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Cassini-2

Seven hundred million miles away the Cassini spacecraft is preparing for death this coming September (2017). Launched in 1997 (when I moved to Brooklyn) the joint Italian/American space exploration mission to Saturn has seen and done things beyond comprehension. Lifted out of Earth’s gravity well by means of a Titan IVB/Centaur It flew through the nothingness and slingshotted around Venus (twice), the Earth, and Jupiter. It discovered new oceans on Enceladus and launched a lander onto the supermoon Titan (the first ever landing in the outer solar system). Cassini was used to tested general relativity: the craft broadcast radio past the sun to the Earth so that scientists could measure how the star’s gravity distorted the electromagnetic waves. Powered only by pluck (and, uh, 33 kilograms of plutonium-238) the little probe visited 20 moons.
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But all good things come to an end, and this final phase may be the most dramatic. On April 26th the craft began weaving between Saturn’s rings and the top of the planet’s atmosphere. The image at the top is an artist’s conception of how this might look for Cassini. The second image is a picture of the enormous hexagonal storm at the north pole taken April 30th. The image below is an infrared picture of Saturn. Cassini is scheduled to make 20 more of these passes before its final fiery plunge into Saturn itself, so prepare for more mind-boggling images of the gas giant.
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I’m sorry there was no post yesterday.  I am currently in Chicago for work and I have limited time and computer access.  I promise I will make up for the omission on a future weekend.

Summer Ivy on the University of Chicago Quads

Being in Chicago, specifically being in Hyde Park, reminds me (as though I could ever forget) of how much I love gothic architecture—and indeed all things “Gothic”.   Several of my recent posts have related to gothic art and gothic objects.  I am going to begin a wide-ranging “Gothic” category (to which I will add these older posts) in order to explore the concept and the meaning of the word.  As a starting point I am including some photographs of the University of Chicago.

The Harper Library Reading Room photographed by Justin Kern (I'm actually writing this post from Harper Library during my lunch break)

There has been recent internet buzz about these lovely photographs taken by fellow alum Justin Kern of “Chicagwarts”.  Roger Ebert used the photos to illustrate an opinion piece in which he (Ebert) takes modern architecture to task for ugliness.  Ebert’s article oversimplifies modernism and dismisses the cost and difficulty of making beautiful gothic buildings by hand, however I think he is quite right to prefer the University of Chicago’s eccentric splendor to Mies Van der Rohes’ heartlessness.  Similar sentiments underpinned the origination of the widespread nineteenth century gothic revival movement in architecture—to which the University of Chicago and many other exquisite buildings owe their appearance.

The Theological Seminary Corridor by Justin Kern

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