Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cassini's Highlights

Cassini is a spaceship orbiting around Saturn sine 2004 and at least until 2017. Cassini left earth in October 1997 with the European Space Agency's Huygens probe. The probe was equipped with instruments to study Titan, Saturn's largest moon. It landed on Titan's surface on Jan. 14, 2005, and returned spectacular results. Cassini finished its primary mission but since the spaceship is functional the missions was extended at least until 2017.
This article will present several of Cassini's best photos. There are thousands of greats photo and new are acquired every day. for some of the photo it seems like an artist photographer aimed the spaceship's cameras to get the composition. Enjoy the results and keep checking for great new Cassini's photos.
The first photo will give a full portrait of Saturn. This is an old photo from 2005. This is not a single photo, it is a mosaic of 126 taken over 2 hours from 6.3 million km (4 million miles). A full resolution version of this photo is here

Saturn (2005): Cassini NASA JPL
Saturn (2005): Cassini NASA JPL
Saturn rings cut Titan just like Chinese's chop-sticks. Below the smaller moon Mimas. Only the edge of the rings is visible. the center of the rings is in Saturn's shadow!


Saturn's rings, Titan and Mimas
Saturn's rings, Titan and Mimas. Credit: NASA
This is an amazing photo showing the dwarf moon Daphnis (Its diameter is only 8km) which orbits in the ring. The small gravitational effects of the little moon on the rings is quite visible!

Daphnis between Saturn's rings NASA JPL
Daphnis between Saturn's rings NASA JPL
The next photo shows the shadow of Titan (diameter: 5150km ) on Saturn. If you happen to be in that shadow you would see a total solar eclipse. The rings face the sun, so their shadow looks very thin.
Titan's shadow on Saturn
Titan's shadow on Saturn NASA JPL
Small moon Pan travels between the rings in the Enkce gap. You will need to take a good look at the photo. Pan is not the moon in the bottom of it (the moon at the bottom is Janus) . It is in the middle and it shed a long shadow over the rings.

Pan shadow on Saturn's rings
Pan shadow on Saturn's rings NASA JPL
Now for a game of who is who. Two moons (Dione and Rhea) are attache to each other? well no, the distance between the moons is 500,000km, but the timing makes them looks like they go one over another
Dione and Rhea together
Dione and Rhea together NASA JPL

There are also videos (Cassini's does not have a video camera, the video was created from a series of photos). This video shows Saturn's Aurora in Infrared light.



Another strange look on Saturn's north pole
Auroras over Saturn
Auroras over Saturn NASA JPL

A closeup of Titan. From time to time, Cassini's has opportunities for flybys, a very close approaches to Saturn's moons from time to time.
Clouds on titan. NASA JPL
Clouds on titan. NASA JPL

What happened to Hyperion that gave it this unusual shape?

Hyperion. NASA JPL
Hyperion. NASA JPL

The moon Enceladus is another strange moon. It has lots of activity on it, including geysers which erupts jet streams to the space.

Saturn's moon Enceladus
Saturn's moon Enceladus

 Surface of Enceladus
Surface of Enceladus
Surface of Enceladus

Saturn's rings are very thin. Mostly their thickness is just 10 meter! but from time to time there are mountains in the rings. look for them in the next photo and see that these mountains (up to 2500 meters) cast long shades on the rings' plane)

Saturn's rings
Saturn's rings
Saturn's rings are dynamic. The ring are composote from millions small particles and they change constantly.





Dione from 115,000 km
Dione from 115,000 km

There are more great photos and more will come in the future. All photos are taken from CICLOPS - Cassini Imaging Central Labortary for Operations
Which includes photos from the last decade and even before Cassini arrived Saturn (take a look for Jupiter photos!)


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