Saturn in the Big Picture

I remember, as a kid, being mesmerized by these cheesy old sci-fi paintings of the frozen surface of a moon IX around Tau Ceti 4, or some such thing. Frosty rocks in the foreground, a gas giant looming large above, and maybe a space ship for good measure. I was aware of how speculative these paintings were, but they could still get you to ask the question “What would it be like to be there?”

The Boston Globe’s Big Picture has a new entry on Cassini’s latest adventures around Saturn, and the amazing thing is how much these honest-to-goodness photographs resemble those old sci-fi paintings. For instance:

I half expect to see a busty astronaut in a tight-fitting space suit floating nearby, a disintegrator pistol at her side. If one of those shows up the next set of pictures, man, I will be impressed.

Alan Taylor, the editor of The Big Picture, is a Saturn-o-phile from way back. Here’s a Cassini Flickr set from his pre-Globe days.

In other planetary exploration news, I regret to inform you that your little Mars lander Phoenix did’t make it through the winter. A noble spaceship among the frosty rocks and under pink skies, Phoenix, may you rest in peace.

4 thoughts on “Saturn in the Big Picture”

  1. According to my research, you are saying that Alan Taylor loves either:
    a) Carnaval in Rio
    b) Winter in the Faroe Islands
    c) Lead poisoning
    I can imagine accidental lead consumption at Carnaval making one feel cold and gloomy, but I don’t see what any of this has to do with Popular Science or OMNI magazine.

  2. Carnaval and Saturnalia I get. Ditto Saturn’s connection with lead. But you lost me somewhere north of the Orkneys. What’s the Faroe connection?

  3. “Saturnine” (and various combining forms)
    1. a. Astrology Born under or affected by the influence of the planet. b. Hence (in later use without allusion to the primary sense), sluggish, cold, and gloomy in temperament.

  4. The definition list from OED had several variations all based around “Saturnalia” for the Roman god, “Saturnine” for the influence of the planet, and “Saturnic” I assume because some crazy medieval dude (wink) found lead to be sluggish, cold, and gloomy in temperament.

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