Watchers of the Skies: One of the greatest voyages in human history will come to an end today — the voyage of the Cassini spacecraft to the planet Saturn. Cassini will enter Saturn’s atmosphere in a planned final descent, taking pictures and gathering data all along the way. Cassini was launched twenty years ago, in 1997, and for two decades it has been faithfully transmitting to Earth vast quantities of scientific information about the solar system, and taking spectacular images.
Homeschooling families couldn’t spend a better hour this week than one devoted to exploring NASA’s comprehensive Cassini website and learning about the mission, its discoveries, and the great ringed planet.
❡ You can review the planets and the solar system as a whole with your River Houses reference library by turning to the beautiful atlas plate 125 or to pages 374–380 in your almanac.
Poem of the Week: The American poet Kenneth Rexroth (1905–1982) once wrote about a hiking trip into the mountains around San Francisco, and about young hiker who is perhaps like one of your students — and who, perhaps, in our imagination, became a Cassini scientist.
On What Planet
Uniformly over the whole countryside
The warm air flows imperceptibly seaward;
The autumn haze drifts in deep bands
Over the pale water;
White egrets stand in the blue marshes;
Tamalpais, Diablo, St. Helena
Float in the air.
Climbing on the cliffs of Hunter’s Hill
We look out over fifty miles of sinuous
Interpenetration of mountains and sea.
Leading up a twisted chimney,
Just as my eyes rise to the level
Of a small cave, two white owls
Fly out, silent, close to my face.
They hover, confused in the sunlight,
And disappear into the recesses of the cliff.
All day I have been watching a new climber,
A young girl with ash blond hair
And gentle confident eyes.
She climbs slowly, precisely,
With unwasted grace.
While I am coiling the ropes,
Watching the spectacular sunset,
She turns to me and says, quietly,
“It must be very beautiful, the sunset,
On Saturn, with the rings and all the moons.”
What astronomico-literary discoveries have you made in your homeschool this week? 😊