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Saturn

From Cassini for the holidays: Backlit view of Saturn and its rings

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. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Dec. 18, 2012 — Just in time for the holidays, NASA's Cassini spacecraft, in orbit around Saturn for more than eight years now, has delivered another glorious, backlit view of the planet Saturn and its rings.

On Oct. 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...

Cassini captures new images of icy moon

BestAstronomy (Mar. 13, 2012) — New raw, unprocessed images of Saturn's second largest moon, Rhea, were taken on March 10, 2012, by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. This was a relatively distant flyby with a close-approach distance of 26,000 miles (42,000 kilometers), well suited for global geologic mapping.

During the flyby, Cassini captured these distinctive views of the moon's cratered surface, creating a 30-frame mosaic of Rhea's leading hemisphere and the side of the moon that...

Cassini detects hint of fresh air at Dione

BestAstronomy (Mar. 2, 2012) — NASA's Cassini spacecraft has "sniffed" molecular oxygen ions around Saturn's icy moon Dione for the first time, confirming the presence of a very tenuous atmosphere. The oxygen ions are quite sparse -- one for every 0.67 cubic inches of space (one for every 11 cubic centimeters of space) or about 2,550 per cubic foot (90,000 per cubic meter) -- show that Dione has an extremely thin neutral atmosphere.

At the Dione surface, this atmosphere would...

The Many Moods of Titan

BestAstronomy (Feb. 24, 2012) — A set of recent papers, many of which draw on data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, reveal new details in the emerging picture of how Saturn's moon Titan shifts with the seasons and even throughout the day. The papers, published in the journal Planetary and Space Science in a special issue titled "Titan through Time," show how this largest moon of Saturn is a cousin -- though a very peculiar cousin -- of Earth.

"As a whole, these papers give us...

Titanic jigsaw challenge: Piecing together a global color map of Saturn’s largest moon

BestAstronomy (Oct. 4, 2011) — An international team led by the University of Nantes has pieced together images gathered over six years by the Cassini mission to create a global mosaic of the surface of Titan.

The global maps and animations of Saturn's largest moon are being presented by Stéphane Le Mouélic at the EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2011 in Nantes, France.

The team has compiled all the infrared images acquired by the Visual and Infrared...

BestAstronomy (Oct. 4, 2011) — An...

Titanic jigsaw challenge: Piecing together a global color map of Saturn's largest moon

BestAstronomy (Oct. 4, 2011) — An international team led by the University of Nantes has pieced together images gathered over six years by the Cassini mission to create a global mosaic of the surface of Titan.

The global maps and animations of Saturn's largest moon are being presented by Stéphane Le Mouélic at the EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2011 in Nantes, France.

The team has compiled all the infrared images acquired by the Visual and Infrared...

BestAstronomy (Oct. 4, 2011) — An...

Cassini captures images and sounds of Saturn storm

BestAstronomy (July 6, 2011) — Scientists analyzing data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft now have the first-ever, up-close details of a Saturn storm that is eight times the surface area of Earth.

On Dec. 5, 2010, Cassini first detected the storm that has been raging ever since. It appears approximately 35 degrees north latitude of Saturn. Pictures from Cassini's imaging cameras show the storm wrapping around the entire planet covering approximately...

BestAstronomy (July 6, 2011) —...

Cassini finds Saturn's moon Enceladus is a powerhouse

— Heat output from the south polar region of Saturn's moon Enceladus is much greater than was previously thought possible, according to a new analysis of data collected by NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

The study was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research on March 4.

Data from Cassini's composite infrared spectrometer of Enceladus' south polar terrain, which is marked by linear fissures, indicate that the internal...

— Heat output from the south polar region of Saturn's moon...

Cassini to sample magnetic environment around Saturn's moon Titan

— NASA's Cassini spacecraft is set to skim close to Saturn's moon Titan on Friday, Feb. 18, to learn about the interaction between Titan and Saturn's magnetosphere, the magnetic bubble around the planet.

The closest approach will take place at 8:04 a.m. PST (4:04 p.m. UTC) and bring Cassini within about 3,650 kilometers (2,270 miles) of Titan's surface.

As Titan makes a complete 360-degree orbit around Saturn, the...

— NASA's Cassini spacecraft is set to skim close to Saturn's moon...

Surprise hidden in Titan's smog: Cirrus-like clouds

— Every day is a bad-air day on Saturn's largest moon, Titan. Blanketed by haze far worse than any smog belched out in Los Angeles, Beijing or even Sherlock Holmes's London, the moon looks like a dirty orange ball. Described once as crude oil without the sulfur, the haze is made of tiny droplets of hydrocarbons with other, more noxious chemicals mixed in. Gunk.

Icky as it may sound, Titan is really the rarest of gems:...

— Every day is a bad-air day on Saturn's largest moon, Titan...

Cassini sends back postcards of Saturn's moons

— On Jan. 31, 2011, NASA's Cassini spacecraft passed by several of Saturn's intriguing moons, snapping images along the way. Cassini passed within about 60,000 kilometers (37,282 miles) of Enceladus and 28,000 kilometers (17,398 miles) of Helene. It also caught a glimpse of Mimas in front of Saturn's rings. In one of the images, Cassini is looking at the famous jets erupting from the south polar terrain of Enceladus.

To...

— On Jan. 31, 2011, NASA's Cassini spacecraft passed by several...

Cassini rocks Rhea rendezvous: Closest flyby of Saturn's icy moon

— NASA's Cassini spacecraft has successfully completed its closest flyby of Saturn's moon Rhea, returning raw images of the icy moon's surface.

Pictures of the Rhea surface taken around the time of closest approach at 4:53 a.m. UTC on Jan. 11, 2011, which was 10:53 p.m. PST, Jan. 10, show shadowy craters at a low sun angle. A portrait of bright, icy Rhea also captures Saturn's rings and three other moons clearly...

— NASA's Cassini spacecraft has successfully completed its closest flyby...

Cassini to probe icy moon Rhea for clues to Saturn rings

— Saturn's icy moon Rhea might seem a strange place to look for clues to understanding the vast majestic rings encircling Saturn. But that's what NASA's Cassini spacecraft plans to do on its next flyby of Rhea.

At closest approach, Cassini will pass within about 69 kilometers (43 miles) of the surface at 4:53 AM UTC on Tuesday, Jan. 11, which is 10:53 PM Pacific Time on Monday, Jan. 10. This flyby is the closest...

— Saturn's icy moon Rhea might seem a strange place to look for clues to...

Cassini marks holidays with dramatic views of Saturn's moon Rhea

— Newly released for the holidays, images of Saturn's second largest moon Rhea obtained by NASA's Cassini spacecraft show dramatic views of fractures cutting through craters on the moon's surface, revealing a history of tectonic rumbling. The images are among the highest-resolution views ever obtained of Rhea.

The images, captured on flybys on Nov. 21, 2009 and March 2, 2010, can be found at http://www.nasa.gov/cassini...

— Newly released for the holidays, images of Saturn's second...

Cassini finishes sleigh ride by Saturn's icy moons

— On the heels of a successful close flyby of Saturn's moon Enceladus, NASA's Cassini spacecraft is returning images of Enceladus and the nearby moon Dione.

Several pictures show Enceladus backlit, with the dark outline of the moon crowned by glowing jets from the south polar region. The images show several separate jets, or sets of jets, emanating from the fissures known as "tiger stripes." Scientists will use the...

— On the heels of a successful close flyby of Saturn's moon...

Hot plasma explosions inflate Saturn's magnetic field

— A new analysis based on data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft finds a causal link between mysterious, periodic signals from Saturn's magnetic field and explosions of hot ionized gas, known as plasma, around the planet.

Scientists have found that enormous clouds of plasma periodically bloom around Saturn and move around the planet like an unbalanced load of laundry on spin cycle. The movement of this hot plasma...

— A new analysis based on data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft finds a...

Cassini spots potential ice volcanoes on Saturn's moon Titan

— NASA's Cassini spacecraft has found possible ice volcanoes on Saturn's moon Titan that are similar in shape to those on Earth that spew molten rock.

Topography and surface composition data have enabled scientists to make the best case yet in the outer solar system for an Earth-like volcano landform that erupts in ice. The results were presented at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.

"When we look...

— NASA's Cassini spacecraft has found possible ice volcanoes on...

Cassini returns images of bright jets at Saturn's moon Enceladus

— NASA's Cassini spacecraft successfully dipped near the surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus on Nov. 30. Though Cassini's closest approach took it to within about 48 kilometers (30 miles) of the moon's northern hemisphere, the spacecraft also captured shadowy images of the tortured south polar terrain and the brilliant jets that spray out from it.

Many of the raw images feature darkened terrain because winter has...

— NASA's Cassini spacecraft successfully dipped near the surface of...

Cassini finds warm cracks on Saturn's moon Enceladus

— New images and data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft give scientists a unique Saturn-lit view of active fissures through the south polar region of Saturn's moon Enceladus. They reveal a more complicated web of warm fractures than previously thought.

Scientists working jointly with Cassini's composite infrared spectrometer and its high-resolution imaging camera have constructed the highest-resolution heat intensity maps...

— New images and data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft give...

Thin air: Oxygen atmosphere found on Saturn's moon Rhea

— NASA's Cassini spacecraft has detected a very tenuous atmosphere known as an exosphere, infused with oxygen and carbon dioxide around Saturn's icy moon Rhea. This is the first time a spacecraft has directly captured molecules of an oxygen atmosphere -- albeit a very thin one -- at a world other than Earth.

The oxygen appears to arise when Saturn's magnetic field rotates over Rhea. Energetic particles trapped in the...

— NASA's Cassini spacecraft has detected a very tenuous atmosphere...

Cassini back to normal, ready for Enceladus

— NASA's Cassini spacecraft resumed normal operations Nov. 24. All science instruments have been turned back on, the spacecraft is properly configured and Cassini is in good health. Mission managers expect to get a full stream of data during next week's flyby of the Saturnian moon Enceladus.

Cassini went into safe mode on Nov. 2, when one bit flipped in the onboard command and data subsystem computer. The bit flip...

— NASA's Cassini spacecraft resumed normal operations Nov. 24. All...