Confession time — when I was at Dragon*Con, I attended a talk in the Science section about the latest findings from NASA’s Saturn orbiter, Cassini, which was pretty amazing. And while technically science stuff is not really what I do here on HeroMachine.com, you can’t have sci-fi (which DOES fit) without the sci.
Plus, this is a totally cool image, so nyah:
For a fuller explanation of what you’re seeing (hint, the moon is not the Death Star trying to escape on full thrusters — “That’s no moon!”), check out the Bad Astronomer blog on Discover.com. In a nutshell, this is Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons, ejecting a bunch of vapor out of volcanoes on one side. The ejecta ultimately forms the majority of Saturn’s E ring.
The person giving the lecture at Dragon*Con was on the Cassini team responsible for these images and she actually talked a fair bit about Enceladus. The team running the magnetic field detection equipment got some interesting data on one pass indicating something funny going on with that side of the moon, so they decided to do a relatively low-altitude fly-through with the visual cameras to see what was going on. They were delighted at the images they got back, showing these huge volcanic ejections.
It was really neat to listen to actual scientists working on actual projects out there on the very edge of explored space, and completely humbling as well. The stuff we’re able to do nowadays is just mind blowing.
Photo Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute via The Bad Astronomer. Thanks Phil!