As fond as I am of space documentaries and planetarium shows, I understand the need for some of the images to be done in CGI — to show, for example, close-ups of space modules uncoupling from their boosters, or you-are-there scenes of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers exploring Martian terrain, or scenes that imagine galaxies colliding in the far future or asteroid hits in the distant past.
Filmmaker Stephen Van Vuuren, however, has done something wonderful: he’s put together a video showing Saturn and its moons, using only real images taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which has been in orbit around the ringed planet since 2004.
No CGI, no 3D models. Behold Saturn, the real thing:
(Be sure to view it in full-screen.)
NASA’s “Astronomy Picture of the Day” explains:
What would it look like to approach Saturn in a spaceship? One doesn’t have to just imagine — the Cassini spacecraft did just this in 2004, recording thousands of images along the way, and thousands more since entering orbit. Recently, some of these images have been digitally tweaked, cropped, and compiled into the above inspiring video which is part of a larger developing IMAX movie project named Outside In. In the last sequence, Saturn looms increasingly large on approach as cloudy Titan swoops below. With Saturn whirling around in the background, Cassini is next depicted flying over Mimas, with large Herschel Crater clearly visible. Saturn’s majestic rings then take over the show as Cassini crosses Saturn’s thin ring plane. Dark shadows of the ring appear on Saturn itself. Finally, the enigmatic ice-geyser moon Enceladus appears in the distance and then is approached just as the video clip ends.
As mentioned, this will be merely part of a larger non-profit IMAX film, funded by individual donations, that promises even more wondrous images. Go here to learn more.