Local High School Student Sets Sights On Saturn

Jessica Luttkus during a performance.
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August 19, 2004

Summer days on Saturn
During the summer months, most high school seniors would welcome the chance to sleep late or go to the beach, but Jessica Luttkus spent her time planning the perfect photo shoot of Saturn.

Luttkus, a senior at La CaƱada High School, located a mile from JPL, spends 40 hours a week searching for visually interesting targets around the ringed world. She uses a computer program designed to see what the planet looks like at any given time. Once she sees something nice, she plans the observations and requests that the shot be taken by the cameras on the Cassini spacecraft. Luttkus has worked hard to find these Kodak moments.

Jessica's Golden Image
"When I saw my first image I was very pleased with the way it came out and to see it side-by-side with a Hubble image was amazing. I even saw it on NASA Television and all over the place during Saturn orbit insertion," said Luttkus.

Her first image was issued by JPL and with an image from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, "Saturn from Far and Near." It has been used in dozens of print and media stories. The image came out two months before Cassini reached Saturn and at a time when there were few close-up color images of Saturn from Cassini. In the image, a golden Saturn looms as its shadow drapes over the rings.

"I look for just the right moment when several moons line up or pass behind Saturn's rings, creating the perfect opportunity to take interesting images," said Luttkus. So far Luttkus has planned between 150 and 200 observation shots of Saturn. "It's been a really fun, valuable job experience. There's so much happening at JPL this year and I've been going to several lectures."

Dancing to a different drum
When she is not working on the Cassini mission, Luttkus studies and dances pre-professional ballet at the Pasadena Dance Theatre.

Despite her love of dance, Luttkus is pursuing her passion for science. She will be a freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology this fall. "I've loved working at JPL because of all the interesting and smart people, and I can't rule out coming back next summer," said Luttkus. Like the scientists on Cassini, many out-of-this-world opportunities await Luttkus on her new journey.

Images

Jessica Luttkus during a performance.

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Saturn and its rings

Saturn and its rings are prominently shown in this color image, along with three of Saturn's smaller moons.
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