Say ‘space cheese!’ — Cassini probe is taking our picture from nearly 900 million miles away

July 19, 2013

Here’s what we’re reading/watching today:

1) Two spacecraft are taking photographs of Earth Friday and Saturday, so look up and say “Space cheese!” — or something. The Cassini probe is currently in the Saturn system, sending back data on the gas giant. But on Friday between 5:27 and 5:42 p.m. Eastern time, Cassini will be taking a photograph of Earth as it images the whole Saturn system while it is backlit by the sun. It marks the first time we earthlings will have advance notice that our photograph is being taken from an interplanetary distance. The Cassini probe will be about 900 million miles away, so you may not want to do your hair specifically for the event, but NASA is requesting that folks look up and smile and, of course, share their photos. The event has a hashtag, #waveatsaturn and a Facebook page.

NASA’s MESSENGER craft, which is in orbit around Mercury, has taken and will be taking images of Earth on the following times on both Friday and Saturday: 7:49 a.m., 8:38 a.m. and 9:41 a.m. Eastern time. The times on both days are identical. The parts of Earth not illuminated in the Cassini images (Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia) will be in the MESSENGER images. MESSENGER’s images are primarily being taken in its search for natural satellites around Mercury. Cassini mission scientists will also participate in a live Web cast on Friday between 5:00 and 5:30 p.m. Eastern time.

Here’s a look at where we are expected to be relative to Saturn in this image:

This is a simulated view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft that shows the expected positions of Saturn and Earth on July 19, 2013, around the time Cassini will take Earth's picture. ( NASA/JPL-Caltech)
This is a simulated view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft that shows the expected positions of Saturn and Earth on July 19, 2013, around the time Cassini will take Earth’s picture. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Photographs from the two probes will be processed in the coming days and weeks. (NASA)

2) The General Counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Robert S. Litt, is delivering an address at the Brookings Institution on Friday. The topic: “Privacy, Technology and National Security.” The speech is billed as providing “an overview of intelligence collection.” The description of the event, which started at 10 a.m., goes in part:

“Litt will discuss the laws that govern intelligence collection activities, the effect of changing technology, how to ensure security while protecting privacy and constitutional rights and how some of these laws are put into practice.”

(Brookings)

3) It’s time to pay for our Internet. So writes Charlie Warzel for BuzzFeed — a site more known for its listicles, or “demolisticles”, than its long-form pieces. But BuzzFeed’s Warzel sums up the paradigm shift in users and content providers: If not now, then soon it will be time for us to pay.

“While we’re nowhere near the end of the “free” internet, the web’s untamed corners undoubtedly feel smaller; increasingly, they’re hardly “untamed” at all, subject to various levels of co-opting by the companies they appear to undercut.”

(Yes, The Washington Post instituted a metered subscription model in June.) (BuzzFeed)

4) Apple has purchased Locationary, a Canadian big-data firm, according to AllThingsD’s John Paczkowski. The price tag on the acquisition was not immediately released. The deal is almost certainly part of an effort to improve Apple’s mapping service. You can read Locationary CEO Grant Ritchie’s piece for TechCrunch in Sept. describing the challenges Apple faces in beefing up its maps. (AllThingsD)

5) As we gear up for “The Wolverine” — the major motion picture scheduled for release on July 26. Here’s a look at the CGI-free process of making of Wolverine’s claws.

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