J. J. Abrams, the director of the new Star Trek movie
that just recently came out, apparently wanted to get all of his scientific facts right before he depicted his take on the Universe. Indeed, in one of the most epic sequences of the entire movie, the USS Enterprise, the famous ship around which the entire Star Trek series revolves, comes out of Saturn's rings. For the shot, Abrams enlisted the help of NASA's Cassini imaging team leader Carolyn Porco, who is regularly working with the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft around Saturn, photographing it, its moons and its peculiar rings.
“They were very sincere about trying to get things as right as possible. With that in mind, I think they've done a very nice job here while still maintaining all the whiz bang and adventure of the Star Trek story,” she told Space
. However, she added that depicting Saturn in its true appearance would have been impossible, for a very simple reason – the sunlight that reached the planet was about 100 times dimmer than that reaching Earth. “At first blush, it looks incredibly realistic and they did a very excellent job with all the planetary scenes,” she explained.
Porco works out of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, more specifically from the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations (CICLOPS). On the center's website, the team published high-resolution images of Saturn and its moons, which they gather and process from the international Cassini-Huygens space probe. The craft was launched in 1997, and reached its destination in 2004. Since then, it has sent back a number of revealing images of the gas giant, and has helped with discovering new moons, and also in mapping the surface of the moon Titan.
The science in Star Trek was very solid, experts and viewers noted. For example, the black holes that were depicted in the movie were not bright and did not have explosions or anything of the sort. When a planet was collapsed into a singularity, it simply fell on itself, and then everything around it turned black, in perfect tune with the existing knowledge that these formations absorbed everything, even light. However, when spacecraft were drawn into it, they were not stretched or compressed, as current physics theories have it, but rather simply passed through the event horizon, eventually disappearing.