CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS
Captain's Log
September 9, 2004

Dream of Discovery

It all seems now like a reverie. Our glistening, golden shrouded electromechanical beast, with seven lonely years and billions of miles behind it, sets its sights on a softly-hued, giant and dream-like planet.

Carrying us into the force-filled province of this spinning globe, it buzzes an ancient, wayward, dirt-ice slip of a body, a relic of the long-gone nebula that birthed the outer planets around the sun.

Weeks later, it and we hasten soundlessly across a vast and solid sea of rippling waves, scalloped shores, and tumbling rivers of boulders, stones, pebbles, all made of ice, gathering as we fly the sun's rays diffusing upward through the scene below.

Hours later we are coursing above a hazy, pale orange planet-sized moon of enormous mystery, whose veiled surface offers, perchance, the markings of a water-less, frozen, but organic-rich early Earth, and whose atmosphere may host the same molecular arrangements and behavior that ultimately bore life on our blue ocean planet. Blurred visions of dark and light, a field of bright white clouds aloft, and occasional sightings of narrow, sinuous patterns, hauntingly like meandering streams, are transmitted on the backs of the few and the lucky electromagnetic beams that have dodged the haze-filled air to be caught by our speeding scopes overhead.

Fantastic though they seem, these vistas are not a dream. Our swift and capable craft has traveled invisible interplanetary roads to the place we call Saturn. Its adventures there and successful entry into orbit are already the stuff of legend. What it has shown to us thus far, and the images it has collected, are being closely examined in the pursuit of precise scientific information on the nature of this very alien system. It has uncovered new structures and bodies along the outskirts of the planet's rings, and new moons hidden among the old. Our faithful machine has given us sight to peer into realms we wouldn't otherwise see, and a sense of being there, a sense of immersion and engagement in an environment we would otherwise only imagine. It has performed the miraculous, converting the fleeting and indifferent fluctuations of self-propagating electric and magnetic fields into powerful, visceral emotion.

Behold the images on these pages. Witness the newly found. Gaze with greater clarity upon the previously known. These sights are the magic worked by our emissary to this far-away place. These are the visions of our ancestors' dreams, the captured signals from an enchanting world that has beckoned since the time of the ancients across our peerless sky.

Behold the images on these pages. Enjoy them. They are the signatures of our time.

Carolyn Porco
Cassini Imaging Team Leader
Space Science Institute
Boulder, CO

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