Cassini probe finally plunged in the rings of Saturn at a speed of 120000 kilometres/hour to say goodbye. But before its glorious end, it help in demystifying so many secrets of the most beautiful planet Saturn.
Some of the milestones:
Launched in 1997, Cassini arrived at an orbit around the planet in 2004. Ended on 15 September 2017. During this time from 2004 to 2017, it took hundreds of thousands pictures. Here are salient achievements:
Distance traveled: 7.9 billion kilometres
Orbits around Saturn: 284
Images sent: 453048
Data compiled: 635 GB
Scientists associated: 5000 from 27 countries
- Discovered 6 out of 60 moons of the planet. Some look like potatoes and others have colourful streaks. Different textures, composition and shapes.
- Discovered Global ocean of salty water beneath ice surface on one of its moons called ENCELADUS. These are pointers towards possibilities of life.
- One season on the planet is of 7 years duration of earth. It entered in winter, spring and summer.
- In one of its moons called Titan , discovered hidden oceans of water and liquid methane.
- Beautiful rings are made of ice. Moons and moonlets interact with rings and feed them with required material to maintain the shape.
In our younger days, I remember we often spotted the “Neel Kanth” as it is called in india. “Neel” means “blue” and “Kanth” means “throat”, in the agricultural fields here in Punjab. At that there were no electrical transmission lines crossing the fields. There were trees and there were fields. It was considered auspicious to see it because its name is connected to God Shiva whose throat also became blue to due drinking of the poison which threatened to destroy the world. It is the mythology part.
Nowadays it is very difficult to spot this bird. The possible reasons could be the decline in its population and its semi migratory habit. Some literature suggests the deforestation, grazing pastures and pollution.
I think during summers it shifts base to some other place because I have not spotted the bird during all the summer. Last year during February and March, I spotted it sitting across the dry wood trunks, poles and electric transmission lines during the wheat maturing season.
Neelkanth or the Indian Roller Bird (Coracias benghalensis), is a member of the roller family of birds. They are found widely across tropical Asia stretching from Iraq eastward across the Indian Subcontinent to Indochina and are best known for the aerobatic displays of the male during the breeding season. It sits patiently for quite long periods and then catches the insects etc and returns to the same spot. Once I saw it sitting on a big stone in a pasture. It will fly, catch its prey and revert back to that stone. These are some of its pictures.
It finally seems that winter is over. The days have become longer and time seems to be lingering. The light seems to be blinding the eyes. Poplars which were bald during the winter have acquired the sparkling green leaves hiding their skeletons. Every other plant and tree has stirred to life.
There is a large increase in the numbers of birds like pigeons, parrots, mynas and others whose names are not known. This is due to the maturing of wheat crops. Many birds can be seen making nests frantically to lay eggs and continue their future generations to gain immortality of their genes by passing them on to coming generations.
In front of our home, there are meadows and water bodies around which the tall grasses and other bushes and vegetation abounds. Ducks and bittern can be seen in these waters. The tall bushes and grasses also provide the roosting place to many kinds of birds except pigeons which have colonised the buildings along with human beings.
Everyday when evening approaches, I sit in the balcony to watch the sky in the west getting coppery red with the sun going down until it dips behind the buildings in the west. Eagles roam the sky. Once in a while a hawk can be seen hovering steadily in a point in the sky pinpointing its prey on the land and descending with blinding fury.
But most beautiful scene is when small groups of birds fly in patterns sometimes going up, then down, left and right. Another group starts from another location and after graceful flight in the sky separate gtoups coalesce and become a single group. Then another and another groups come and join them.
Why they do it every evening? Is it a sort of get together and show to bonding? Must be they share their experiences during the day and take stock of their flock. After meeting again they get separated to find their roosting places for the night. God only knows.
This goes on and as it becomes more and more dark, these groups break and settle in the bushes around the water bodies, trees in the fields. Although it is very difficult to photograph them because of their sheer mobility and unpredictable changes in the direction still some photographs I have taken and shown below.
Resolution is not to the point but still the observation is proved.
A Poem on Heralding of Spring Season: Though Spring season is far off, I wrote these lines based on the experience of the past. After the rains, there would be unsettled weather tending towards cooling. Finally, the Winter shall set in. This shall be real winter which I shall experience after a long stay in the moderate weather of Mumbai. When the winter shall thaw, there will be the riot of colors all around. Flowers shall bloom. Butterflies, honeybees and wasps shall dance around the flowers. This will be the Spring.
Lo & Behold, the spring is here again.
With riot of colors everywhere.
Flowers are dancing in the wind,
Teasing the Butterflies, bees & wasps,
Nature is smiling after the biting cold.
Birds are singing in the trees,
I can hear their song But cannot figure them out in the dense translucent foliage .
When When my heart shall have the spring.
Or will it be the biting cold for ever.