It was a real treat to see some of the newest photographs of Saturn’s moon Titan.
The photographs, obtained via the Cassini mission, were released this past holiday weekend. What perfect timing for us here at Space Oddities! We’ve been working on a photo gallery of our favorite Cassini images. And don’t forget, we should be getting even more new images of Titan fairly soon. The next Titan flyby is in five days.
In the meantime, here are a few of our favorite shots from the mission, which has been studying Saturn and many of its moons for the past seven years.
Oh, Saturn. How beautiful art thou? This image, taken in 2005, shows the breathtaking, gentle beauty Saturn has to offer. While the photograph was obtained using blue, green and red spectral filters, NASA says this is how we would actually see the ringed planet. (In good lighting, of course!)
Saturn’s intense storm
This powerful storm, which began on Saturn’s northern hemisphere about a year ago, was so amazing that it became one of our first photos of the week. These photographs, taken from late 2010 through mid-2011, show the largest storm ever witnessed on Saturn, according to NASA. Read more about it here.
Planet of the rings
When you think of Saturn, you obviously think of its rings, right? Well, I sure do. And here’s one of my favorite photographs of Saturn’s rings. The ultraviolet image, released in 2004, shows that Saturn’s outer rings contain more ice than its inner rings. This, according to NASA, hints “at the origins of the rings and their evolution.” Years after the image was released, we learned that the moon Enceladus does provides ice to Saturn’s rings. Read more about this image here.
Enceladus and its fountains
This photograph shows the moon Enceladus and its fountain-like spray of water and ice. Read more about it here.
Rings and moons
This photograph is amazing, isn’t it?! “Saturn’s rings cut across an eerie scene that is ruled by Titan’s luminous crescent and globe-encircling haze, broken by the small moon Enceladus, whose icy jets are dimly visible at its south pole,” according to this release. Wow. Just wow.
Here’s a composite image of Phoebe, one of Saturn’s smaller and irregularly shaped moons. “Phoebe shows an unusual variation in brightness over its surface due to the existence on some crater slopes and floors of bright material – thought to contain ice – on what is otherwise one of the darkest known bodies in the solar system,” according to this NASA release. I guess we could have included Phoebe in “The search for water beyond Earth” photo gallery.
For the longest time, scientists believed that there were oceans or lakes of methane on Saturn’s moon Titan. It wasn’t until 2006 when radar imaging of Titan provided this evidence. “The lakes, darker than the surrounding terrain, are emphasized here by tinting regions of low backscatter in blue. Radar-brighter regions are shown in tan,” according to this release. However, NASA stated, “the colors are not a representation of what the human eye would see.” Boo.
Ah yes, Mimas. This photograph, taken in 2010, shows the massive Herschel Crater, which reminds a lot of people of the Death Star. What do you think? The crater is 81 miles wide. Whoa. Read more here.
Here’s the moon Rhea, pictured in front of Saturn and its rings. Read more here.
Taken in 2005, this image was obtained by the European Space Agency’s Huygens probe during its successful descent to land on Titan, according to NASA. “This is the colored view, following processing to add reflection spectra data, and gives a better indication of the actual color of the surface.” Read more about Titan’s surface, and this photograph, here.
Hello my spongy-looking friend. This here is Hyperion, another one of Saturn’s moon. “Scientists think that Hyperion’s unusual appearance can be attributed to the fact that it has an unusually low density for such a large object, giving it weak surface gravity and high porosity,” according to this release.
New photos of Dione were captured yesterday by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.
Dione [Die-OH-nee] looks like our moon, doesn’t it? But the grooves above look a bit like the ones on the massive Vesta.
Including Dione, Saturn has more than 60 moons. Read more about Dione here.
Cassini is expected to head over to another one of Saturn’s moons – Titan – today. We’ll keep you posted here on Space Oddities.
“The moon Enceladus, one of the jewels of the Saturn system, sparkles peculiarly bright in new images obtained by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. The images of the moon, the first ever taken of Enceladus with Cassini’s synthetic aperture radar, reveal new details of some of the grooves in the moon’s south polar region and unexpected textures in the ice. These images, obtained on Nov. 6, 2011, are the highest-resolution images of this region obtained so far.”
Read more here.
Want to see more ice worlds? Check out our gallery.
The “first detailed radar images” of Enceladus, one of Saturn’s 60+ moons, were expected to be taken yesterday when NASA’s Cassini spacecraft flew by the icy body.
According to NASA:
These will be the first high-resolution radar observations made of an icy moon other than Titan. The results will provide new information about the surface of Enceladus and enable researchers to compare its geological features as seen by radar with those of Titan.
During this flyby, the mission’s visible-light cameras will take images of Enceladus and its famous jets, and the composite infrared spectrometer will make new measurements of hot spots from which the jets emerge. Cassini’s ultraviolet imaging spectrograph will also make distant observations of Saturn’s moon Dione and its environment.
It is believed that Enceladus’ jets – think ‘Old-Faithful-like geysers erupting from giant fractures’ – supply ice to one of Saturn’s rings. Pretty cool, right?
The clouds you see on Saturn’s northern hemisphere is actually a storm, one of largest and most intense storms ever observed on the ringed planet. This picture, captured on Feb. 25, 2011, was taken about 12 weeks after the storm began, according to NASA.
The clouds had formed a tail that wrapped around the planet. Some of the clouds moved south and got caught up in a current that flows to the east (to the right) relative to the storm head. This tail, which appears as slightly blue clouds south and west (left) of the storm head, can be seen encountering the storm head in this view.