22Dec2012

Saturn Shows Its Stuff.

No, this isn’t a computer generated image. It’s a “true to life” image of Saturn taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft as it passed into Saturn’s shadow.  Its unlike anything ever seen before.

With the cameras turned towards Saturn and the Sun, this incredible image highlights a view of the planet and the rings being backlit. Not only do we get this glorious vision that can never be seen from Earth, we also get a special, very-high phase viewing geometry which allows scientists to study the rings and atmosphere not usually seen at a lower phase.

A natural colour view of the planet Saturn dur...

A natural colour view of the planet Saturn during equinox. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why is this image so precious and rare? The reason is because the Sun is positioned behind the planet. 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-The Pale Blue Dot” (See PIA08329.)

In that image, Earth was seen, making it the most popular Cassini image taken to date. However, you won’t see Earth in this image… It’s hiding behind the Ring King.

Take note of what you see here and you’ll discover two of Saturn’s satellites – Enceladus and Tethys. You’ll catch the Saturnian moons to the left of the planet where Enceladus appears closest to the ring system. Tethys is positioned below and to the left. This view looks toward the non-illuminated side of the rings from about 19 degrees below the ring plane.

“Of all the many glorious images we have received from Saturn, none are more strikingly unusual than those taken from Saturn’s shadow,” said Carolyn Porco, Cassini’s imaging team lead based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “They unveil a rare splendor seldom seen anywhere else in our solar system.”

Original Story Source: CICLOPS Mission News Release. Reported by Tammy Plotner for “Dave Reneke’s World of Space and Astronomy News”.

 

Cassini Spots Mini Nile River on Saturn Moon

http://cdn.sci-news.com/images/2012/12/image_781-384x217.jpg

A miniature extraterrestrial version of the Nile River has been spotted on the largest moon of Saturn by ESA’s Cassini spacecraft.

 Scientists with NASA’s Cassini mission have spotted what appears to be a miniature, extraterrestrial likeness of Earth’s Nile River: a river valley on Saturn’s moon Titan that stretches more than 200 miles (400 kilometers) from its “headwaters” to a large sea. It is the first time images have revealed a river system this vast and in such high resolution anywhere other than Earth.

Scientists deduce that the river, which is in Titan’s north polar region, is filled with liquid hydrocarbons because it appears dark along its entire length in the high-resolution radar image, indicating a smooth surface.

“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,” said Jani Radebaugh, a Cassini radar team associate at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

“Such faults – fractures in Titan’s bedrock – may not imply plate tectonics, like on Earth, but still lead to the opening of basins and perhaps to the formation of the giant seas themselves.”

Titan is the only other world we know of that has stable liquid on its surface. While Earth’s hydrologic cycle relies on water, Titan’s equivalent cycle involves hydrocarbons such as ethane and methane.

In Titan’s equatorial regions, images from Cassini’s visible-light cameras in late 2010 revealed regions that darkened due to recent rainfall. Cassini’s visual and infrared mapping spectrometer confirmed liquid ethane at a lake in Titan’s southern hemisphere known as Ontario Lacus in 2008.

“Titan is the only place we’ve found besides Earth that has a liquid in continuous movement on its surface,” said Steve Wall, the radar deputy team lead, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “This picture gives us a snapshot of a world in motion.

Rain falls, and rivers move that rain to lakes and seas, where evaporation starts the cycle all over again. On Earth, the liquid is water; on Titan, it’s methane; but on both it affects most everything that happens.”

The radar image here was taken on Sept. 26, 2012. It shows Titan’s north polar region, where the river valley flows into Kraken Mare, a sea that is, in terms of size, between the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean Sea on Earth.

The real Nile River stretches about 4,100 miles (6,700 kilometers). The processes that led to the formation of Earth’s Nile are complex, but involve faulting in some regions.Source; SpaceDaily

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