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#WaveAtSaturn from Death Valley, 14:30 19th July 2013


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On the 19th of July, the Cassini spacecraft took a sequence of images to create a mosaic of Saturn. It was also coordinated so that the earth would appear in the image as a pale blue dot.

The last time this happened, the significance of the "pale blue dot" image was not known until after it was captured. This time round, it was announced and planned well in advance.

One of the events was called "Wave At Saturn", where people would wave at the sky where Saturn was, and take images of that.

On the US West Coast, the time for the image that would contain the earth was 14.27 (for 15 minutes or so). It just so happened that I would be on a pre-planned roadtrip in the US on that day, and specifically would be at Death Valley at that time. So, at 14.30pm, I took this sequence of images from the Badwater Salt Basin, and created a mosaic from it.

Lets just say that conditions were a *BIT* extreme. Ambient air temperature was showing 51c/124f, but in direct sunlight, it was well over 60c/140f and rising rapidly.

20130719-waveatsaturn-temperature.jpg

Wshile I was setting up and taking the images, I burned the little toes on both feet as my boots heated up in the sun, and then burned my fingers on the metal camera tripod that was too hot to touch. As soon as I was pretty sure I had at least complete 2 sets of overlapping images for the mosaic (just in case), I headed back to the car. That was the hardest walk of my life. I wanted to walk faster because I wanted to get out of the heat quickly, but I also knew that walking faster would make me hotter, and make the situation a lot worse. I stopped twice on the way back, and poured a small bottle of water over my hat and shemagh to help with coolling, but they were dry again by the time I had taken more than 20 steps. The thoughst running through my head were "If I do collapse all the way out here where the other tourists havent ventured to because of the heat, will they notice me, or will I die where I fall?". Yeah, a *BIT* extreme :)

And so, the image. This is the scaled down version for display on this forum and elsewhere, but click on the image for a larger version. The images were taken with an astro-modded Canon 650d, thrown into Microsoft ICE to create the mosaic, then some colour balance and cosmetic work in Photoshop CS5.

20130719-waveatsaturn-1024.jpg

I believe that Saturn is somewhere in the region of where the clouds are that I am waving at. Its only a rough estimate because Google SkyMap was have a few issues running on my phone because it was overheating (and shut down shortly after I got a rough location).

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