Astronomy Picture of the Day – In the Shadow of Saturn’s Rings

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2012 July 3

In the Shadow of Saturn’s Rings 

 Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/J. Major

 Explanation: Humanity’s  robot orbiting Saturn has recorded yet another amazing view. That robot, of course, is the  spacecraft Cassini, while the new amazing view includes a  bright moon,  thin rings,  oddly broken clouds, and  warped shadows. Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, appears above as a featureless tan as it is continually shrouded in thick clouds. The rings of Saturn are seen as a thin line because they are so flat and imaged nearly edge on. Details of Saturn’s rings are therefore best visible in the  dark ring shadows seen across the giant planet’s cloud tops. Since the ring  particles orbit in the same plane as Titan, they appear to skewer the foreground moon. In the upper hemisphere of Saturn, the clouds show many details, including  dips in long bright bands  indicating disturbances in a high altitude jet stream. Recent precise measurements of how much Titan  flexes as it orbits Saturn hint that  vast oceans of water might exist deep underground.

7 Ways to Have a Healthy Road Trip

7 Ways to Have a Healthy Road Trip

By Emily Main, Rodale.com 

Gearing up for the long holiday weekend? You certainly won’t be alone.  Despite the down economy and increasing unemployment, people don’t seem to be  ditching their vacations, according to a recent survey from Virginia Tech’s  Pamplin College of Business. Nearly 50 percent of people polled said that the  economy would have no impact on their travel plans this year, and 15 percent  said they’d be even more likely than usual to travel this year.

If you’re facing a few hours of highway time, here are some ways to stay  healthy, plus a few last-minute destination ideas:

1. Prepack your car.

Unless you’re just throwing an overnight bag in the backseat and hitting the  road for a short two-day trip, you’ll save your back some ache if you pack the  night before you leave. Fluids pool in your spinal disks while you sleep, and  that makes your lower back tight and sensitive to irritation when you first wake  up.

 

2.  Prepack your food.

Packing a picnic lunch will help you pinch pennies and calories alike. Plus,  you’ll be more likely to eat foods that fight fatigue, increase your attention  span, and keep you alert. Sandwiches on whole wheat bread will prevent you from  feeling draggy, and peppermints are healthier stimulants than caffeine, which  can lead to energy crashes. If you’re forced to grab some fast food, stay away  from fried, fatty menu items and stick with salads (dressing on the side) and  yogurt parfaits—add blueberries to that yogurt and you have an attention-,  energy-, and memory-boosting breakfast.

3. Plan your pitstops.

It’s important to get out of the vehicle and move your body around every two  to three hours. Although it’s most common in air travelers, car drivers and  passengers can suffer from deep-vein thrombosis, a blood clot in the legs, if  circulation isn’t encouraged with some standing and walking. (Flexing your  ankles every so often helps.) Plan your stops around mealtimes and you’ll be  less likely to mindlessly munch on snacks while you’re driving. Even if you stop  for 15 minutes or less to eat a handful of nuts, you’ll send a signal to your  brain that you’ve eaten so you won’t be hungry 30 minutes later.

4. Adjust your position.

Drivers can avoid slouching by tilting the rearview mirror up a little bit.  This will help you sit up straighter to see out the back window, and prevent  low-back pain at the same time.

5. Plan some vacation exercising.

Exercising on vacation doesn’t sound like much fun, but you  shouldn’t allow a break in your daily routine to totally override healthy  behaviors. If you’re going somewhere touristy where you know sightseeing will be  in order, you can let your walking time count as exercise. But people who are  headed to the beach can also enjoy an early-morning walk (walking on sand is a  great calorie burner) or swim in the ocean—trying to move against the current  can expend a ton of energy. Or you can park the car and venture into town on a  rented bike, or your own two feet. Walking is the best way to learn about a new  city or get to know a seaside town you’ve never visited before.

6. Hit the trails.

Can’t afford a trip to Argentina? Hike the Appalachian Trail  or any number of other nature trails across the country for a day or two. (You  have to really do it, though. Just telling your staff you’re doing it, leaving  your car there, and catching a plane south of the border doesn’t count.) Or  research the trails near your destination, and include some day hiking in your  itinerary.

7. Try the rails.

If you live near an Amtrak station, pick a city a few hours, or even a day,  away, and discover somewhere new. Or, visit http://www.railstotrails.org and combine  your camping trip with a bike ride (or hike) along an old rail line that’s been  converted to a nature trail.