Saturn Arrives!
Cassini-Huygens Reaches Saturn July 1, 2004!

This is a computer-rendered image of Cassini during the Saturn Orbit
Insertion (SOI) maneuver, just after the main engine has begun firing.
The SOI maneuver, which is approximately 90 minutes long, will allow
Cassini to be captured by Saturn's gravity into a five-month orbit.
Cassini's close proximity to the planet after the maneuver offers a unique
opportunity to observe Saturn and its rings at extremely high resolution.

Saturn Arrives - Take Us to Your Leader
By FLAtRich

Saturn July 1, 2004 (eXoNews) - The Cassini-Huygens spacecraft arrived in Saturn orbit this week. We thought it was time for a refresher course. In fact, we decided to dedicate most of this week's eXoNews exclusively to Saturn (yes, Mr. Spock, we still have genre news - we wouldn't want you to miss out on those Buffy bobblehead dolls!)

It was that or join the Michael Moore-Bush bash. We figured that you'd already had enough of the mainstream media Michael-mania and Bush isn't really that interesting anyway. (We did post some Fahrenheit news in our genre section. We love you Michael, oh yes we do!)

Saturn is the one with the big rings. One solar year on Saturn (once around the sun) takes almost 30 Earth years.

But there's so much more than that and NASA, in a silent tribute to our tax dollars, has kindly provided us with a sort of hitchhiker's guide. To save you the download time, we give you the best parts with pictures.

Be sure to hit the NASA and European Space Agency web pages for Cassini-Huygens mission news.

If Saturnian saucer creatures retaliate next week, you'll read about it first here at eXoNews!

Saturn Mission home page -

For high-resolution of NASA multimedia images shown here and many more -

Videos and simulations -

European Space Agency TV coverage -

Latest Saturn Mission press releases and images -

[Update July 4, 2004 - Check out new photos of Saturn and Mars in our Updates From Outer Space update. That updated enough for yah? Ed.]

Cassini Spacecraft Arrives at Saturn!
JPL Jet Propulsion Laboratory News Release 

June 30, 2004 - The international Cassini-Huygens mission has successfully entered orbit around Saturn. At 9:12 p.m. PDT on Wednesday, flight controllers received confirmation that Cassini had completed the engine burn needed to place the spacecraft into the correct orbit. This begins a four-year study of the giant planet, its majestic rings and 31 known moons. 

"This is a tribute to the team at NASA and our partners at the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency, to accomplish this feat taking place 934 million miles [1.5 billion kilometers] away from Earth," said Dr. Ed Weiler, associate administrator for space science at NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. "What Cassini-Huygens will reveal during its tour of Saturn and its many moons, including Titan, will astonish scientists and the public. Everyone is invited to come along for the ride and see all this as it is happening. It truly is a voyage of discovery." 

Members of the Cassini-Huygens mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., broke into cheers and high-fives as NASA's Deep Space Network confirmed receipt of the signal indicating successful entry into orbit. 

"We didn't expect anything less and couldn't have asked for anything more from the spacecraft and the team," said Robert T. Mitchell, program manager for the Cassini-Huygens mission at JPL. "This speaks volumes to the tremendous team that made it all happen." 

Dr. Charles Elachi, JPL director and team leader on the radar instrument onboard Cassini, said, "It feels awfully good to be in orbit around the lord of the rings. This is the result of 22 years of effort, of commitment, of ingenuity, and that's what exploration is all about." 

The mission will face another dramatic challenge in December, when the spacecraft will release the piggybacked Huygens probe - provided by the European Space Agency - which will plunge through the hazy atmosphere of Saturn's largest moon, Titan. 

"This was America's night. This was NASA doing it right," said Dr. David Southwood, director of scientific programs for the European Space Agency. "They really gave those of us in Europe a challenge. We've got six months to go until we land on Titan. We're just praying that everything will go as well." 

Julie Webster, Cassini-Huygens spacecraft team chief, said, "The spacecraft has been an incredible joy to fly. We stand on the shoulders of people who had 40 years of experience building and designing spacecraft." 

Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun. It is the second largest planet in our solar system, after Jupiter. The planet and ring system serve as a miniature model of the disc of gas and dust surrounding our early Sun that eventually formed the planets. Detailed knowledge of the dynamics of interactions among Saturn's elaborate rings and numerous moons will provide valuable data for understanding how each of the solar system's planets evolved. 

Cassini traveled nearly 3.5 billion kilometers (2.2 billion miles) to reach Saturn after its launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on Oct. 15, 1997. During Cassini's four-year mission, it will execute 52 close encounters with seven of Saturn's 31 known moons. 

The first images are expected to return Thursday morning. Science measurements gathered Wednesday are the closest ever obtained of Saturn. Those measurements may reveal details of the gravitational and magnetic fields that tell scientists about Saturn's interior. 

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter. 

For the latest images and more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission, visit and

Saturn Arrives - The Hydrogen Planet
excerpted from the June 2004 Cassini-Huygens NASA Press Kit

One of the most exciting features of the Saturn moon Tethys
(and of the whole Saturnian system) is Ithaca Chasma, a huge
trench which extends from near the north pole down almost
all the way to the south pole. It's average width is 100 kilometers
(60 miles) and is 4-5 kilometers (2-3 miles) deep. This artist's
rendering is drawn from the lip of the large chasm looking into it,
with Saturn in the background. By David Seal (NASA)

Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun. Compared with Earth, Saturn is 9.5 times farther away from the Sun. From Saturn, the Sun is about 1/10th the size of the Sun we see from Earth. Sunlight spreads as it travels through space; an area on Earth receives 90 times more sunlight than an equivalent area on Saturn. Because of this fact, the same light-driven chemical processes in Saturn's atmosphere take 90 times longer than they would at Earth.

The farther away from the Sun, the slower a planet travels in its orbit, and the longer it takes to complete its orbit about the Sun. Saturn's year is equal to 29.46 Earth years.

Saturn's orbit is not circular but slightly elliptical in shape; as a result, Saturn's distance from the Sun changes as it orbits the Sun. This elliptical orbit causes a small change in the amount of sunlight that reaches the surface of this gaseous planet at different times in the Saturn year, and may affect the planet's upper atmospheric composition over that period.

Saturn's period of rotation around its axis depends on how it is measured. The cloud tops show a rotation period of 10 hours, 15 minutes at the equator, but the period is 23 minutes longer at higher latitudes. A radio signal that has been associated with Saturn's magnetic field shows a period of 10 hours, 39.4 minutes.

This high rotation rate creates a strong centrifugal force that causes an equatorial bulge and a flattening of Saturn's poles. As a result, Saturn's cloud tops at the equator are about 60,330 kilometers (37,490 miles) from the center, while the cloud tops at the poles are only about 54,000 kilometers (33,550 miles) from the center. Saturn's volume is 764 times the volume of Earth.

Saturn has the lowest density of all the planets because of its vast, distended, hydrogen-rich outer layer. Like the other giant planets, Saturn contains a liquid core of heavy elements including iron and rock of about the same volume as Earth, but having three or more times the mass of Earth. This increased density is due to compression resulting from the pressure of the liquid and atmospheric layers above the core, and is caused by gravitational compression of the planet.

Saturn's core (NASA)

The core of molten rocky material is believed to be covered with a thick layer of metallic liquid hydrogen and, beyond that, a layer of molecular liquid hydrogen. The great overall mass of Saturn produces a very strong gravitational field, and at levels just above the core the hydrogen is compressed to a state that is liquid metallic, which conducts electricity. (On Earth, liquid hydrogen is usually made by cooling the hydrogen gas to very cold temperatures, but on Saturn, liquid hydrogen is very hot and is formed under several million times the atmospheric pressure found at Earth's surface.) This conductive liquid metallic hydrogen layer, which is also spinning with the rest of the planet, is believed to be the source of Saturn's magnetic field. Turbulence or convective motion in this layer of Saturn's interior may create Saturn's magnetic field.

One unusual characteristic of Saturn's magnetic field is that its axis is the same as that of the planet's rotation. This is different from that of five other notable magnetic fields: those of Mercury, Earth, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune. Current theory suggests that when the axes of rotation and magnetic field are aligned, the magnetic field cannot be maintained. Scientists do not understand the alignment of Saturn's strong magnetic field with its rotation axis, which does not fit with theories of how planets' magnetic fields are generated.

On Earth, there is a definite separation between the land, the oceans and the atmosphere. Saturn, on the other hand, has only layers of hydrogen that transform gradually from a liquid state deep inside into a gaseous state in the atmosphere, without a well-defined boundary.

This is an unusual condition that results from the very high pressures and temperatures found on Saturn. Because the pressure of the atmosphere is so great, the atmosphere is compressed so much where the separation would be expected to occur that it actually has a density equal to that of the liquid. This condition is referred to as "supercritical." It can happen to any liquid and gas if compressed to a point above critical pressure. Saturn thus lacks a distinct surface. When making measurements of gas giant planets, scientists use as a "surface" reference point the altitude where the pressure is 1 bar (or one Earth atmosphere). This pressure level is near Saturn's cloud tops.

Flight mechanics from JPL lower the
Cassini spacecraft onto its launch
vehicle adapter at Kennedy Space
Center. (NASA)

The major component of Saturn's atmosphere is hydrogen gas. If the planet were composed solely of hydrogen, there would not be much of interest to study. However, the composition of Saturn's atmosphere includes 6 percent helium gas by volume; in addition, 1/10,000th of 1 percent is composed of other trace elements. Using spectroscopic analysis, scientists find that these atmospheric elements can interact to form ammonia, phosphine, methane, ethane, acetylene, methylacetylene and propane. Even a small amount is enough to freeze or liquefy and make clouds of ice or rain possessing a variety of colors and forms.

With the first pictures of Saturn taken by the Voyager spacecraft in 1980, the clouds and the winds were seen to be almost as complex as those that Voyager found on Jupiter just the year before. Scientists have made an effort to label the belts and zones seen in Saturn's cloud patterns. The banding results from convective flows in the atmosphere driven by temperature - very much the same process that occurs in Earth's atmosphere, but on a grander scale and with a different heat source.

Saturn has different rotation rates in its atmosphere at different latitudes. Differences of more than 900 miles per hour (1,500 kilometers per hour) were seen between the equator and nearer the poles, with higher speeds at the equator. This is five times greater than the wind velocities found on Jupiter.

Saturn's cloud tops reveal the effects of temperature, winds and weather many kilometers below. Hot gases rise. As they rise, they cool and can form clouds.

As these gases cool, they begin to sink: this convective motion is the source of the billowy clouds seen in the cloud layer. Cyclonic storms observed in the cloud tops of Saturn are much like the smaller versions we see in weather satellite images of Earth's atmosphere.

Temperature variations in Saturn's atmosphere are the driving force for the winds and thus cloud motion. The lower atmosphere is hotter than the upper atmosphere, causing gases to move vertically, and the equator is warmer than the poles because it receives more direct sunlight. Temperature variations, combined with the planet's rapid rotation rate, are responsible for the fast horizontal motion of winds in the atmosphere.

Cassini will arrive at Saturn on July 1, 2004 (Universal Time; June 30 in US time zones).

Official NASA Cassini-Huygens -

Official ESA Cassini-Huygens -

eXoNews Pix of the Week Dept.
Life on Earth

A Greenpeace activist wears a nuclear-missile-like costume in Istanbul to protest against the NATO summit. (AFP/Mustafa Ozer)

Saturn Arrives - Lord of The Rings

(NASA via Cassini)
Saturn's Atmosphere and Rings
JPL Jet Propulsion Laboratory News Release

June 26, 2004 - In this image, dark regions represent areas where Cassini is seeing into deeper levels in Saturn's atmosphere.

The dark regions are relatively free of high clouds and the light at these particular near-infrared wavelengths (centered at 727 nanometers) penetrates into the gaseous cloud-free atmosphere and is absorbed by methane.

The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow angle camera on May 15, 2004, from a distance of 24.7 million kilometers (15.4 million miles) from Saturn.

The image scale is 147 kilometers (91 miles) per pixel. Contrast in the image was enhanced to aid visibility.

Full resolution image at

An extraordinarily complex structure is seen across the
entire span of Saturn's ring system. (NASA)

Following excerpted from the June 2004 Cassini-Huygens NASA Press Kit

From a distance, the majestic rings of Saturn look like symmetrical hoops surrounding the planet. Up close, however, from the views provided by the Voyager spacecraft, the rings turn out to be a still splendid but somewhat unruly population of ice and rock particles jostling against each other or being pushed and pulled into uneven orbits by bigger particles and by Saturn's many moons.

The mass of all the ring particles measured together would comprise a moon about the size of Mimas, one of Saturn's medium-small moons. The rings may, in fact, be at least partly composed of the remnants of such a moon or moons, torn apart by gravitational forces.

Their precise origin is a mystery. It is not known if rings formed around Saturn out of the initial solar system nebula, or after one or more moons were torn apart by Saturn's gravity.

If the rings were the result of the numerous comets captured and destroyed by Saturn's gravity, why are Saturn's bright rings so different in nature from the dark rings of neighboring planets?

Over the lifetime of the rings, they must have been bombarded continually by comets and meteors - and therefore they should have accumulated a great amount of carbonaceous and silicate debris - yet water ice is the only material positively identified in spectra of the rings.

The effects of torque and gravitational drag -- along with the loss of momentum through collisions -- should have produced a system only one-tenth to one-hundredth the age of the solar system itself.

If this hypothesis is correct, then we cannot now be observing a ring system around Saturn that formed when the solar system formed.

Saturn's rings, as well as the rings of all the other large planets, may have formed and dissipated many times since the beginning of the solar system. An extraordinarily complex structure is seen across the entire span of Saturn's ring system. The broad B ring, for instance, often contains numerous "spokes" -- radial, rotating features that may be caused by a combination of magnetic and electrostatic forces.

The individual rings themselves defy definition; the count in high-resolution images suggests anywhere from 500 to 1,000 separate rings. Named in order of discovery, the labels that scientists have assigned to the major rings do not indicate their relative positions. From the planet outward, they are known as the D, C, B, A, F, G and E rings.

Saturn's Rings





66,970 km (41,610 mi)

7,540 km (4,690 mi)


74,510 km (46,300 mi)

17,490 km (10,870 mi)


92,000 km (57,170 mi)

25,580 km (15,890 mi)


122,170 km (75,910 mi)

14,610 km (9,080 mi)


140,180 km (87,100 mi)

50 km (30 mi)


170,180 km (105,740 mi)

500 to several 1,000s km (several 1,000s mi)


181,000 km (112,000 mi)

302,000 km (188,000 mi)

(Distance is from Saturn's center to closest edge of ring)

The possibility of numerous, small natural satellites within Saturn's ring system was a puzzle the Voyager mission had hoped to solve. Voyager's best-resolution studies of the ring system were aimed at revealing any bodies larger than about 6 miles (about 10 kilometers) in diameter; but only three were found and none were located within the main ring complex.

The Voyager high-resolution studies did, however, detect signs of small moonlets not actually resolved in the images. When a small, dense body passes near a section of low-density ring material, its gravitational pull distorts the ring and creates what are known as "edge waves."

Cassini will be able to perform a number of the experiments that Voyager used to detect other gravitational effects on Saturn's ring material. One experiment involves "watching" as a beam of light (or, in one case, radio waves) passes through the ring, then observing the effects of the ring material on the beam. As the beam passes through the ring material, it may be attenuated or even extinguished. This "occultation" experiment provides an extremely high-resolution study of a single path across the rings -with resolutions up to about about 100 meters (330 feet), Cassini will obtain far more detailed information on ring structures than the Voyager instruments.

Voyager's instruments did detect many minute ring structures and found that the F ring was far more complex than images had suggested. The data set, furthermore, showed that the B ring was quite opaque in regions, and the Cassini "division" was not at all empty. It also provided a direct measurement of the maximum thickness of the ring system in several locations, finding it to be as little as 100 meters (330 feet).

Many narrow ringlets were found with slightly eccentric, non-circular shapes and orbits. These eccentric ringlets generally lie in gaps in the mass of nearly circular rings that make up the majority of Saturn's ring system. Voyager also found very few truly empty "gaps" in the ring system. Moonlets inside the rings do appear to clear lanes within the ring plane, giving the rings their grooved appearance.

Voyager cameras found shepherd moons that tend to contain ring particles that would otherwise spread. Also seen were density waves that move though portions of the ring plane like a crowd starting a "wave" in a stadium. This phenomenon is due to the effects of one or more moons or moonlets gravitationally tugging on ring particles.

Gravitational interactions with moons seem to create most of the structure visible in the rings, but some structural detail exists even where there is no gravitational interaction with a moon. Some poorly understood fluid physics may be responsible for some unexplained structure in the rings.

Ring divisions (NASA)

Other ring features may be explained by moonlets or large particles in the rings that have gone undetected.

Voyager images showed dark, radial structures on the rings. These so-called "spokes" were seen as they formed and rotated about the planet. Spokes seemed to appear rapidly - as a section of ring rotated out of the darkness near the dawn side -- and then dissipate gradually, rotating around toward the dusk side of the ring.

A spoke's formation time seemed to be very short; in some imaging studies they were seen to grow more than about 6,000 kilometers (3,700 miles) in distance in just five minutes.

The spokes in Saturn's rings have an unexplained link with the planet's magnetic field, and are likely to be just one visible manifestation of many interactions the rings have with Saturn's electromagnetic fields.

Ground-based infrared studies of the spectra of the A and B rings show that they are composed largely, perhaps even exclusively, of water ice. The spectral characteristics of the rings are also very similar to those of several of Saturn's inner moons.

Studies of the main rings show that the ring system is not completely uniform in its makeup, and that some sorting of materials within the A and B rings exists. Why such a non-uniform composition exists is unknown. The E ring is somewhat bluish in color - and thus different in makeup from the main rings.

It is believed that the moon Enceladus is the source of E-ring material.

Since ring particles larger than about 1 millimeter represent a considerable hazard to the Cassini spacecraft, the mission plan will include efforts to avoid dense particle areas of Saturn's ring plane. The spacecraft will be oriented to provide maximum protection for itself and its sensitive instrumentation packages. Even with such protective measures, passage through the ring plane out beyond the main rings will allow Cassini's instruments to make important measurements of the particles making up the less dense regions of the ring plane. These studies could provide considerable insight into the composition and environment of the ring system and Saturn's icy natural satellites.

Cassini will arrive at Saturn on July 1, 2004 (Universal Time; June 30 in US time zones).

Official NASA Cassini-Huygens -

Official ESA Cassini-Huygens -

Saturn Moon Atlas Found!

(NASA via Cassini)

JPL Jet Propulsion Laboratory News Release

June 29, 2004 - The Cassini spacecraft has sighted the tiny moon Atlas, which is seen here for the first time since Voyager 1 flew past Saturn in 1980. 

Cassini's narrow angle camera captured a sequence of 112 images in visible light, which were used to create a movie of Atlas and other moons racing around the outer edge of Saturn's rings.

One of those images is shown here. Over the course of almost five and one-quarter hours, Cassini watched the moons as they circled the planet, snapping 1.2-second exposures about 12 minutes apart. These images were part of a sequence designed specifically to search for small moons near Saturn's F ring. Contrast was enhanced in the images, and the rings themselves were overexposed intentionally, to make these small moons visible. 

A group of three moons can be seen rounding the right loop of Saturn's rings, followed by a fourth moon. In the first group, the moon exterior to Saturn's thin, knotted F ring is Epimetheus (116 kilometers, 72 miles across); the two moons interior to the F ring are Prometheus (102 kilometers, 63 miles across) and tiny unresolved Atlas (32 kilometers, 20 miles across). The fourth moon seen here, exterior to the F ring and tagging along behind the others, is Pandora (84 kilometers, 52 miles across). 

At the same time, on the left side, Janus can be seen (181 kilometers, 113 miles across). The view is taken looking upward from Cassini's southern vantage point beneath the ring plane. The moons visible here are orbiting Saturn in a plane that is tilted 67 degrees away from the viewer. 

These images were taken on May 26 and 27, 2004, from a distance of approximately 19.2 million kilometers (11.9 million miles) from Saturn. The image scale is approximately 114 kilometers (71 miles) per pixel.

Full resolution image at

Saturn Moon Phoebe’s Mineral Distribution

NASA Press Release

June 23, 2004 - These set of images were created during the Phoebe flyby on June 11, 2004. The images show the location and distribution of water-ice, ferric iron, carbon dioxide and an unidentified material on the tiny moon of Saturn. The first image was taken with Cassini's narrow angle camera and is shown for comparison purposes only. The other images were taken by the visual and infrared mapping spectrometer onboard Cassini.

The infrared image of Phoebe obtained at a distance of about 16,000 km (10,000 miles) shows a large range of bright and dark features. The resolution of the image is about 4 km (2.5 miles). carbon dioxide on the surface of Phoebe is distributed globally, although it appears to be more prevalent in the darker regions of the satellite.

The existence of carbon dioxide strongly suggests that Phoebe did not originate in the asteroid belt, but rather in much colder regions of the Solar System such as the Kuiper Belt. The Kuiper Belt is a vast reservoir of small, primitive bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune. An unidentified substance also appears to be more abundant in the darker regions.

A map showing the distribution of water ice (blue), ferric iron (red), which is common in minerals on Earth and other planets, and the unidentified material (green). Water ice is associated with the brighter regions, while the other two materials are more abundant in the darker regions.

Saturn Arrives - The Full Tour and Titan

This artist's rendering shows the notable bright surface of icy Enceladus.
In the foreground, an ice geyser can be seen projecting a jet of vapor into
space. Enceladus is considered by some as the source of the E ring (which
can be very faintly seen along Saturn's equatorial plane); icy geysers
may be responsible for sustaining the E ring's supply of micrometer-sized
particles. By David Seal (NASA)

excerpted from the June 2004 Cassini-Huygens NASA Press Kit

Upon arrival and orbit insertion, Cassini will begin its tour of the Saturn system with at least 76 orbits around Saturn, including 52 close encounters with seven of Saturn's 31 known moons.

Cassini's orbits around Saturn will be shaped by gravity-assist flybys of Titan.

Close flybys of Titan will permit high-resolution mapping of Titan's surface with the Titan imaging radar instrument, which can see through the opaque haze covering that moon to produce vivid topographic maps of the surface.

The size of these orbits, their orientation relative to Saturn and the Sun, and their inclination to Saturn's equator are dictated by various scientific requirements.

These include: imaging radar coverage of Titan's surface; flybys of selected icy moons, Saturn or Titan; occultations by Saturn's rings; and crossings of the ring plane.

Cassini will make at least six close targeted flybys of selected icy moons of greatest interest -- Iapetus, Enceladus, Dione and Rhea. Images taken with Cassini's high-resolution telescopic cameras during these flybys will show surface features equivalent in size to a baseball diamond.

At least two dozen more distant flybys (at altitudes of up to 100,000 kilometers (60,000 miles) will be made of the major moons of Saturn other than Titan. The varying inclination angle of Cassini's orbits also will allow studies of Saturn's polar regions in addition to the planet's equatorial zone.

[See the 31 known moons of Saturn]

Titan will be the subject of close investigations by Cassini. Cassini will execute 45 targeted close flybys of Titan, Saturn's largest moon, as close as about 950 kilometers (590 miles) above the surface. Titan is the only Saturn moon large enough to enable significant gravity-assist changes in Cassini's orbits. Accurate navigation and targeting of the point at which Cassini flies by Titan will be used to shape the orbital tour in the same way the Galileo mission used its encounters of Jupiter's large moons to shape its tour of Jupiter's system.


Titan presents an environment which appears to be unique in the solar system, with a thick organic hazy atmosphere containing organic (or carbon-based) compounds, an organic ocean or lakes and a rich soil filled with frozen molecules similar to what scientists believe led to the origin of life on Earth. In the three centuries since the discovery of Titan we have come to see it as a world strangely similar to our own, yet located almost 900 million miles (1.5 billion kilometers) from the Sun. With a thick, nitrogen-rich atmosphere, possible seas and a tar-like permafrost, Titan is thought to harbor organic compounds that may be important in the chain of chemistry that led to life on Earth.

Saturn's moons, shown in relative perspective to the planet (NASA)

Titan has been described as having an environment similar to that of Earth before biological activity forever altered the composition of Earth's atmosphere. The major difference on Titan, however, is the absence of liquid water and Titan's very low temperature. Thus there is no opportunity for aqueous chemistry at Earth-like temperatures -considered crucial for the origin of life as we know it. Scientists believe that the surface temperatures on Titan are cold enough to preclude any biological activity whatsoever at Titan.

As on Earth, the dominant atmospheric constituent in Titan's atmosphere is nitrogen. Methane represents about 6 percent of the atmospheric composition. Titan's surface pressure is 1.6 bars -- 1.6 times that on Earth, despite Titan's smaller size. The surface temperature was found by Voyager to be -179 C (-290 F), indicating that there is little greenhouse warming.

The opacity of Titan's atmosphere is caused by naturally produced photochemical smog. Voyager's infrared spectrometer detected many minor constituents produced primarily by photochemistry of methane, which produces hydrocarbons such as ethane, acetylene and propane. Methane also interacts with nitrogen atoms, forming "nitriles" such as hydrogen cyanide. With Titan's smoggy sky and distance from the Sun, a person standing on Titan's surface in the daytime would experience a level of daylight equivalent to about 1/1,000th the daylight at Earth's surface.

Titan as photographed by Voyager (NASA)

Titan appears to have winds. However, the ability to study winds from Earth is tenuous at best. Instruments carried on board the Huygens probe will provide us with wind measurements.

Like other moons in the outer solar system, Titan is expected to have a predominantly water ice crust. Water at the temperatures found in the outer solar system is as solid and strong as rock. There are weak spectral features that suggest ice on Titan's surface, but some dark substance is also present.

Scientists conclude that something on the surface is masking the water ice.

Titan's size alone suggests that it may have a surface similar to Jupiter's moon Ganymede - somewhat modified by ice tectonics, but substantially cratered and old. If Titan's tectonic activity is no more extensive than that of Ganymede, circular crater basins may provide storage for lakes of liquid hydrocarbons.

Impacting meteorites would create a layer of broken, porous surface materials, called regolith, which may extend to a depth of about 1 to 3 kilometers (1 to 2 miles).

Electrical storms and lightning may exist in Titan's skies. Cassini will search for visible lightning and listen for "whistler" emissions that can be detected when lightning discharges a broad band of electromagnetic emission, part of which can propagate along Saturn's magnetic field lines. These emissions have a decreasing tone with time (because the high frequencies arrive before the low frequencies).

Lightning whistlers have been detected in the magnetospheres of both Earth and Jupiter. They can be detected by radio and plasma-wave instruments from large distances and also can be used to estimate the frequency of lightning.

The Huygens probe

Probe descent will take place January 14-15 2005. (NASA)

The Huygens probe will be carried to the Saturn system by Cassini. Bolted to Cassini and fed electrical power through an umbilical cable, Huygens will ride along during the nearly seven-year journey largely in a "sleep" mode, awakened every six months for three-hour instrument and engineering checkups.

Some 20 days before it hits the top of Titan's atmosphere, Huygens will be released from Cassini on December 24, 2004. With its umbilical cut and bolts released, Huygens will spring loose from the mother ship and fly on a ballistic trajectory to Titan.

The probe will spin at about 7 rpm for stability. Onboard timers will switch on the probe systems before the probe reaches Titan's upper atmosphere.

Two days after the probe's release, the orbiter will perform a deflection maneuver; this will keep Cassini from following Huygens into Titan's atmosphere. This maneuver will also establish the required geometry between the probe and the orbiter for radio communications during the probe descent.

The Huygens probe carries two microwave S-band transmitters and two antennas, both of which will transmit to the Cassini orbiter during the probe's descent. One stream of telemetry is delayed by about six seconds with respect to the other to avoid data loss if there are brief transmission outages.

Probe descent will take place January 15, 2005 (Universal Time; January 14 in U.S. time zones). Huygens will enter Titan's atmosphere at a speed of about 20,000 kilometers per hour (12,400 miles per hour). It is designed to withstand the extreme cold of space (about -200 C (-330 F)) and the intense heat it will encounter during its atmospheric entry (more than 12,000 C (21,600 F).

The Huygens probe descends through Titan's murky,
brownish-orange atmosphere of nitrogen and carbon-
based molecules, beaming its findings to the distant
Cassini orbiter. The probe is equipped with a variety
of scientific sensors to measure the physical
properties of the moon's atmosphere; it also carries
an imaging device to return pictures of Titan's
possibly hydrocarbon-lake-dotted surface. (Painting
from European Space Agency)

Huygens' parachutes will further slow the descent so the probe can conduct an intensive program of scientific observations all the way down to Titan's surface. When the probe's speed has moderated to about 1,400 kilometers per hour (870 miles per hour), the probe's cover will be pulled off by a pilot parachute. An 8.3-meter-diameter (27-foot) main parachute will then be deployed to ensure a slow and stable descent. The main parachute will slow the probe and allow the decelerator and heat shield to fall away when the parachute is released.

To limit the duration of the descent to a maximum of 2-1/2 hours, the main parachute will be jettisoned 900 seconds after the probe has entered the top of the atmosphere. Asmaller, 3-meter-diameter (9.8-foot) drogue chute will deploy to support the probe for the remainder of the descent.

During the first part of the descent, instruments onboard the Huygens probe will be controlled by a timer. During the final 10 to 20 kilometers (6 to 12 miles) of descent, instruments will be controlled on the basis of altitude measured by the radar altimeter.

Throughout the descent, Huygens' atmospheric structure instrument will measure the physical properties of the atmosphere. The gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer will determine the chemical composition of the atmosphere as a function of altitude. The aerosol collector and pyrolyzer will capture aerosol particles -- fine liquid or solid particles suspended in the atmosphere -- heat them and send the resulting vapor to the chromatograph/spectrometer for analysis.

Huygens' descent imager and spectral radiometer will take pictures of cloud formations and Titan's surface, and also determine the visibility within Titan's atmosphere. As the surface looms closer, the instrument will switch on a bright lamp and measure the spectral reflectance of the surface. Throughout the descent, the Doppler shift of Huygens' radio signal will be measured by the Doppler wind experiment onboard the Cassini orbiter to determine Titan's atmospheric winds, gusts and turbulence. As the probe is shifted about by winds, the frequency of its radio signal would change slightly in what is known as the Doppler effect -- similar to how the pitch of a train whistle appears to rise and then fall as the train passes. Such changes in frequency can be used to deduce the wind speed experienced by the probe.

As Huygens nears impact, its surface science package will activate a number of sensors to measure surface properties. Huygens will impact the surface at about 25 kilometers per hour (15 miles per hour); the chief uncertainty is whether its landing will be a thud or a splash. If Huygens lands in liquid, these instruments will measure the liquid's properties while the probe floats for a few minutes.

In this artist rendition, the Huygens probe is about to reach the
surface of Titan, Saturn's largest moon. Because it's in a deep freeze
state, Titan's atmosphere is thought to contain chemicals similar
to those found on Earth's early days. Data from the Huygens probe
combined with Cassini's measurements may offer clues about how
life began on Earth. (NASA)

If Huygens lands in liquid ethane it will not be able to return data for very long, because the extremely low temperature of this liquid (about (-180 C (-290 F) would prevent the batteries from operating. In addition, if liquid ethane permeates the probe's science instrument packages, the radio would be badly tuned and probably not operate.

Assuming Huygens continues to send data to Cassini from Titan's surface, it will be able to do so for a maximum of about 30 minutes, when the probe's battery power is expected to run out and the Cassini orbiter disappears over the probe's horizon.

The prime mission tour concludes on June 30, 2008, four years after Saturn arrival and 33 days after the last Titan flyby, which occurs on May 28, 2008.

The aim point of the final flyby is chosen to position Cassini for a Titan flyby on July 31, 2008 -- providing the opportunity to proceed with more flybys during an extended mission, if resources allow.

Nothing in the design of the tour precludes an extended mission.

Cassini will arrive at Saturn on July 1, 2004 (Universal Time; June 30 in US time zones).

Official NASA Cassini-Huygens -

Official ESA Cassini-Huygens -

Genre News: Buffy, Graham Norton, 4400, Douglas Adams, Stargate, Jeri Ryan, Fahrenheit 9/11 & More!

Buffy Bobbles
By FLAtRich

Hellmouth June 27, 2004 (eXoNews) - Is this the ultimate dumb toy for a Buffy fan? Or is it the ultimate investment for a hardcore collector? You can decide for only $70!

Time & Space Toys is offering special edition Buffy, Angel and Spike bobblehead dolls (like those stupid dogs in the back of 1950's cars and the famous Beatle dolls of the 1960s.) Each of your Whedon heroes come posed on tombstone bases and packed in individual window boxes.

Order in advance of the August release and they are only $60 apiece!

Action Charmed Ones! Only $51.99!

And, wait a minute, my little slayers! That's not all! You can also get: a Buffy The Master action figure for only $34.95; a set of 4 Charmed Ones action figures (Phoebe, Paige, Piper and Balthazar - sorry, no Pru for you) for $51.99; 12 Army of Darkness Action Figures for $107.99; and the usual assortment of classic horror fiends (yes, Lois, they do have Mole People!)

But top this! A free Tara Action Figure (Willow's witchy girlfriend) when you order $99.99 of "in-stock" merchandise from Time & Space! That's right! Free Tara!

No. This isn't a commercial. I haven't even bought anything from this website (yet.) I was just amazed to see how crazy the action figure business has become since I last looked. Wow! Look at that Classic King Kong Deluxe Action Figure with a mini-sized figure of Fay Wray in scale for only $39.99!

Pre-order yer Buffy Bobbleheads at

Time & Space home -

Graham Norton's Got Balls!
Associated Press

Tune in to the Norton Effect Thursdays on
Comedy Central

NEW YORK June 24, 2004 (AP) - "I need something LOUD," says British comic Graham Norton as he swishes through the designer collections at Bergdorf Goodman on a recent shopping spree.

He proceeds to pull a lipstick-red Jil Sander jacket from its hanger, then snatches a sunburst yellow shirt and muted blue trousers by Theory and a Dolce & Gabbana denim shirt.

An unabashed queer eye for haute couture, Norton has been named GQ's "worst-dressed man" for two consecutive years.

"Isn't it just wrong?" he says, pointing to an ad with a long-haired Adonis in a dizzyingly colorful sports coat.

"I really think it's the gay thing," Norton snickers. "All of these supposedly heterosexual fashion editors at GQ and Esquire say Orlando Bloom or David Beckham is the best-dressed man.

"But what they're really saying is that they fancy them, because all they're wearing is jeans and a T-shirt. I don't think they hate me because I'm gay. I think they hate me because I'm not beautiful."

A comment like that might seem dispiriting, but such is the off-kilter charm of the host of Comedy Central's "The Graham Norton Effect," which debuts 10 p.m. EDT Thursday.

It's the same wry, saucy wit that has bolstered the comic's popular British chat show, "So Graham Norton," where mischievous humor, naughty Web sites and erotic sex toys are as much a part of the shtick as his deafeningly loud suits.

"I don't feel personally judged by GQ," says Norton, dressed this day in a stripped blue oxford shirt, blue jeans and white moccasins. "They've only seen me in my bright shiny suits."

Billed as a "peep show-side show-talk show," the weekly "Graham Norton Effect" will mimic his irreverent, 6-year-old U.K. show, a witty hodgepodge of "The Larry Sanders Show," "Late Night With David Letterman," "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" and "Dame Edna's Hollywood."

Although it will be taped at Manhattan's Chelsea Studios, with an initial run of 13 weeks, Norton says his new show "really will be the same show."

That means no monologue and no desk, and more "Let's Make a Deal"-style games with the audience and unusual comedic antics with the guests.

"I'm not doing just a talk show," he says. "I'm doing my silly little show."

GQ's "worst-dressed man" for two
consecutive years

This silly little show began as "quite a cult hit" in Britain, says co-executive producer Graham Stuart. "It was expected that we would have a young audience, and a lot of gay people.

"But, surprisingly, very quickly everybody came to the show," including a wide variety of celebrity guests including Naomi Campbell and Sophia Loren.

Norton has surfed porn sites with Joan Collins and Carrie Fisher, and engaged in priceless comedic scenarios with Dustin Hoffman, Cher and John Malkovich.

"Madonna's my big get," says Norton, "but in the end, the Madonna I want is the Madonna from six years ago. Now she's a working mother of two, everything's about cabala. I'm not sensing fun with a capital F."

Norton's shows are definitely not for the prudish.

"He's really naughty," purrs Lauren Corrao, a programming executive at Comedy Central. "He gets celebrities to do things you'd never think they'd do (and) he plays with the audience in a way that nobody else does."

Says Jon Magnuson, Norton's longtime producer: "Essentially what's funny about it on a basic level is it's silly. But we have to work quite hard to make things seem easy."

In this era of post-Janet Jackson puritanism, it may be even harder to get away with some of Norton's racier stunts.

"We're still feeling the ripple of the nipple," says Norton of the Federal Communication Commission's current crusade for media decency. "Our timing isn't great, but funny's funny. In the end we're going to make our show and they'll beep it and blur it and you still get the joke. But for some weird reason, you just can't be seeing it."

Formally trained as an actor at London's Central School of Speech and Drama, the 39-year-old Irish comic got his big break in 1997 when he was nominated for the Perrier comedy award at the Edinburgh Festival, which led to a raft of TV offers in Britain.

But to have a show in America has long been his goal.

"Now I sound so ambitious," he says, laughing. "It really was just kind of a pipe dream. I've done very little proactively to make this happen."

Best "talk" show since Johnny Carson retired!

In the end, he says fame is his ultimate ambition.

"The best bit of the play is at the end with everyone clapping and going, `Woo-hoo, we like you! Well done!'" he says. "That's what you work towards."

To eventually be deemed "best-dressed" would be nice, too.

Back at Bergdorf's, Norton spots a pair of white Keanan Duffy cotton jeans with silver piping, pearls and rhinestones on the pockets.

"Oooh, I like that," he coos. "It's my attraction to shiny things. It catches my shiny eye."

[This show is outrageous! Best "talk" show since Johnny Carson retired! You can quote us! Ed.]

Graham Norton Effect Official site -

The 4400

Where Close Encounters of the
Third Kind left off (USA)

Hollywood June 25, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - Rene Echevarria, executive producer of USA Network's upcoming SF show The 4400, told SCI FI Wire that the limited series picks up where Close Encounters of the Third Kind left off, as 4,400 long-missing people suddenly reappear all at once without having aged a day.

"They don't know what happened to them, who or what was responsible, and now they have to pick up the pieces of their lives," Echevarria (Dark Angel) said in an interview. "It's equal parts SF and nighttime soap, so there's something for everybody in it."

The 4400 features Close Encounter star Peter Coyote as Ryland, who heads up the regional office of a government agency formed to keep track of the 4,400 people after one of them commits a murder and others start to exhibit unexplained powers.

The cast also includes Joel Gretsch (Taken) as Tom, a government agent who discovers a link between his comatose young son and the return of the 4,400. Jacqueline McKenzie portrays Diana, a biomedical researcher who's partnered with Tom. Gretsch's Taken co-star, Michael Moriarty, plays Orson, a recent returnee devastated by all that's happened to his family, business and wealth in the 25 years he's been away.

"The show was originally developed as a weekly series, and that's still a possibility if audiences respond to the story," said Echevarria, who also wrote for and produced Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

"The challenge was in constructing a six-hour miniseries that builds to a satisfying conclusion, and at the same time leaves some questions unanswered so we could continue the story if there's interest in doing that."

The 4400 will debut as a two-hour special at 9 p.m. ET/PT July 11 on USA Network, with subsequent hours airing Sunday nights until August 8th.

4400 Official -

Douglas Adams in New Hitchhiker's Guide

Douglas Adams

London June 21, 2004 (BBC) - The late Douglas Adams, creator of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, will be heard in the first new radio adaptation of his work in 25 years.

He recorded the part of Agrajag in his home studio 18 months before he died in 2001, aged 49.

Digital technology will be used to include his voice in a 14-part adaptation of the final three Hitchhiker books on BBC Radio 4.

The story began as a radio broadcast in 1978 before becoming a series of books. The 14-part dramatization will be based on the final three books: Life, The Universe and Everything; So Long and Thanks For All the Fish; and Mostly Harmless.

Five of the original radio cast are taking part in the new series, including Simon Jones as Arthur Dent and Geoffrey McGivern as his alien travelling companion Ford Prefect. Dirk Maggs, who adapted and directed the series, described how Adams had always wanted to play the role of Agrajag.

"I used to go to his house and talk about music or Hitchhikers. One day, he said: 'I want you to listen to something' and he put on this cassette of him playing Agrajag in Life, The Universe and Everything.

"He asked me 'who do you think should be playing the character?' and I thought, I'm on a hiding to nothing here. I thought he wanted to hear me say John Cleese, but he said 'no, you idiot, it should be me'."

The creators used the author's instructions and notes in preparation for the latest radio production. Bruce Hyman, the series executive producer, said today: "It is ironic that Douglas plays someone who keeps getting killed but is reincarnated. It's a part he always wanted to play. He loved the character."

A film of the book is currently in the pipeline, starring Love Actually star Bill Nighy and Martin Freeman from TV's The Office. Adams had been working on a film version for more than a decade, but it had never got past the planning stage.

The five books in the Hitchhiker series detail the adventures of Earthman Arthur Dent, who hitches a lift on a passing starship when his home planet was destroyed to make way for an interstellar bypass.

In the book, The Guide is a portable device that can tell you anything you want to know about wherever you are.

Previews of the new radio series -

Douglas Adams homepage -

BBC Hitchhiker's Guide site -

The cast of Stargate SG-1 (Sci Fi)

SG-1 Returns for Season 8

Hollywood June 23, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - Robert C. Cooper, executive producer of SCI FI Channel's original series Stargate SG-1, told SCI FI Wire that the upcoming eighth season will wrap up a few things.

"To a certain extent I hope that fans will feel that at the end of this season that a lot the threads and storylines that ... they want to see resolved will be resolved," Cooper said in an interview on the show's Vancouver, B.C., set.

Among other things, the series will deal once and for all with the Replicator threat, Cooper said. "They become a force in our galaxy, and then ultimately get into a ... big war with the Goa'uld," he said. "And we kind of get caught in between the two and have to decide who we want to side with and help."

Cooper added that the show will deal with the fallout of Daniel Jackson's (Michael Shanks) ascendance and return to Earth.

"Daniel's going to come to a bit of a closure with the whole ascendance storyline and what happened to him while he was ascended and his relationship with Oma and his kind of personal battle with Anubis and his feeling of responsibility for maybe not being able to complete the process of eliminating Anubis."

Stargate Big Bad Anubis (Sci Fi)

As for Anubis (David Palffy), who appeared to have perished at the end of the seventh season, Cooper teased, "I'll say that there are still issues out there." Baal (Cliff Simon), another Goa'uld System Lord, will also return.

And SG-1 will deal further with the Jaffa rebellion, including reprising the character of Ishta, played by Star Trek: Enterprise's Jolene Blalock, who first appeared in the season-seven episode "Birthright."

In response to a question about whether the upcoming season will be the show's last, Cooper said, "We also are not going to completely end the show. We never wanted to end the show.

"Our intention was to leave it open so that SG-1 was still out there on adventures and also leave the door open for features or TV movies or direct-to-video movies or whatever, that sort of thing, so that the franchise will continue."

Stargate SG-1 returns with a two-hour season premiere at 9 p.m. ET/PT July 9.

Stargate SG1 Sci Fi Official -

Kong's Kretschmann is Koontz Frankenstein

Thomas Kretschmann

LOS ANGELES June 25, 2004 ( - The NBC Universal Entertainment family is keeping German actor Thomas Kretschmann busy. The "U-571" co-star, who just signed on to join the cast of Peter Jackson's "King Kong" remake for Universal, will take a starring role in "Dean Koontz's Frankenstein" for USA Network.

Production has begun on the two-hour pilot for "Frankenstein," which comes from executive producers Martin Scorsese and Tony Kranz. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the cast includes Parker Posey as a detective and Vincent Perez, Adam Goldberg and Michael Madsen in other key parts. Kretschmann is set to play overly-inquisitive scientist Dr. Frankenstein.

The modern-day spin on Mary Shelley's classic novel is written by prolific novelist Koontz ("Phantoms," "Mr. Murder") and directed by Marcus Nispel ("The Texas Chainsaw Massacre").

Kretschmann is perhaps best known to American viewers as the somewhat kindly Nazi in Roman Polanski's Oscar-winning "The Pianist." He's looking to make a bigger name for himself in several upcoming sequels including the second installments in the "Resident Evil" and "Baby Geniuses" franchises. He also stars in the adaptation of James Redfield's best-seller "The Celestine Prophesy."

FCC Media Ownership Rules Reversed
AP Business Writer

NEW YORK June 24, 2004 (AP) - A federal appeals court on Thursday largely reversed a landmark set of rule changes from the Federal Communications Commission that would have allowed companies to own more radio and television stations in the same market.

The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia marked a major setback to the FCC's efforts to deregulate media ownership rules and a victory for public interest groups that had opposed the measures.

The rule changes have been the subject of much debate about the concentration of media ownership ever since they were announced in June 2003. The plaintiffs against the FCC said the rules would limit the diversity of voices on the airwaves, while the FCC said the old rules had become outdated.

The court also kept in place an order it made last September blocking the rules from taking effect.

In their 2-to-1 decision, the judges threw out rules that would have allowed greater ownership of television and radio stations in the same market. However, they also found that the FCC was within its rights to repeal a blanket prohibition on companies owning both a newspaper and a television station in the same city.

"This is a big, big win for diversity," said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, CEO of the Media Access Project, a Washington, D.C.-based public interest law firm that led the lawsuit against the FCC.

"The court recognized that debate and democratic values are more important than letting big media corporations grow bigger," Schwartzman said. "It's especially important that the court has told the FCC to remove its deregulatory thumb from the scales."

Schwartzman said he was slightly disappointed that the court did not reverse the FCC's move to repeal the ban on cross-ownership of newspapers and TV stations in the same city, but he noted that the court asked the FCC to reconsider the decision in light of Thursday's ruling.

FCC chairman Michael Powell called the court's decision "deeply troubling" and said it "hampers the flexibility of the agency to protect the American public."

Powell noted that the court's Chief Judge Anthony Scirica dissented from the ruling, saying that the court "has substituted its own policy judgment for that of the FCC and upset the ongoing review of broadcast media regulation mandated by Congress."

But consumer advocates and other opponents of the FCC's efforts to deregulate media ownership were quick to hail the court's decision.

Gene Kimmelman, senior public policy director for Consumers Union, one of the plaintiffs, called the Third Circuit court's ruling "a complete repudiation of rules that would allow one or two media giants to dominate the most important sources of local news and information in almost every community in America."

FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps saw the decision as vindication of his vote against the rules. "The rush to media consolidation approved by the FCC last June was wrong as a matter of law and policy," Copps said.

"The Commission has a second chance to do the right thing. We must immediately move forward and redesign our media policy," he said. "This time we must include the American people in the process instead of shutting them out."

The cross-ownership issue had been closely watched by newspaper publishers that also own TV stations, such as Tribune Co. and Media General Inc. Both companies are pursuing strategies of owning clusters of newspapers and TV in the same market.

John Sturm, CEO of the Newspaper Association of America, said the group was pleased that the court left in place the FCC's decision to repeal the across-the-board ban on cross-ownership. He said the industry would continue to press its case for making such combinations possible.

The court's ruling does not affect a separate issue of national limits on broadcast ownership. Last year the FCC raised the limits on the size of the national audience that can be reached by a single owner of TV stations from 35 percent to 45 percent, but Congress later passed a law that put in place a cap of 39 percent.

Associated Press reporter Jennifer C. Kerr in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

Jeri Ryan Hotfoots Republican Ex-Husband

[Old news by now, but most of the scandal-mongers missed Jeri's comments at the bottom of this article. Jack since dropped out of the political business. None too soon, sez us. Ed.]

Jack and Jeri

LOS ANGELES June 22, 2004 ( - Recently unsealed divorce records are causing embarrassment for U.S. Senate nominee Jack Ryan of Illinois and his wife, actress Jeri Ryan.

In the documents, dating back to the couple's 2000 custody battle, the "Boston Public" star makes a number of damaging personal allegations, including the charge that Jack Ryan forced her to attend sex clubs in three cities.

The records were released on Monday (June 21) after attorney for The Chicago Tribune and WLS-Ch. 7 requested the information.

Nearly 400 pages of information were released, though California Judge Robert Schnider allowed many portions to be blacked out.

Jeri Ryan alleges that her then-husband whisked her away on trips to New Orleans, New York and Paris under the guise of surprise "supposed 'romantic' getaways."

Once in those cities, she charges that he took her to "explicit sex clubs" in each city. In New York, Jeri Ryan says she refused to go to one club, but that her husband forced her to go to the second, saying that he had gone to a restaurant with her for dinner even though he hadn't wanted to.

"It was a bizarre club with cages, whips and other apparatus hanging from the ceiling," the files say. Jeri Ryan says that her husband asked her to perform sexual acts on him and asked other people to watch.

Things were even worse in Paris, where Jeri Ryan says that Jack took her to a club without warning her of where they were going.

"I told him I thought it was out of his system," the filing says. "I told him he had promised me we would never go. People were having sex everywhere. I cried. I was physically ill. Respondent became very upset with me and said it was not a 'turn-on' for me to cry. I could not get over the incident and my loss of any attraction to him as a result. Respondent knew this was a serious problem. I told him I did not know if we could work it out."

The marriage ended in late 1998 when, after counseling failed, Jeri Ryan determined she was in love with another man and sought a divorce.

Jack Ryan defeated a number of candidates for the Republican nomination in Illinois and faces a tight race with Democrat Barack Obama. It's unclear what impact the new allegations will have on the race.

"We're not looking at trying to replace Jack Ryan. He's an excellent candidate," Dan Allen, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, tells the Tribune. "We feel this race will be decided on the issues."

Obama declined comment, saying only that "obviously Mr. Ryan and his supporters will be discussing this."

In a statement, the "Star Trek: Voyager" and "Boston Public" co-star didn't refute her earlier allegations, but stood up for her ex-husband.

"In response to the rumors that have been circulating, there was never any physical abuse in our marriage -- either to myself or to our son -- nor, to my knowledge, was he ever unfaithful to me," Jeri Ryan says. "Jack is a good man, a loving father, and he shares a strong bond with our son. I wish him all the best, both in his life and career. I have no doubt that he will make an excellent senator."

Nip/Tuck Sucks Viewers
By Denise Martin

Hollywood June 23, 2004 (Variety) - The second season premiere of "Nip/Tuck" sutured up series highs, while "Outback Jack," the first original series to launch out of the newly repositioned TBS, had a tough time romancing an audience.

FX's "Nip/Tuck" attracted 3.8 million viewers to its Tuesday bow. According to Nielsen, skein was the No. 1 program on basic cable for the night among adults 18-49 (2.1 national rating/6 share, 2.7 million viewers) and 25-54 (2.1/5, 2.6 million).

Debut, which bested last July's series premiere by 35% in its key 18-49 demo, also reached record ratings for the series in households (2.8/5), total viewers and women 18-49 (2.4/6).

Meanwhile, in spite of heavy promotion and marketing, the 9 p.m. premiere of "Outback Jack" on TBS wrangled up a so-so crowd of 2.1 million viewers. Bruce Nash-produced series, in which a dozen city women compete for love in the wild Australian outback, posted a 1.1/3 in both 18-34 and 18-49 demos.

Unhampered by the NBA, the second seg of "Joe Schmo 2" continued to come up dry, drawing just 418,000 viewers (down from premiere's 596,000) at 10 p.m.

Also, the rebroadcast of Nick at Nite's "Fatherhood" delivered 2.9 million viewers -- up from 1.8 million for Sunday's special timeslot bow. Show will continue to air Tuesday's at 9 p.m.

Nip/Tuck Official -

Fahrenheit 9/11 Bush Whacked?
By Gabriel Snyder and Susan Crabtree

Washington June 24, 2004 (Variety) - George W. Bush is undoubtedly the star of "Fahrenheit 9/11," but unintended consequences of federal campaign finance reform could prohibit Michael Moore from using his name or picture in TV ads for the doc.

US President George W. Bush with Irish Prime
Minister Bertie Ahern, right, as they take a
stroll at Dromoland Castle in Ireland at the
start of the European Union / US summit
meeting. (AP Photo / Maxwell / Pool)

The controversy stems from the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reforms, which went into effect in 2002 and bar any corporation or union from buying TV and radio ads that feature political candidates in the days preceding elections.

Rules kick in 30 days ahead of a primary election or national convention and 60 days ahead of a general election.

A conservative group, Citizens United, filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission on Thursday arguing that these "electioneering communications" rules applied to TV spots for "Fahrenheit."

If the FEC agrees, it would mean Bush must be edited out of TV spots -- which currently feature the President swinging a golf club and saying "Bring 'em on" -- starting on July 31, 30 days before the Republican National Convention opens in Gotham.

Uncharted waters

Ellen Weintraub, vice chair of the FEC, said that the commission is still working out much of the McCain-Feingold legislation. "A lot of these questions are brand new because this is the first election cycle that this law has been in effect," she said. "They wrote it very broadly, but a lot of things came up that they didn't anticipate," Weintraub added.

"In a general sense there's not much mystery what fits the definition," said FEC commissioner Scott Thomas. "Congress probably hadn't thought through a lot of the hypotheticals that we're going to be dealing with."

Indeed, Moore's partisanship is not at issue. Whether the Franklin Mint can advertise a George W. Bush commemorative plate is just as open to debate as whether "Fahrenheit" ads can air.

The FEC has several weeks to decide whether to investigate the complaint, and even if it opens an investigation, nothing will be resolved until well after the November elections.

But Trevor Potter, former general counsel for Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign and now an attorney with Caplin & Drysdale, said even if a decision came sooner, the effect on Lions Gate and IFC Films marketing plans would be minimal. "The worst that could happen is that they might have to edit the TV and radio ads to take out the limited snippet with Bush," he said.

Nonetheless, Moore, appearing at a Capitol Hill press conference, blasted the complaint as "a blatant attempt on the part of a right-wing, Republican-sponsored group to stop people from seeing my movie."

He added, "It's a violation of my First Amendment rights that I cannot advertise my movie. It's a movie. I have not publicly endorsed John Kerry (news - web sites). I am an independent; I am not a member of the Democratic Party."

Dave Bossie, prexy of Citizens United, said he is not trying to "silence Michael Moore" or "squelch his film." In fact, Bossie would like Moore to be able to run the spots without any government intervention. Citizens United was part of the effort to defeat the new campaign finance laws that went all the way to the Supreme Court, where opponents of the legislation lost their legal battle. Now, Bossie insists his group only wants fair treatment.

"I am here today to insist that the law be applied evenhandedly," he said. "Michael Moore and his cohorts are subject to the same campaign law restrictions that apply to me and Citizens United."

Canuck conundrum

In the complaint, Bossie also takes issue with Lions Gate Entertainment because it is based in Canada and cannot lawfully fund any U.S. electioneering communications.

Moore's partisanship is not at
issue (AFP)

"If Michael Moore wants to call me, I am available to help him comply with the federal election law," Bossie remarked.

On Thursday, the FEC ruled in a separate case that another documaker, David Hardy, could not include federal candidates in radio and TV ads for his film.

But the FEC did not delve into whether a documentary would fall under an exemption for news media in the federal laws.

"It's pretty unsettled," Thomas said. "To me it wouldn't make sense that anyone who has desktop publishing software can say I'm part of the media now." He added, though, "I think in a general sense the commission will strive to find folks who are in the business of producing documentaries that someone will distribute through movie theaters will fit the media exception."

Loyola Law School professor Rick Hasen said of the decision, "The FEC was not willing to wade into the waters without better facts."

Indeed, it turns out that the documentary in question, which Hardy calls "The Rights of the People," is a pro-gun response to Moore's "Bowling for Columbine." Hardy said he shelved the project earlier this year to co-author the upcoming book "Michael Moore Is a Big Fat Stupid White Man" for Regan Books instead.

But on this issue, Hardy is in complete agreement with Moore about the potential of an FEC ad ban. "It was pretty startling when I read the blasted statute."

Fahrenheit 9/11 Official -

Fahrenheit Stuck With R

LOS ANGELES June 23, 2004 (Reuters) — Backers of documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 failed to overturn its R rating on Tuesday, restricting young American moviegoers from seeing its critical look at President Bush and horrific images of the war in Iraq.

Michael Moore was quoted by Variety as urging teens to see the movie "by any means necessary."

"If you need me to sneak you in, let me know," he said.

But even the R rating doesn't seem to be quelling audience interest in the film by Oscar-winning director Moore. Distributors Lions Gate Films and IFC Films said Fahrenheit has now been booked into 868 theaters for its nationwide debut on Friday, unprecedented for a political documentary.

"I'm sure that exhibitors listening to customers has been borne out in terms of the number of theaters that have booked the film," said Jonathan Sehring, president of IFC Films.

The Motion Picture Association of America, which rates movies based on violence, language, and other criteria, initially issued the R rating for Fahrenheit, which restricts people under 17 from seeing it without a parent or guardian.

Lions Gate and IFC appealed the ruling, arguing it should be PG-13, allowing teens in but suggesting parental guidance.

"The images in the film are no more disturbing than what we have been seeing and, frankly, should be seeing on network news since the Vietnam War," said Tom Ortenberg, president of Lions Gate Films.

"It is perfectly appropriate for 15- and 16-year-olds who are going to be asked to fight in this war or the next war to see what war is really like," he added.

People line up to see director Michael Moore's
new film 'Fahrenheit 9/11' in New York.
Crowds in Washington flocked to the opening
the film, some to get fired up about ousting
President George W. Bush in the November 2
election, others to see what the controversy
is all about. (AFP/Don Emmert)

Fahrenheit is filled with many violent pictures from the war in Iraq, including images of the charred bodies of four U.S. contractors killed in Falluja in late March. There are also images of severely wounded Iraqi citizens, soldiers missing limbs, and injured women and children.

The MPAA does not disclose the reasons for its decisions.

Distributors had hired former New York governor Mario Cuomo to argue their case in front of the MPAA, but he could not do so due to MPAA rules. Ortenberg made the case instead.

"People warned me [the MPAA] very seldom overturn[s] a rating, but I'm disappointed they didn't tell us why," Cuomo said.

Cuomo questioned why fantasy films like the Lord of the Rings series were rated PG-13 despite graphic violence, while those with real war images, like Fahrenheit, were rated R.

"The very idea that they are creating impediments should encourage Americans to see this film and find out the 'why,'" he said.

While the R rating could limit audience size, the appetite among potential moviegoers does not seem to be waning.

Its trailer is the fifth-most-watched preview on

The film's release surpasses the 801 theaters that opened 2003's Tupac: Resurrection, about the murdered rap star.

The Real Cancún debuted in more than 2,200 locations in 2003 but was marketed as an extension of a reality television franchise created by MTV rather than as a serious documentary.

Moore has said he favors the term "nonfiction" rather than "documentary" to describe his work.

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