In a paper published in Nature, available online now here, an international team of astronomers, utilizing the data from the Cassini spacecraft between 2004 and 2007, announce their conclusions about the nature of the clouds of Titan, Saturn’s largest and most interesting moon. These astronomers conclude that the clouds on Titan are the result of condensation of methane and ethane. Here on Earth, our clouds result from the condensation of water vapor. The clouds on Titan are driven around the moon by global atmospheric circulation. These astronomers have developed a global circulation model for Titan, similar to the global circulation models developed for Earth.
In a press release today, available online here, based upon a paper which appeared in the latest issue of Nature by Cassini team members Dr. Postberg and others, it was announced that the Cassini spacecraft has discovered evidence of “sodium salts in E-Ring ice grains” which can be linked to “an ocean below the surface of Enceladus.” This would mean that similar to Jupiter’s Europa which is suspected to have a subsurface ocean of water, Enceladus too may have a subsurface ocean of water, beneath its own frozen surface.
It may be solstice plus one here, but today, the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations (CICLOPS) released a number of new images of Saturn and its moons, all approaching Saturn’s equinox. The image depicted here is the eclipse of Mimas by Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Other fascinating images made available today include multiple images of the shadows of Mimas and Tethys against Saturn’s rings. To see these images and learn more about the latest findings from the Cassini spacecraft go online here.
Today in the journal Science, astronomers have released data and information derived from the Cassini spacecraft related to the detailed shape and size of Saturn’s moon Titan. Remember that Titan has a thick atmosphere, in fact it’s one bar, or the same atmospheric pressure as exists on the surface of the Earth at sea level. It’s surface is completely obscured from optical observations, so these results combine visible images with special radar images called synthetic aperture radar (SAR). Using these data, astronomers can conclude that Titan has some oblateness, that is, it has an equatorial bulge. Read more about the shape of Titan online now here. NOTE: This is a subscription service.
While Earth had its spring equinox last Friday, 20 March 2009, the planet Saturn is just approaching its spring equinox, and this time we have pictures. This morning, the NASA/JPL and the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory at Boulder, Colorado, released still images and videos made from images taken by the Cassini spacecraft at Saturn. Spring on Saturn lasts a lot longer, as Saturn takes nearly 30 years to orbit the Sun. Thus some would say that “spring” on Saturn lasts for over 7 years. Anyhow, unique images have been released including a pseudo-animation. Learn more about the images taken by Cassini at Saturn’s equinox either here or here.
The Cassini Imaging Team of NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn and Titan, announced today that they have evidence of the 61st moon of Saturn. The first evidence was actually an image in August of 2008, but confirming evidence from February 2009 prompted the group to register the discovery with the IAU (Internation Astronomical Union). The moon was discovered within the region of the so-called G-ring of Saturn. Astronomers believe that this little moon helps them explain why the G-ring can stay in formation. Learn more about the latest member of our solar system online now at http://ciclops.org/view.php?id=5496
The Cassini spacecraft has been buzzing about Saturn for about four years now, providing astronomers with some of the most spectacular views of the ringed planet and its moons. See the latest pictures released yesterday online at http://ciclops.org/view_event/99/A_Year_of_Splendor The year 2009 will bring us more great images and their analysis will bring us a better understanding of the second largest planet in our Solar System. Happy New Year!
In an article published today in the journal Nature, scientists revealed that an analysis of spectra, taken by the Cassini spacecraft during a stellar occultation last October, was indicative of much higher water concentrations than previously suspected. Recall that spectral lines can tell scientists about the chemical composition of the gas between a source and the observer. With such a concentration as determined by this analysis, there may be a large pool of water beneath the surface of Enceladus, similar to what is suspected for Jupiter’s moon Europa. Read more about these findings online at http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v456/n7221/abs/nature07542.html
Utilizing data from the NASA Cassini spacecraft’s Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) taken between October 2006 and June 2007, astronomers have produced images of Saturn’s auroral rings in the infrared of the highest resolution to date and equivalent in resolution to Hubble Space Telescope images in the ultraviolet region of the spectrum. Combining these IR and UV images, astronomers have discovered that a “bright polar aurora appears to be unique to Saturn and is unexpected on the basis” of our current models for the production of auroral rings. For more information see the article published yesterday in the journal Nature, online at http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v456/n7219/abs/nature07440.html
On the first of November, the Cassini Imaging team released the latest images of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, taken by the Cassini spacecraft on the 31st of October. The resolution of these images is just 12 meters. Another plume jet source was identified in these images. To see the images and learn more check out