Saturn (the planet) is having one hell of a blizzard right now. Â Five times worse than the blizzard that hit the DC area this year. Â NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is orbiting Saturn gathering the most data ever collected about the storm season of the planet.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a NASA, European Space Agency and Italian Space Agency project. Â The team is based out of the Goddard Space Flight Center.
Amateur astronomers gave NASA the heads up about the storm, as they are able to view some of it from their “stations” here on Earth. Cassini’s observation spots and times are set months in advance; the spacecraft that is “right there” (comparatively speaking), misses spotting these events on its own.
When there was a comet that hit Jupiter last summer, an amatuer spectator took a picture and sent it to Cassini scientists for them to see what was going on with the aftermath.
I want to know why we care if there’s a snow storm on Saturn. Â I want to know why two European space agencies have such an interest in Saturn and Jupiter as well. Â Perhaps if scientists would make their motives known to the public, there would not be such an objection to funding and such. Â It almost seems like we pay billions of dollars for some people to live on their childhood dreams of star gazing up close.
I’d also like to know why amateurs are more on top of things than NASA themselves. Â I understand the observation spots for the craft are predetermined, but doesn’t NASA have an astronomer checking out the stars and planets from Earth? Â Or are they so consumed with technology and money that the idea of using modest means of observation are beneath them?
Let me know your thoughts on this.