A Gift for Observation

On June 8, 1625, mathematician and astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini was born. At an early point in his career, he studied comets and, an expert on hydraulics and engineering, he consulted on river management projects.

Thanks to the technological evolution of available telescopes, however, Cassini concentrated on astronomy, publishing tables, searching for new comets, and theorizing about orbits of celestial bodies. He discovered Jupiter’s bands and spots and measured its rotational period. He measured Mars’ rotational period in 1666 that was accurate within three minutes of the time we know it to be today.

No surprise that Louis XIV of France invited Cassini to oversee the completion of the Paris Observatory just under construction and to become its first director. Giovanni, who had modified his name to Gian, became a French citizen and took the French translation of his first name to become Jean-Dominique Cassini. In his new Parisian home, Cassini continued to make discoveries and, turning his attention to the planet Saturn, discovered and named four of its moons.

Cassini’s observational talents were honoured when, in 1997, international sponsors NASA-ESA-ASI launched a spacecraft to make a detailed study of Saturn. The Cassini orbiter entered Saturn’s orbit in 2004 and continued to relay images and data about the planet, its moons, and other elements of its systems to Earth until its final orbit and entrance into Saturn’s atmosphere.

Like its namesake, the orbiter was an accomplished observer. You can view Cassini’s full interactive mission timeline from 1997 launch to 2017 entrance into Saturn’s atmosphere. You can find Cassini themed activities and enter solar system exploration games here.


B Bondar / Real World Content Advantage

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