Mimas emerging from behind Saturn. Photographed by Cassini, 26 October 2007.
This is an approximate true color image of Titan’s haze layers, taken by Cassini’s Imaging Science Subsystem during Cassini’s 91st encounter with Titan on April 5, 2013.
Image: NASA / JPL / SSI / composite by Val Klavans
Titan’s upper haze layers appear blue, while its main atmospheric haze appear orange in this view. The difference in color is most likely due to particle size rather than composition. The blue haze probably consists of smaller particles than the orange haze.
Mimas exiting a transit of Saturn, with the rings’ shadows seen on Saturn’s surface. Photographed by Cassini, 18 January 2005.
“NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has provided the first direct evidence of small meteoroids breaking into streams of rubble and crashing into Saturn’s rings.
These observations make Saturn’s rings the only location besides Earth, the moon and Jupiter where scientists and amateur astronomers have been able to observe impacts as they occur. Studying the impact rate of meteoroids from outside the Saturnian system helps scientists understand how different planet systems in our solar system formed.
The solar system is full of small, speeding objects. These objects frequently pummel planetary bodies. The meteoroids at Saturn are estimated to range from about one-half inch to several yards (1 centimeter to several meters) in size. It took scientists years to distinguish tracks left by nine meteoroids in 2005, 2009 and 2012.
Results from Cassini have already shown Saturn’s rings act as very effective detectors of many kinds of surrounding phenomena, including the interior structure of the planet and the orbits of its moons. For example, a subtle but extensive corrugation that ripples 12,000 miles (19,000 kilometers) across the innermost rings tells of a very large meteoroid impact in 1983.”
RGB color, RGB false color, Infrared, Blue & Ultraviolet Light highlighting geological & atmospheric properties like Titan’s vast dune desert, in Belet (also known as the ‘sand sea’). Or its methane band visible in blue. These filters are mostly used to highlight information about an astronomical body’s chemical properties not visible to the naked eye.
“Why would clouds form a hexagon on Saturn? Nobody is sure. Originally discovered during the Voyager flybys of Saturn in the 1980s, nobody has ever seen anything like it anywhere else in the Solar System. If Saturn’s South Pole wasn’t strange enough with its rotating vortex, Saturn’s North Pole might be considered even stranger. The bizarre cloud pattern is shown above in great detail by a recent image taken by the Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft. This and similar images show the stability of the hexagon even 20+ years after Voyager. Movies of Saturn’s North Pole show the cloud structure maintaining its hexagonal structure while rotating. Unlike individual clouds appearing like a hexagon on Earth, the Saturn cloud pattern appears to have six well defined sides of nearly equal length. Four Earths could fit inside the hexagon. Imaged from the side, the dark shadow of the Jovian planet is seen eclipsing part of its grand system of rings, partly visible on the upper right.”
“Call it a Saturnian version of the Ouroboros, the mythical serpent that bites its own tail. In a new paper that provides the most detail yet about the life and death of a monstrous thunder-and-lightning storm on Saturn, scientists from NASA’s Cassini mission describe how the massive storm churned around the planet until it encountered its own tail and sputtered out. It is the first time scientists have observed a storm consume itself in this way anywhere in the solar system.
“This Saturn storm behaved like a terrestrial hurricane - but with a twist unique to Saturn,” said Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini imaging team member based at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, who is a co-author on the new paper in the journal Icarus. “Even the giant storms at Jupiter don’t consume themselves like this, which goes to show that nature can play many awe-inspiring variations on a theme and surprise us again and again.”
Earth’s hurricanes feed off the energy of warm water and leave a cold-water wake. This storm in Saturn’s northern hemisphere also feasted off warm “air” in the gas giant’s atmosphere. The storm, first detected on Dec. 5, 2010, and tracked by Cassini’s radio and plasma wave subsystem and imaging cameras, erupted around 33 degrees north latitude. Shortly after the bright, turbulent head of the storm emerged and started moving west, it spawned a clockwise-spinning vortex that drifted much more slowly. Within months, the storm wrapped around the planet at that latitude, stretching about 190,000 miles (300,000 kilometers) in circumference, thundering and throwing lightning along the way. ”
[Image Credit: NASA / JPL / SSI / Gordan Ugarkovic]
Cassini gazes upon Titan in the distance beyond Saturn and its dark and graceful rings. (May 10, 2006)
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/USGS
“This artist’s concept envisions what hydrocarbon ice forming on a liquid hydrocarbon sea of Saturn’s moon Titan might look like. A new model from scientists on NASA’s Cassini mission suggests that clumps of methane-and-ethane-rich ice — shown here as the lighter-colored clusters — could float under some conditions.”
This enhanced, false-color shot of the north pole of Dione was taken by Cassini on Christmas Eve, 2012, and assembled by Ian Regan.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has delivered a glorious view of Saturn, taken while the spacecraft was in Saturn’s shadow. The cameras were turned toward Saturn and the sun so that the planet and rings are backlit. (The sun is behind the planet, which is shielding the cameras from direct sunlight.) In addition to the visual splendor, this special, very-high-phase viewing geometry lets scientists study ring and atmosphere phenomena not easily seen at a lower phase.
Since images like this can only be taken while the sun is behind the planet, this beautiful view is all the more precious for its rarity. The last time Cassini captured a view like this was in Sept. 2006, when it captured a mosaic processed to look like natural color, entitled “In Saturn’s Shadow.” In that mosaic, planet Earth put in a special appearance, making “In Saturn’s Shadow” one of the most popular Cassini images to date. Earth does not appear in this mosaic as it is hidden behind the planet.
Also captured in this image are two of Saturn’s moons: Enceladus and Tethys. Both appear on the left side of the planet, below the rings. Enceladus is closer to the rings; Tethys is below and to the left.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has captured a crisp image of a long river cutting across Saturn’s huge moon Titan.
Image: A river near the north pole of Saturn’s moon Titan, imaged by the Cassini spacecraft on Sept. 26, 2012. The river valley stretches more than 250 miles from its ‘headwaters’ to a large sea and likely contains hydrocarbons. Credit: NASA/JPL–Caltech/ASI
The hydrocarbon-filled river stretches more than 250 miles (400 kilometers) from its source to a large sea near frigid Titan’s north pole. Cassini’s radar image is the first high-resolution shot ever taken of such a vast river system on a world beyond Earth, researchers said, and scientists are comparing it to Earth’s Nile River in Egypt.
“Though there are some short, local meanders, the relative straightness of the river valley suggests it follows the trace of at least one fault, similar to other large rivers running into the southern margin of this same Titan sea,” Jani Radebaugh, a Cassini radar team associate at Brigham Young University, said in a statement.
Amazing new photos from NASA’s Cassini probe orbiting Saturn reveal a dizzying glimpse into a monster storm raging on the ringed planet’s north pole.
Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SSI
Cassini took the spectacular Saturn storm photos Tuesday and relayed it back to Earth the same day, mission scientists said in a statement. The pictures reveal a swirling storm reminiscent of the recent Hurricane Sandy that recently plagued our own planet.
Saturn’s mysterious northern vortex, a vast hexagon-shaped storm, dominates this photo taken Tuesday by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.
The tempest is located in a strange hexagonal cloud vortex at Saturn’s north pole that was first discovered by the Voyager spacecraft in the early 1980s, and sighted more closely by Cassini since then. The strange six-sided feature is thought to be formed by the path of a jet stream flowing through the planet’s atmosphere.
“Cassini’s recent excursion into inclined orbits has given mission scientists a vertigo-inducing view of Saturn ‘s polar regions, and what to our wondering eyes has just appeared: roiling storm clouds and a swirling vortex at the center of Saturn’s famed northern polar hexagon,” Cassini scientists wrote in an online update.
(Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC/SWRI)
“You could call this “Pac-Man, the Sequel.” Scientists with NASA’s Cassini mission have spotted a second feature shaped like the 1980s video game icon in the Saturn system, this time on the moon Tethys. (The first was found on Mimas in 2010). The pattern appears in thermal data obtained by Cassini’s composite infrared spectrometer, with warmer areas making up the Pac-Man shape.
‘Finding a second Pac-Man in the Saturn system tells us that the processes creating these Pac-Men are more widespread than previously thought,’ said Carly Howett, the lead author of a paper recently released online in the journal Icarus. ‘The Saturn system - and even the Jupiter system - could turn out to be a veritable arcade of these characters.’
Scientists theorize that the Pac-Man thermal shape on the Saturnian moons occurs because of the way high-energy electrons bombard low latitudes on the side of the moon that faces forward as it orbits around Saturn. The bombardment turns that part of the fluffy surface into hard-packed ice. As a result, the altered surface does not heat as rapidly in the sunshine or cool down as quickly at night as the rest of the surface, similar to how a boardwalk at the beach feels cooler during the day but warmer at night than the nearby sand. Finding another Pac-Man on Tethys confirms that high-energy electrons can dramatically alter the surface of an icy moon. Also, because the altered region on Tethys, unlike on Mimas, is also bombarded by icy particles from Enceladus’ plumes, it implies the surface alteration is occurring more quickly than its recoating by plume particles.”