concrete reality, somehow. As we heartily congratulate the astrophysicists on their profound achievement, let unbounded joy fertilize wonder such as to spark gorgeous revelation amid our own realm.

Titan, which has provided gravitational pull for Cassini, and Enceladus snuggling up

Cassini’s Endex Schedule, 15.ix.17 – Orbit 293

Fly-by altitude at 111,000 km/69,000 mi. of moon Janus

Fly-by (alt = 91,000 km/57,000 mi.) of moon Pan

Fly-by (alt = 86,000 km/53,000 mi.) of moon Pandora

Fly-by (alt = 92,000 km/57,000 mi.) of moon Epimetheus

End of mission, atmospheric entry into Saturn.

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Planetary shifts in Bloomsbury

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Saturn’s moons, Enceladus and Tethys captured by Cassini’s cameras

Since a teenager, I’ve delighted in my hairdresser’s company and skill. The first visit to his Salon etched itself onto the platform of memory: he scowled when I said I was studying and growled “I don’t care for students.” Oooh, I shall enjoy this, I thought. And for the next thirty years, I did and have cherished my trips to the teeny street of treasures.

When I called for a Christmas cut and heard an automated voice give a new number, my heart lurched. Anything but saturnine, Ivan and I have grown old together and the prospect of losing this unfriendly friend seemed unbearable. It transpires he decided to close the Salon to ‘hot desk’ chez another of the Quarter’s numerous coiffeurs.

Why is this pertinent to emotional intelligence? I’m not sure it is. Perhaps it’s more a matter of a fresh year bringing with it the unalterable fact nothing stands still. Gazing across time and space as Cassini has enabled, the prospect of fresh horizons which ignite the possible, is thrilling.  Bon voyage, mon vieux.