Where were you on July 19, 2013 at approximately 4:30 p.m. EST?
The reason I ask you this, is because that this the exact date when Carolyn Porco, leader of the imaging science team on the Cassini mission, asked the entire Earth’s population to stop what they were doing and go outside to smile as the unmanned spacecraft Cassini took their picture.
Cassini, at that time was in orbit around Saturn.
This picture became known as…
“The Day The Earth Smiled.”
This photo, which you see above, shows our Earth as the brightest star visible, just right to the centre of the photo.
The following is part of a discussion that Carolyn Porco had during the radio program “The Infinite Monkey Cage,” an irreverent BBC science program hosted by Professor Brian Cox and Robin Ince.
It occurred to Carolyn Porco as she was planning Cassini’s photo shoot of the Earth that:
“Wouldn’t it be great, instead of taking a picture, and then two weeks later telling the people of the world…
‘Hey world, we took your picture two weeks ago…’
…Why don’t we tell the people of the world ahead of time, that in two weeks, or maybe a month’s time that your picture is going to be taken from a billion miles away from the orbit of Saturn.
We should invite them to go out and appreciate the moment that the picture is being taken.”
Upon hearing this, I immediately began to think back as to where I would have been on July 19, 2013 which would have been a Friday.
Chances are, I was in bed, sleeping off my night shift.
It was a busy and awkward time for us as we were in the midst of painting, and waiting for the long overdue delivery of some new living room furniture.
I’d like to think that had I known about Cassini’s photo shoot, I would have set the alarm so that I could venture out into my front yard and thereby participated in Cassini’s picture of Earth.
Since I am not able to share a personal account of this occasion, I’m very happy to tell you that one person who was aware of the Cassini drive-by picture taking was Sam.
After the event, Sam wrote to the Cassini Space Mission headquarters and shared his experiences.
“Phoebe, age 10 and I got the telescope out on the patio. Under a beautiful, clear Southern British sky we gazed out upon Saturn, revelling in the fact that a space aircraft was looking back on us.
She asked lots of questions about Saturn, and at the appointed time, I raised a glass of fine red wine, she, a glass of fizzy pop. We said said cheers to Saturn, to Cassini, to each other, and then we smiled and waved and cheered and took photos of ourselves both beaming.
It was perfect.”
What a happy occasion that must have been for Sam and Phoebe.
Carolyn Porco reports that many people wrote in and shared their experiences.
Some climbed mountains in an effort to get a wee bit closer to the camera. Some interrupted their meals, to go outside and contemplate their place in the cosmos as Cassini took their snapshot.
I have no doubt that this, personally would have been a stellar occasion for my Parents, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins had we been blessed with the same opportunity.
We all loved that sort of thing.
I’m sure that family members who read this would agree with me that had we been able to celebrate this together in typical fashion…
There would have been food…
There would have been singing…
There would have been prayer…
… And above all, there would have been unmitigated joy.
One can only wonder if Oma (Grandmother) would have removed her glasses, as she always did, when her picture was being taken.
How much cheer that very thought brings me.
For more information…
A You Tube video of raw footage from Cassini can be found here:
To hear this podcast, download the episode THE INFINITE MONKEY CAGE U.S.A. TOUR: SAN FRANCISCO which can be found here:
Many thanks to the BBC, Professor Brian Cox, Robin Ince, ‘The Infinite Monkey Cage’ and Carolyn Porco for an incredible episode.
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