Those wacky folks at the Spitzer Science Center’s IRelevant Astronomy site are at it again. Last year they wowed us with a fantastic satirical video starring The Guild’s Felicia Day giving an inept video director a crash course in colliding galaxies. (And if you’re not watching The Guild, why not?)
Now they’re back with another amusing take on the latest findings of the Spitzer Space Telescope, featuring The Guild’s Amy Okuda (who plays Tinkerballa) and the voice of actor/author/blogger Wil Wheaton. (h/t: The Bad Astronomer)
The underlying science-behind-the-satire in this new episode, “Bots of Both Worlds,” focuses on the announcement last October of the discovery of a new ring around Saturn — by far the largest of Saturn’s many rings, and invisible to us until now because the dusty (and icy) particles that make up the ring are so tiny and diffuse, you need to look at it in the infrared… which is exactly what the Spitzer Space Telescope is designed to do. Apparently, the particles are so far apart, that someone standing right in the middle of the ring wouldn’t even notice it.
Circling within this newly discovered ring is one of Saturn’s moons, Phoebe. Astronomers think that asteroids hitting the surface of Phoebe might account for all the bits of material making of the big ring. And the finding might help explain an enduring mystery surrounding Phoebe, first discovered in 1671 by the astronomer Giovanni Cassini. It has a dark side — Cassini Regio — that may result from the fact that the new outermost ring circles in the same direction as Phoebe (the other rings circle in the opposite direction). That means that all those dusty particles in the ring move inward and slam into Phoebe’s surface “like bugs on a windshield,” as Okuda so colorfully explains.
It’s a cool finding all on its own, but IRelevant Astronomy kicks the coolness factor up a notch with its sly tale of a pretty astronaut, her robot sidekick (who measures everything in vaguely defined “Irwin units”), and their battle to defeat an evil robotic space talk show host intent on harnessing this newly discovered ring’s “cloaking device” to conquer the universe. Kudos, and here’s hoping there will be more such episodes to come!