Making of All Eyes on Saturn

I watched the video feed from JPL as the Cassini spacecraft burned in Saturn's atmosphere. I took a few screen shots and felt compelled to share them. This took some work.

I watched from my new work laptop because it had new good hardware for handling video. I got caught up in the emotion of the moment and started taking snapshots.

Switch video to fullscreen. Press Shift-Command-3 to capture. Check that images are appearing on my desktop.

The end arrives. I ponder the moment. I see I have some pretty nice pictures and decide to share them. But how?

I turn to #random on my company's slack where I had mentioned the countdown the day before. I write something poetic and drag a picture in titled Countdown to End of Mission. This looked pretty good.

I drag a second picture into slack. This time it's a screen capture of the video feed looking at the wall display of a computer screen with a couple of signal spectrums in nearly aligned desktop window frames. There is a blip. A signal from Saturn. I think back to Signals & Systems.

I want to share this moment with my nerdy children. I grab my personal laptop, actually my backup personal laptop, which has account settings for my email at I download the images from slack and copy-paste my philosophising for my kids.

Hmm. Message size: 7.5 Mb. Will that go through? My self-hosted email can handle it but I'm not sure how they read mail these days. I choose image size Medium. Message size: 1.2 Mb. I open the mail message full screen and the pictures still look good. Send.

I cc'd myself so that I would have a copy of the whole composition. I have an email archive but will I ever find the post again? No, probably not. This needs to go in wiki.

The newest release of wiki supports serving large images from an assets directory. I have that version running on Digital Ocean in Singapore. I'll post there.

I open the two screen shots in Preview. They are encoded in pixel-perfect png format that doesn't make sense for images that have already gone through web video so I convert them to jpeg with low compression. Hold option down to get the full file menu then choose Save As.

I move the smaller files to asia.

scp Sc*.jpg Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 4.54.27 AM.jpg 574.0KB/s Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 4.54.35 AM.jpg 480.4KB/s

I write the post. First a paragraph. Then the image. I write an IMG tag, width 100%, with a server relative SRC reference. I add a caption, an A with an HREF to the same image to expand it. Repeat for the second paragraph changing the file names by two characters.

The pictures don't show. I type the same asset address into the browser's location bar. This works, but the browser has made it an absolute reference with %20 for spaces. I paste this into the html which then works too.

The page looks good. I fork it over to the site where I normally write this sort of thing. I grab a screenshot of this and post it as a teaser on the fedwiki chat channel. I'm thinking this has been a lot of work and it is still not permanent so I scold our collective selves.

I grabbed a few screen shots in Cassini's final moments and included them in the above post using our new 'assets' directory to hold the high-resolution images. I have the new release installed in Singapore so that is where I wrote. I then forked the page into my regular journal in San Francisco where my RSS feed is fed. This worked because I wrote html for the images with absolute addresses. But this is fragile in that it defeats federation. Our next challenge is to redistribute assets automatically so that this moment might be remembered for another 20 years.

I want to tell them that this is way too hard. I'd be bragging a bit though, showing that I could do it. I should write a page about how I did it. I did and here it is. Now at 8am it is time to shower and get on to real work.


I was thinking about Cassini's final moments while I showered. I enlarged my screen shots. There were two radio blips, one for the microwave x-band signal 20db above the noise floor and another for s-band at almost 30db. In the final moments x-band took a dip and then recovered. A second or two later another dip.

Then it was gone and s-band right after it. I'm sure everyone in mission control knew that was the spacecraft struggling for alignment. X-band must have a narrower beam so it went first. They knew how their machine worked. And it was working then only to be turned to dust 45 seconds later.