Category Archives: Cassini

Space dust indicates ancient origin for Saturn’s rings

Mosaic image showing Saturn backlit by the Sun, one of the most beautiful photographs sent back by Cassini. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Mosaic image showing Saturn backlit by the Sun, one of the most beautiful photographs sent back by Cassini. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The origin of Saturn’s rings has been one of the most interesting puzzles in planetary science, and now new data from the Cassini spacecraft is helping to fill in the pieces, showing that the majestic ring system is very ancient, probably as old as Saturn itself.

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Behold Enceladus: Cassini maps 101 geysers on tiny Saturn moon

The geysers at the south pole of Enceladus, as seen by the Cassini spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

The geysers at the south pole of Enceladus, as seen by the Cassini spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

Saturn’s moon Enceladus is already known as one of the most intriguing places in our solar system, and now new findings from the Cassini spacecraft have been published, which will only add to our fascination with this little world.

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Titan’s hidden ocean might be as salty as the Dead Sea

Illustration of what Titan’s interior is thought to look like, with a rigid ice shell above the salty water ocean below. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Illustration of what Titan’s interior is thought to look like, with a rigid ice shell above the salty water ocean below. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Saturn’s moon Titan is known for its methane seas, lakes, and rivers; surprisingly Earth-like in appearance yet distinctly alien at the same time. But there is also evidence for another ocean, this one of water, below the surface. Little is known about this hidden watery world, but now new results suggest it is likely very salty – as much as the Dead Sea on Earth.

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Cassini at Saturn: 10 years of amazing planetary science and more to come

Mosaic image showing Saturn backlit by the Sun, one of the most beautiful and surreal photographs sent back by Cassini. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Mosaic image showing Saturn backlit by the Sun, one of the most beautiful and surreal photographs sent back by Cassini. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The Cassini mission to Saturn has been one of the most successful and exciting in all of space exploration history. That amazing spacecraft is now celebrating its 10th anniversary today orbiting the ringed planet, after having revolutionized our understanding of the Saturnian system, which is like another entire smaller-scale solar system. But there is still much more to come!

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What is this ‘Magic Island’ that appeared on Titan?

Before and after images showing the appearance of "Magic Island" in Ligeia Mare on Titan. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Cornell

Before and after images showing the appearance of “Magic Island” in Ligeia Mare on Titan. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Cornell

Titan is a complex world, reminiscent of our own planet in many ways, with mountains, seas, lakes, rivers and rain. Albeit the liquid on this super-cold moon is methane/ethane instead of water, but the visual similarities are striking. Just how geologically active Titan might be in other ways however isn’t really known yet, but a new discovery might provide some clues. What looks like a new small “island“ has appeared in one of the hydrocarbon seas, where it wasn’t before. Is it really an island, or something else?

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Looking at Uranus: Cassini spacecraft photographs another ‘pale blue dot’

Uranus appears as a tiny blue dot in the upper left of this image from the Cassini spacecraft; Saturn's A and F rings are partially visible in the bottom of the image. Click for larger version. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Uranus appears as a tiny blue dot in the upper left of this image from the Cassini spacecraft; Saturn’s A and F rings are partially visible in the middle and bottom of the image. Click for larger version. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

The Cassini spacecraft, still in orbit around Saturn, has taken another “wow” photograph of something other than the ringed giant planet – the much more distant ice giant planet Uranus!

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Has Cassini seen the birth of a new Saturnian moon?

Image from the Cassini spacecraft showing the disturbances along the edge of Saturn's A ring which are thought to be caused by the formation of a new moon. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Image from the Cassini spacecraft showing the disturbances along the edge of Saturn’s A ring which are thought to be caused by the formation of a new moon. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Saturn has dozens of moons, ranging from the largest, Titan, which is larger than our own Moon, to small asteroid-sized objects. Now it seems that the Cassini spacecraft may have witnessed the formation of yet another moon, actually seeing the process as it is happening.

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Image Gallery: Saturn and Enceladus

Saturn with its rings seen edge-on and tiny Enceladus can be seen just in front of the rings. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Saturn with its rings seen edge-on and tiny Enceladus can be seen just in front of the rings. Click for larger version. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

This image of Saturn from the Cassini spacecraft shows the planet with its rings edge-on, as a thin vertical line, against the massive gas giant planet itself. The shadows from the rings are on the left side of the planet, and if you look closely, the tiny watery moon Enceladus can be seen just in front of the rings as a dark dot. A very surreal view of this beautiful world.

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Image Gallery: the plumes of Enceladus

The water vapour plumes of Enceladus. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / 2di7 & titanio44 (Alive Universe Images)

The water vapour plumes of Enceladus. Click for larger view. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / 2di7 & titanio44 (Alive Universe Images)

An amazing view of the water vapour plumes erupting from the “tiger stripe” fissures at the south pole of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. The plumes have been sampled and analzyed by the Cassini spacecraft and found to contain water vapour, ice particles, salts and organics. As just reported also, there is now evidence for a subsurface water ocean beneath the ice in this area as well. Additional enhancement and processing by 2di7 & titanio44 of Alive Universe Images.

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The sea of Enceladus: Cassini confirms underground ocean on Saturn’s geyser moon

Diagram of what the interior of Enceladus is now thought to look like, with the icy outer shell, liquid water ocean, and inner rocky core. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Diagram of what the interior of Enceladus is now thought to look like, with the icy outer shell, liquid water ocean, and inner rocky core. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Coming just after the news of the ringed asteroid and new dwarf planet, some more exciting news from the outer Solar System was announced last Thursday, and this will be of particular interest to those hoping to find evidence of alien life elsewhere in our solar system. Saturn’s tiny moon Enceladus, famous for its geysers of water vapour spewing out into space, has long been suspected of harboring an internal ocean, just like Jupiter’s moon Europa (and possibly others). Now it seems that scientists have the evidence they’ve been looking for, thanks to new findings based on data returned by the Cassini spacecraft, still in orbit around Saturn.

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