What Time is it in Space?
Keeping tabs on a spacecraft way out at Saturn can get complicated. Unless otherwise noted, all times on this website have been converted to U.S. Pacific Time - the time zone of Cassini mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Here are some definitions to help you keep tabs on Cassini mission time:
Coordinated Universal Time (UTC): The worldwide scientific standard of timekeeping. It is based upon carefully maintained atomic clocks and is highly stable. The addition or subtraction of leap seconds, as necessary, at two opportunities every year adjusts UTC for irregularities in Earth's rotation.
Spacecraft Event Time (SCET) or Orbiter UTC: The time something happens at the spacecraft, such as a science observation or engine burn.
One-Way Light Time (OWLT): The time it takes for a signal - which moves at the speed of light through space - to travel from the spacecraft to Earth. From Saturn, one-way light time can range from about one hour and 14 minutes to one hour and 24 minutes.
Earth Received Time (ERT) or Ground UTC: The time the spacecraft signal is received at mission control on Earth (the Spacecraft Event Time plus One-Way Light Time).
Local Time: Time adjusted for locations around the Earth. This is the time most people use to set watches and alarm clocks.
For example, Cassini began transmitting data from its very first close Titan flyby at 00:16 Orbiter UTC on Oct. 27. The first signal arrived at Earth one hour and 14 minutes later at 01:30 Ground UTC on Oct. 27.
Adjusting for local time, the signals arrived on the screens at mission control in Pasadena, Calif. at 6:30 p.m. PDT (or 9:30 p.m. EDT for folks tuned in at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C.)
You can use a time zone converter or the chart below to figure out when Cassini's signals would reach your house: