Dione in colour

Dione in colour

July 19, 2011  Colour im­age of Sat­urn's moon Dione ob­tained on 11 Oc­to­ber 2005. In this im­age, Sat­urn can be seen in blue and gold be­hind Dione. The hor­i­zon­tal stripes in the low­er half of Sat­urn's rings are clear­ly seen. At the time the im­age was tak­en, Cassi­ni was near­ly lev­el with Sat­urn's rings. Blue, green and in­frared spec­tral fil­ters were used to ob­tain this im­age. It was tak­en with the Wide Field Cam­era on board the Cassi­ni space­craft at a dis­tance of ap­prox­i­mate­ly 39,000 kilo­me­tres from Dione. The im­age res­o­lu­tion is about two kilo­me­tres per pix­el.

Image 1/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Titan and Epimetheus

Ti­tan and Epimetheus

July 19, 2011  Cassi­ni de­liv­ers this stun­ning vista show­ing small, bat­tered Epimetheus and smog-en­shroud­ed Ti­tan, with Sat­urn's A and F rings stretch­ing across the scene. The colour in­for­ma­tion in the coloured view is com­plete­ly ar­ti­fi­cial: it is de­rived from red, green and blue im­ages tak­en at near­ly the same time and phase an­gle as the clear fil­ter im­age. This colour in­for­ma­tion was over­laid on­to the pre­vi­ous­ly re­leased clear fil­ter view in or­der to ap­prox­i­mate the scene as it might ap­pear to the hu­man eye.

Image 2/18, Credit: NASA/JPL /University of Arizona/Space Science Institute
The rings - Saturn's trademark

The rings - Sat­urn's trade­mark

July 19, 2011  The rings -Sat­urn's trade­mark. The beau­ti­ful and mys­te­ri­ous rings of Sat­urn are one of the most strik­ing phe­nom­e­na in our So­lar Sys­tem. They have a di­am­e­ter of near­ly 500,000 kilo­me­tres and are al­so ex­treme­ly thin. Bil­lions of swirling ice and rock par­ti­cles or­bit the plan­et at great speed, form­ing an in­tri­cate pat­tern. The im­age shows a bright band of the iso­lat­ed C-rings (in­side) and the B-rings to the left. Sci­en­tists still don't know the age or ori­gin of the rings but the Cassi­ni mis­sion at least pro­vid­ed an in­sight. On its ar­rival in Ju­ly 2004, the space­craft trans­mit­ted valu­able da­ta. High-res­o­lu­tion im­ages were ob­tained dur­ing its pass through the ring plane, a cross-sec­tion­al pro­file was made us­ing ul­tra­vi­o­let and in­frared mea­sure­ments and in­frared im­ages were ob­tained. Cassi­ni dis­cov­ered pre­vi­ous­ly un­known small­er rings and moons in the sin­gle ring near­by. The rings are com­posed main­ly of wa­ter ice, rocks and dust, whose main in­gre­di­ents are min­er­al sil­i­cates. With the spec­trom­e­ter VIMS (Vis­i­ble and In­frared Map­ping Spec­trom­e­ter), traces of iron were de­tect­ed. This cor­re­sponds to the ma­te­ri­al, present in the dark ar­eas of the moons Phoebe and Ia­pe­tus; VIMS al­so found ev­i­dence of or­gan­ic car­bon-ni­tro­gen com­pounds in the rings.

Image 3/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Saturn’s cloud cover with a shadow cast by the rings

Sat­urn’s cloud cov­er with a shad­ow cast by the rings

July 19, 2011  This im­age shows part of Sat­urn’s north­ern hemi­sphere in false colour. This brings out the sep­a­rate bands and swirls of clouds in the at­mo­sphere of the high north­ern lat­i­tudes of the gas plan­et more clear­ly. It al­so shows that with re­gard to their dy­nam­ics and to the chem­i­cal com­po­si­tion of Sat­urn’s up­per at­mo­sphere, the north­ern lat­i­tudes are marked­ly dif­fer­ent from the rather more monotonous equa­to­ri­al zone, which ap­pears in bright, bluish tones in the low­er right quad­rant of the im­age. In the low­er left quad­rant you can see Sat­urn’s in­ner­most rings as very thin lines; as the Sun is shin­ing oblique­ly from be­neath the ring plane, the shad­ows of the rings are pro­ject­ed on­to Sat­urn’s cloud cov­er as clear-cut lines. The im­age was record­ed us­ing Cassi­ni’s Imag­ing Sci­ence Sub­sys­tem (ISS) from an an­gle of 52 de­grees above the ring plane and at a dis­tance of 1.5 mil­lion kilo­me­tres.

Image 4/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute


July 19, 2011  Ia­pe­tus is one of Sat­urn’s most mys­te­ri­ous moons: this icy moon with a di­am­e­ter of 1468 kilo­me­tres presents the ob­serv­er with two hemi­spheres that have de­vel­oped in com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent ways. The hemi­sphere fac­ing the op­po­site di­rec­tion of the moon’s or­bit around Sat­urn, the so-called “trail­ing side”, as well as the po­lar ar­eas, con­sist of white ice and re­flect the light of the Sun al­most 100 per­cent; on the sur­face of the hemi­sphere fac­ing the di­rec­tion of or­bit, the so-called “lead­ing side”, how­ev­er, car­bon com­pounds cov­er the ice – cyanide and oth­er car­bon com­pounds make the sur­face as black as tar. This false-colour im­age shows the first mo­sa­ic of high-res­o­lu­tion im­age da­ta from bright side of Ia­pe­tus; it con­sists of 60 sep­a­rate im­ages, which were record­ed in Septem­ber 2007 from a dis­tance of 73 000 kilo­me­tres. This fly­by had been planned in great de­tail by staff mem­bers of the Freie Uni­ver­sität Berlin and DLR. The tran­si­tion zone be­tween both ex­tremes is es­pe­cial­ly in­ter­est­ing. De­ci­sive ex­plana­to­ry in­for­ma­tion about the cause of Ia­pe­tus’ strange char­ac­ter­is­tics has been pro­vid­ed not on­ly by the im­age da­ta from Cassi­ni, but al­so through ob­ser­va­tions per­formed with NASA’s Hub­ble Space Tele­scope. Be­yond the or­bit of Ia­pe­tus, Sat­urn is sur­round­ed by a gi­ant torus of tiny, dark dust par­ti­cles, in­clined at 27 de­grees to the equa­tor and the main ring plane. The par­ti­cles orig­i­nate from im­pacts on the small moons of Sat­urn that or­bit fur­ther out than Ia­pe­tus, such as Phoebe, whose or­bit lies in the mid­dle of the torus. The den­si­ty of the par­ti­cles is ex­treme­ly low, yet high enough for some of the small par­ti­cles that mi­grate to­wards the in­te­ri­or of the Sat­urn sys­tem are at­tract­ed by the lead­ing side of Ia­pe­tus and, over a long pe­ri­od­of time, have been col­lect­ed and com­pact­ed in­to a thin, black lay­er.

Image 5/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute


July 19, 2011  At 5150 kilo­me­tres across, Ti­tan is the sec­ond largest moon in the So­lar Sys­tem and one of the most mys­te­ri­ous. An at­mo­sphere sur­rounds many plan­ets. Ti­tan, how­ev­er, is the on­ly moon in the So­lar Sys­tem with a sig­nif­i­cant gaseous en­ve­lope. The at­mo­sphere is a brown­ish-or­ange and so dense that the moon’s sur­face can­not be seen at vis­i­ble light wave­lengths. On­ly by us­ing what are known as 'at­mo­spher­ic win­dows' – nar­row wave­length bands in the near and mid­dle in­frared is anal­y­sis of the sur­face pos­si­ble. This tech­nique is used by the in­frared spec­trom­e­ter VIMS (Vis­i­ble and In­frared Map­ping Spec­trom­e­ter) on the Cassi­ni space probe, which has been analysing the Sat­ur­ni­an sys­tem since Ju­ly 2004. Be­cause of the dis­tance of Ti­tan from the Sun, its sur­face tem­per­a­ture is about mi­nus 180 de­grees Cel­sius. The pic­ture shows a su­per­po­si­tion of VIMS im­ages of Ti­tan in three dif­fer­ent in­frared wave­lengths: 1.3 mi­crons (thou­sandths of a mil­lime­tre, blue),) 2 mi­crons (green) and 5 mi­crons (red). The cir­cu­lar struc­ture in the mid­dle is prob­a­bly an old­er im­pact basin. Ti­tan's equa­to­ri­al lat­i­tudes are most like­ly dry ar­eas, with­out ex­ten­sive 'wa­ter'. The nu­mer­ous liq­uid bod­ies in the north­ern hemi­sphere, one of which is de­scribed in this web ar­ti­cle, the Krak­en Mare, are prob­a­bly part of an ac­tive flu­id cir­cu­la­tion. These lakes are fed by liq­uid hy­dro­car­bons that a drainage sys­tem car­ries out of the sur­round­ing val­leys. The drainage sys­tem, in turn, is fed by methane and ethane pre­cip­i­ta­tion. Many sci­en­tists sus­pect that the ni­tro­gen at­mo­sphere of Ti­tan ex­hibits strong sim­i­lar­i­ties with Earth's prim­i­tive at­mo­sphere.

Image 6/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
Titan at 10 kilometres

Ti­tan at 10 kilo­me­tres

July 19, 2011  This im­age was ob­tained by as­sem­bling 30 frames cap­tured with the Eu­ro­pean Huy­gens probe dur­ing its de­scent through Ti­tan's at­mo­sphere. They were made from al­ti­tudes be­tween 13 and eight kilo­me­tres, as the space­craft ap­proached its land­ing site. The im­ages have a res­o­lu­tion of about 20 me­tres per pix­el and rep­re­sent an area of about 30 kilo­me­tres. Dur­ing the de­scent phase through Ti­tan's at­mo­sphere, the Huy­gens probe dropped al­most ver­ti­cal­ly down­ward with a speed of about five me­ters per sec­ond. Huy­gens drift­ed hor­i­zon­tal­ly at a speed of about one me­tre per sec­ond.

Image 7/18, Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
Saturn and Rhea

Sat­urn and Rhea

July 19, 2011  This im­age of Sat­urn (in the fore­ground) and Rheawas ob­tained on 3 Febru­ary 2006 with a cam­era on­board the Cassi­ni space­craft from about 4.1 mil­lion kilo­me­tres from Sat­urn and 4.6 mil­lion kilo­me­tres from Sat­urn's moon Rhea.

Image 8/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Ice volcanoes on Enceladus

Ice vol­ca­noes on Ence­ladus

August 5, 2011  At on­ly 500 kilo­me­tres in di­am­e­ter, the Sat­ur­ni­an moon Ence­ladus does not have suf­fi­cient mass to al­low enough heat to be gen­er­at­ed in its in­te­ri­or to melt the ice in its man­tle. How­ev­er, the Cassi­ni space­craft dis­cov­ered fis­sures on this small icy moon that eject hun­dred-kilo­me­tre high foun­tains of wa­ter in­to the vac­u­um of space. The droplets freeze im­me­di­ate­ly and most fall back on­to the icy sur­face, but some al­so feed Sat­urn’s out­er rings. Ence­ladus ap­pears to gain enough en­er­gy to pro­duce reser­voirs of melt­ed ice un­der its icy crust from the ac­tion of tidal forces ex­ert­ed by Sat­urn, its 120,000-kilo­me­tre di­am­e­ter gas gi­ant host plan­et. Un­der high pres­sure, this wa­ter is dis­charged in­to space through promi­nent sys­tems of fis­sures at the South Pole – a form of vol­canic ac­tiv­i­ty re­ferred to as ice vol­can­ism or cry­o­vol­can­ism, as op­posed to the mag­mat­ic vol­can­ism seen on Earth.

Image 9/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Saturn rings

Sat­urn rings

August 5, 2011  Im­age of Sat­urn's rings. For the first time we are able to see the B-ring, which had, un­til now, elud­ed the space­craft's view. The struc­ture of the B-ring is great­ly dis­tin­guish­able from its two neigh­bors, the A and C-ring. This pho­to­graph of Sat­urn's rings was ob­tained on 3 May 2005, when the Cassi­ni space­craft was vis­i­ble from the Earth be­hind Sat­urn's rings. Cassi­ni sent ra­dio sig­nals to Earth through the ring sys­tem. The re­searchers were then able to mea­sure how strong­ly the sig­nal was af­fect­ed as it passed through the rings. The denser a ring is, the weak­er the re­ceived sig­nal. This ex­per­i­ment will al­low sci­en­tists to de­ter­mine the dis­tri­bu­tion of ring ma­te­ri­al and the size of the par­ti­cles in the rings. The pur­ple ar­eas in­di­cate re­gions of the record­ing, in which there are no par­ti­cles small­er than five cen­time­tres. The green and blue ar­eas in­di­cate re­gions con­tain­ing par­ti­cles small­er than five and one cen­time­tre. The wide, white area near the cen­tre is the dens­est re­gion of the B ring. The ori­gin of Sat­urn's ring sys­tem is still a mys­tery. It con­sists of thou­sands of in­di­vid­u­al rings. Mea­sured from one side to the oth­er, the ring sys­tem is wider than the dis­tance be­tween Earth and Moon. The sev­en main rings of Sat­urn are named in or­der of dis­cov­ery and not by their dis­tance to the plan­et. Start­ing from Sat­urn, they are re­ferred to as D, C, B, A, F, G and E rings.

Image 10/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Titan's upper atmosphere in ultraviolet

Ti­tan's up­per at­mo­sphere in ul­tra­vi­o­let

February 22, 2011  Ti­tan's up­per at­mo­sphere in ul­tra­vi­o­let. Sev­er­al dust lay­ers are eas­i­ly rec­og­niz­able.

Image 11/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Jupiter's South Pole

Jupiter's South Pole

August 5, 2011  This coloured cylin­dri­cal map of Jupiter's South Pole was con­struct­ed from im­ages tak­en by the nar­row-an­gle cam­era on­board NASA's Cassi­ni space­craft on 11 and 12 De­cem­ber 2000, as the space­craft neared Jupiter dur­ing its fly­by of the gi­ant plan­et. Cassi­ni was on its way to Sat­urn. They are the most de­tailed glob­al colour maps of Jupiter ev­er pro­duced. The small­est vis­i­ble fea­tures are about 120 kilo­me­tres across. The map is com­posed of 36 im­ages. Al­though the raw im­ages are in just two colours, 750 nanome­tres (near-in­frared) and 451 nanome­tres (blue), the map's colours are close to those the hu­man eye would see when gaz­ing at Jupiter. The maps show a va­ri­ety of colour­ful cloud fea­tures, in­clud­ing par­al­lel red­dish-brown and white bands, the Great Red Spot, chaot­ic re­gions with many small vor­tices. Many clouds ap­pear in streaks and waves due to con­tin­u­al stretch­ing and fold­ing by Jupiter's winds and tur­bu­lence.

Image 12/18, Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Saturn's subtle spectrum

Sat­urn's sub­tle spec­trum

August 5, 2011  Dreamy colours rang­ing from pale rose to but­ter­scotch to sap­phire give this ut­ter­ly in­hos­pitable gas plan­et a ro­man­tic ap­peal. Shad­ows of the rings ca­ress the north­ern lat­i­tudes whose blue colour is pre­sumed to be a sea­son­al ef­fect. Ence­ladus (505 kilo­me­ters across) hugs the ring­plane right of cen­ter. Im­ages tak­en us­ing red, green and blue spec­tral fil­ters were com­bined to cre­ate this colour view, which ap­prox­i­mates what the hu­man eye would see. The im­ages were tak­en with the Cassi­ni space­craft wide-an­gle cam­era on 16 March, 2006 at a dis­tance of ap­prox­i­mate­ly 2.1 mil­lion kilo­me­ters from Sat­urn. Im­age scale is 120 kilo­me­ters per pix­el on Sat­urn.

Image 13/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Saturn's glowing F-ring

Sat­urn's glow­ing F-ring

August 5, 2011  The glow­ing arc of light in this im­age is the icy F-ring. Sat­urn's moon Rhea (1528 kilo­me­ters across) can be seen in the back­ground, il­lu­mi­nat­ed by the re­flect­ed light of both Sat­urn and its rings. On­ly the nar­row strip of light at the low­er edge of the moon ar­rives di­rect­ly from the Sun. This pic­ture was tak­en on 30 Oc­to­ber 2005 by the nar­row-an­gle cam­era on­board Cassi­ni from a dis­tance of ap­prox­i­mate­ly 689 000 kilo­me­tres. The res­o­lu­tion of the im­age is about four kilo­me­tres per pix­el.

Image 14/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Surface of Saturn's moon Rhea

Sur­face of Sat­urn's moon Rhea

August 5, 2011  The sur­face of Sat­urn's sec­ond-largest moon Rhea con­sists pre­dom­i­nant­ly of wa­ter ice and is marked by count­less im­pact craters. One re­mark­ably bright, prob­a­bly younger crater is one of the goals for the cam­era and the spec­trom­e­ter dur­ing the Cassi­ni fly-by on 27 Novem­ber 2005.

Image 15/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Saturn's cloud lanes

Sat­urn's cloud lanes

August 5, 2011  The Cassi­ni space­craft cap­tures the rip­ples, loops and storms that swirl in Sat­urn's east-west flow­ing cloud bands. The im­age was tak­en with the Cassi­ni space­craft wide-an­gle cam­era us­ing a spec­tral fil­ter sen­si­tive to wave­lengths of in­frared light cen­tered at 728 nanome­tres. The view was ob­tained on 13 De­cem­ber 2006 at a dis­tance of ap­prox­i­mate­ly 775,000 kilo­me­tres from Sat­urn. Im­age scale is 43 kilo­me­tres per pix­el.

Image 16/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute


August 5, 2011  On 17 Febru­ary 2005, Cassi­ni per­formed its first close fly­by of Sat­urn's moon Ence­ladus at a dis­tance of about 1180 kilo­me­tres, ob­tain­ing this im­age of the moon's sur­face. Ence­ladus is one of the most re­flec­tive ob­jects in our So­lar Sys­tem; its sur­face is rem­i­nis­cent of fresh­ly fall­en snow. Cassi­ni came clos­er to Ence­ladus than any oth­er space­craft. This im­age shows a por­tion of the sur­face of Sat­urn's moon Ence­ladus. It was tak­en from a dis­tance of about 29,640 kilo­me­tres with the nar­row an­gle cam­era on Cassi­ni's Imag­ing Sci­ence Sub­sys­tem. The spa­tial res­o­lu­tion of the im­age is 170 me­tres per pix­el.

Image 17/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Saturn in colour

Sat­urn in colour

August 5, 2011  Sat­urn in colour, pho­tographed on 27 March 2004 with JPL's cam­era sys­tem on board the Cassi­ni space­craft.

Image 18/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Cassini-Huygens: A journey to Saturn and its moons.

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