As today’s Autumnal Equinox passes in silence, and daylight stands in balance with night for one day, golden fields of corn and soybeans are but days from harvest. The land yields to open space without windbreak or cover for pheasants and deer. A darkening sky will soon foretell snow instead of rain as a primeval chill settles upon the land. Autumn will reluctantly give its domain to winter as colors fade, sunlight contracts, and the spirit of the land retreats into itself to wait for spring. As it bids a brief greeting, fall exclaims its essence in vibrant symphonies across the prairie.
The transition of autumn is glorious and inspiring, yet it is laced with endings. Perhaps that is why it seems to be the shortest season. Photos: Kane County, Illinois and Jo Daviess County, Illinois.
At about 6:55AM CDT this morning, the NASA Cassini spacecraft mission came to an end. After 13 years of stunning science, the craft was sent into the ringed gas-giant planet. Low on fuel after 294 photographic orbits around Saturn and its rings and moons, the decision was made by NASA to let Cassini self-destruct in Saturn’s atmosphere to avoid contamination of possible life-bearing Saturnian moons (particularly Titan and Enceladus).
Cassini made roughly 450,000 photographs during its voyage, adding untold amounts of knowledge about stormy Saturn (upper atmospheric wind speeds of up to 1800 kph/1100 mph), hazy moon Titan (with an icy-rain atmosphere and cold lakes of hydrocarbons), and amazing moon Enceladus (spouting salt-water geysers from under its surface), among other targets.
NASA is offering a free eBook with images from the mission here: Cassini
Science like this has the benefit of providing both knowledge and philosophy. Ponder if you will the significance of Cassini’s accomplishments, in terms of pure science and discovery. Although discoveries still await us here on our home planet, we have only begun to touch the final frontier of space with a human hand. As this small hand reaches toward unknown realms, we will, perhaps, be prompted to attain some sense of unity here on Earth. The hand we reach with is one, that of humanity, shorn of petty politics, racial divisiveness, and ignorance. If we so choose, we can let the grand accomplishments of this small spacecraft advance our knowledge . . . and our sense of oneness.
Farewell, faithful traveler.