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

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

Enceladus, Pandora, and Rings (Oh, My!)


Saturn’s moon Enceladus is backlit by the Sun in this Cassini spacecraft image from 2009. The dramatic lighting shows of the plumes that continuously spew into space from the south pole of 500 km diameter moon. The icy plumes are likely fed by an ocean beneath the ice shell of Enceladus. They supply material directly to Saturn’s outer, tenuous E ring and make the surface of Enceladus as reflective as snow. Behind Enceladus, Saturn’s rings scatter sunlight toward Cassini. Beyond the rings, the night side of the 80 km diameter moon Pandora is faintly lit by light reflecting off of Saturn.

Image Credit: NASA