did anyone see Saturn last night? it was raining here but it’s sunny now; hopefully it stays clear until dark so I can see it! I’ve never seen Saturn before!
Posts tagged saturn.
December 20, 2012 — The spacecraft has delivered another glorious backlit view of Saturn and its rings.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, in orbit around Saturn for more than eight years, has delivered another glorious backlit view of the planet Saturn and its rings.
On October 17, 2012, during its 174th orbit around the gas giant, Cassini was deliberately positioned within Saturn’s shadow, a perfect location from which to look in the direction of the Sun and take a backlit view of the rings and the dark side of the planet. Looking back toward the Sun is a geometry referred to by planetary scientists as “high solar phase” — near the center of the target’s shadow is the highest phase possible. This is a scientifically advantageous and coveted viewing position as it can reveal details about both the rings and atmosphere that cannot be seen in lower solar phase.
The last time Cassini had such an unusual perspective on Saturn and its rings, at sufficient distance and with sufficient time to make a full system mosaic, occurred in September 2006 when it captured a mosaic, processed to look like natural color, entitled “In Saturn’s Shadow-The Pale Blue Dot.” In that mosaic, planet Earth put in a special appearance, making “In Saturn’s Shadow” one of the most popular Cassini images to date.
The mosaic being released today by the mission and the imaging team does not contain Earth — along with the Sun, our planet is hidden behind Saturn. However, it was taken when Cassini was closer to Saturn and therefore shows more detail in the rings than the one taken in 2006.
“Of all the many glorious images we have received from Saturn, none are more strikingly unusual than those taken from Saturn’s shadow,” said Carolyn Porco, Cassini’s imaging team lead based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “They unveil a rare splendor seldom seen anywhere else in our solar system.”
This image from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shows a vast river system on Saturn’s moon Titan. It is the first time images from space have revealed a river system so vast and in such high resolution anywhere other than Earth.
This movie sequence provides the record of Cassini’s first close brush with Hyperion, Saturn’s chaotically tumbling moon. As the spacecraft whizzes past, Hyperion’s unusual shape is most apparent. The jagged outlines are indicators of large impacts chipping away at Hyperion’s shape as a sculptor does to marble.
Hyperion’s unusual dimensions are 328 by 260 by 214 kilometers (204 by 162 by 132 miles).
These Cassini images are the best views yet of one of the large, low density objects that orbit Saturn. Hyperion is close to the size limit where, like a child compacting a snowball, internal pressure due to the moon’s gravity will begin to crush weak materials like ice, closing pore spaces and eventually creating a more spherical shape.
However, this moon has a very irregular shape and preliminary estimates of its density show that it is only about 60 percent as dense as solid water ice. This suggests that much of its interior (40 percent or more) must be empty space.
The low density further suggests that Hyperion is mostly made of water ice, with a low rock and metal content. If the moon had significant higher density components, its implied porosity would be significantly higher than 50 percent. The dark material on the surface is therefore likely a minor component, possibly originating from impacts of dark material, as seen on Iapetus.
Hyperion’s elliptical orbit and irregular shape influence its chaotic tumbling. Further, because it is in a resonance orbit with the giant moon Titan, impact debris ejected with sufficient energy does not come to rest again on Hyperion. Instead, debris is tugged gravitationally into Titan’s orbit, where it impacts the large smoggy moon.
This series of 25 images was taken over a period of nearly two and a half days, between June 9 and June 11, 2005, as Cassini’s orbit took it close to Hyperion.
Enceladus vents water into space from its south polar region. The moon is lit by the Sun on the left, and backlit by the vast reflecting surface of its parent planet to the right. Icy crystals from these plumes are likely the source of Saturn’s nebulous E ring, within which Enceladus orbits. (photo:NASA / JPL-Caltech/Michael Benson/Kinetikon Pictures)
Multimedia artist Michael Benson begins with filtered, black-and-white imagery sent back by space probes at the edge of existence. He ends with colorful, high-definition visions of a universe in motion.
See more images and watch the video here.
While selecting images to include in our Cassini HD app I came across some great gifs. Unfortunately, I couldn’t include them in the app, so I’ll be posting them here instead.
Saturn’s moon Mimas will never not look exactly like the Death Star, especially when it’s moving.
Saturn in Blue and Gold
Why is Saturn partly blue? The above picture of Saturn approximates what a human would see if hovering close to the giant ringed world. The above picture was taken in mid-March by the robot Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn. Here Saturn’s majestic rings appear directly only as a thin vertical line. The rings show their complex structure in the dark shadows they create on the image left. Saturn’s fountain moon Enceladus, only about 500 kilometers across, is seen as the bump in the plane of the rings. The northern hemisphere of Saturn can appear partly blue for the same reason that Earth’s skies can appear blue — molecules in the cloudless portions of both planet’s atmospheres are better at scattering blue light than red. When looking deep into Saturn’s clouds, however, the natural gold hue of Saturn’s clouds becomes dominant. It is not known why southern Saturn does not show the same blue hue — one hypothesis holds that clouds are higher there. It is also not known why Saturn’s clouds are colored gold.
awww itty bitty enceladus :)