Not a Solar Eclipse


titanbusy_cassini_960No, it’s not a solar eclipse. It’s a picture of the rings and a couple of the moons of Saturn. The large object near the center is Titan, Saturn’s largest moon and one of the most interesting objects in the entire Solar System. The central dark spot is the body of the moon. The bright halo is atmospheric haze above Titan. The gases of the atmosphere scatter sunlight. Saturn’s rings are shown nearly edge on. Enceladus, a small moon, is at about 4 or 5 o’clock at the edge of Titan.

This image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft’s camera pointing almost directly at the Sun, so the surfaces of Titan and Enceladus appear in silhouette, and the rings of Saturn look like a photographic negative.

Image Credit: NASA

You Can’t See This From Here


Crescent SaturnThis is a view of Saturn partially lit in crescent phase, a view that can only be seen when the object is between the observer and the Sun. From the Earth, we can only see Mercury and Venus in varying crescent phases and Mars and the other outer planets fully lit. Because the Moon can be either between the Earth and the Sun or farther away, we see it go through all the phases from New to Full to New again.

This picture of Saturn was made by the Cassini spacecraft.

Image Credit: NASA

Translucent Rings


Saturn’s rings are mostly water ice in chunks that range in size from smaller than a grain of sand to mountains. The ring system extends 282,000 km from the planet, but it’s only about 10 m thick in most places. Looking from some angles, it’s possible to see through the rings—as in this that looks from south to north. The Cassini spacecraft took the images stitched together in this natural-color mosaic in April, 2007, when it was about 725,000 kim from Saturn.

Image Credit: NASA

A Reflection from Titan


titan_lake_flashThis image shows a flash of sunlight reflected off a lake on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. Its northern hemisphere is shrouded in darkness for nearly 15 years, but the sun begins to illuminate the area again as it approaches its spring equinox. The Cassini spacecraft was able to detect the glint at the beginning of Titan’s spring in 2009. The moon’s hazy atmosphere scatters and absorbs many wavelengths of light, including most of the visible spectrum. But an onboard instrument was able to detect the glint in infrared wavelengths that can penetrate through Titan’s atmosphere. This image was created using wavelengths of light in the 5 µm range.

Image Credit: NASA

Tuning in on Saturn


New research from the up-close Grand Finale orbits of the Cassini mission shows a surprisingly powerful interaction of plasma waves moving from Saturn to its moon Enceladus. The data used to make this video was captured by the Radio Plasma Wave Science (RPWS) instrument two weeks before Cassini was deliberately plunged into the atmosphere of Saturn.

Video Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / University of Iowa

Odysseus


Don’t worry. It’s a moon, not a space station.

It’s Saturn’s icy moon Tethys. The enormous impact created the crater is named Odysseus. The crater is about 450 km across surrounded by a ring of steep cliffs and and has a rang of mountains rising from its center. Tethys is only a bit over 1070 km in diameter.

This picture is a composite assembled from images taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft in 2015 when is was roughly 44,500 km from the moon.

Image Credit: NASA