Fargo North Decoder, of Electric Company fame, once helped a character played by Rita Moreno with her dangerously loose interpretation of a No Fishing sign. Her version went like this: “Private Property? No! Fishing Allowed.” She was wrong; trouble ensued.
In a similar vein, here is a good one from Steve Crandall’s blog. It appears he was actually sent the following email ad.
There really is a meteor shower early this morning, but I’m guessing that by the time you read this it will be long gone. For the record, I should point out that you should not, in fact, shower with your telescope. If the optics are dirty, it’s far better to run it through a car wash on the back of a pickup truck. Just remember to use lots of bungee cords to hold it in place. Although I suppose there do exist people who, upon seeing the Perseid Meteor, are moved to do mysterious things with their equipment. How about this: “Watch the Perseid Meteor. Shower with a Celestron Telescope. Smoke a Marlboro Cigarette.”
It’s just as well there were no pictures with the ad.
In other space news, today was Cassini’s big Enceladus flyby in which the Saturnian probe dipped to within a few hundred miles of frosty Titan’s spicy little sister. No pictures as of this writing, but there should be some good ones before long. In the meantime, you can contemplate NASA’s latest headline.
Researcher Excited As
Moon Probed Open
Season for Satellite Science
Okay, that was my best effort. Let’s hear your “unfortunate break” headlines.
“Japetus is unique in the Solar System—you know this already, of course, but like all the astronomers of the last three hundred years, you’ve probably given it little thought. So let me remind you that Cassini—who discovered Japetus in 1671—also observed that it was six times brighter on one side of its orbit than the other.
“This is an extraordinary ratio, and there has never been a satisfactory explanation for it. Japetus is so small – about eight hundred miles in diameter—that even in the lunar telescopes its disk is barely visible. But there seems to be a brilliant, curiously symmetrical spot on one face, and this may be connected with TMA-1. I sometimes think that Japetus has been flashing at us like a cosmic heliograph for three hundred years, and we’ve been too stupid to understand its message.”
Arthur C. Clarke gave these words to his fictitious astronomer Heywood Floyd near the climax of his book 2001: A Space Odyssey. Like a lot of people, I read those words years ago and thought to myself: what is the dang deal with Japetus? Clarke wasn’t making up the part about the two-faced nature of Iapetus (as it is more commonly called), an oddball Saturnian moon.
The two-toned satellite is still mysterious, but now we have some quality snapshots from the visiting Cassini spacecraft. And, hoo boy! they do not disappoint. I find this APOD picture astounding: The Strange Trailing Side of Saturn’s Iapetus. Great Clarke! Look in the sky! It’s a cosmic snowball rolled in dirt… it’s a sugar-frosted chocolate space truffle… it’s… it’s a much better investment than the International Space Station. You know what we need? I’ll tell you what we need: more space robots with cameras and fewer accident-prone gold-plated Tang-sucking astro-cosmo-taikonauts.