Department of Astronomy Center for Radiophysics & Space Research

Wave At Saturn

July 12th, 2013

Public invited to join in Wave at Saturn at Cornell

WHAT: Participate in a worldwide interplanetary portrait. Free and open to the public

WHEN: July 19, 2013, 3:30 to 5:30 pm.

WHERE: Sciencenter Amphitheater

Contact: Dr. Matthew Tiscareno, 607-255-5913, <>

Ithaca, N.Y. - On July 19 at 5:30 pm EST, NASA's Cassini spacecraft, now exploring Saturn, will take a picture of our home planet from a distance of hundreds of millions of miles. Cornell University and the Sciencenter invite the public to join this historic interplanetary portrait as it is being taken and listen to presentations by Cornell astronomers. The event, which is free and open to the public, will start at 3:30 pm on Friday, July 19, at the Sciencenter, 601 1st St, Ithaca. We’ll wave at Saturn at 5:30 pm, the time at which Cassini will be imaging Saturn.

Unlike two previous Cassini eclipse mosaics of the Saturn system – one in 2006, which captured Earth, and another in 2012 – the July 19 image will be the first to capture the Earth in natural color, as human eyes at Saturn would see it. It also will be the first to capture Earth and its moon with Cassini's highest-resolution camera.

Earth will appear as a small, pale blue dot between the rings of Saturn in the image, but the symbolic importance of the occasion is not lost on Cornell astronomers. “This is a unique opportunity to see our home planet in the context of its vast surroundings, and to contemplate our place in the universe,” said Matt Tiscareno, a Cassini science team member at Cornell’s Center for Radiophysics and Space Research (CRSR). “We would like people in Ithaca to come to the Sciencenter, learn about and celebrate our intrepid robot explorer of Saturn, and wave our best wishes to it as our picture is taken.”

The images have an important scientific purpose. "Looking back towards the sun through the rings highlights the tiniest of ring particles, whose width is comparable to the thickness of hair and which are difficult to see from ground-based telescopes," said Matt Hedman, also a Cassini science team member at Cornell’s CRSR, who was involved in planning the imaging sequence. "We're particularly interested in seeing the structures within Saturn's dusty E ring, which is sculpted by the activity of the geysers on the moon Enceladus, Saturn's magnetic field and even solar radiation pressure."

This latest image will continue a NASA legacy of space-based images of our fragile home, including the 1968 "Earthrise" image taken by the Apollo 8 moon mission from about 240,000 miles (380,000 kilometers) away and the 1990 "Pale Blue Dot" image taken by Voyager 1 from about 4 billion miles (6 billion kilometers) away.

This event is sponsored by Cornell University’s Center for Radiophysics and Space Research (CRSR), Space Planetary Imaging Facility (SPIF) and Department of Astronomy, and by the Sciencenter.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. Launched in 1997, Cassini entered Saturn orbit in 2004. Its mission is planned to conclude in 2017, after it has observed a half-cycle of Saturn’s seasons. The Cassini imaging team consists of scientists from the United States (including at Cornell’s CRSR), the United Kingdom, France and Germany.

More information:

North America and part of the Atlantic Ocean are expected to be illuminated when NASA's Cassini spacecraft takes a snapshot of Earth on July 19, 2013. This view is a close-up simulation. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech