Saturn In the News ...






  Watch the Video   Daily Mail - September 16, 2017

Animation reveals the final moments before Nasa killed off its $3 billion spacecraft in Saturn's atmosphere ending its historic 20-year mission




  Cassini: Probe incinerates on entry to Saturn   BBC - September 15, 2017

The American-led Cassini space mission to Saturn has just come to a spectacular end. Controllers had commanded the probe to destroy itself by plunging into the planet's atmosphere. It survived for just over a minute before being broken apart. Cassini had run out of fuel and Nasa had determined that the probe should not be allowed simply to wander uncontrolled among Saturn and its moons.




  Waving goodbye: Cassini sends stunning image of Saturn's A ring from 'Grand Finale' orbits   Daily Mail - May 30, 2017

A stunning new close-up view of Saturn's Keeler Gap reveals the rippling waves along the edge of the main rings, caused by the mini-moon Daphnis. The phenomenon is the result of Daphnis' gravitational pull, which disrupts the tiny particles in the A ring, according to NASA. Though just 5 miles wide (8 kilometers), the moon's influence is powerful enough to create these waves in both the horizontal and vertical plane as it moves through the Keeler Gap, creating breathtaking patterns of waves.




Saturn's moon Dione harbors a subsurface ocean   Science Daily - October 5, 2016

A subsurface ocean lies deep within Saturn's moon Dione, according to new data from the Cassini mission to Saturn. Two other moons of Saturn, Titan and Enceladus, are already known to hide global oceans beneath their icy crusts, but a new study suggests an ocean exists on Dione as well. The ocean is several tens of kilometers deep and surrounds a large rocky core. Seen from within, Dione is very similar to its smaller but more famous neighbor Enceladus, whose south polar region spurts huge jets of water vapor into space. Dione seems to be quiet now, but its broken surface bears witness of a more tumultuous past.




An ocean lies a few kilometers beneath Saturn's moon Enceladus's icy surface   Science Daily - June 21, 2016
With eruptions of ice and water vapor, and an ocean covered by an ice shell, Saturn's moon Enceladus is one of the most fascinating in the Solar System, especially as interpretations of data provided by the Cassini spacecraft have been contradictory until now. Astronomers recently proposed a new model that reconciles different data sets and shows that the ice shell at Enceladus's south pole may be only a few kilometers thick. This suggests that there is a strong heat source in the interior of Enceladus, an additional factor supporting the possible emergence of life in its ocean.




Cassini Approaches Saturn   APOD - April 10, 2016

Cassini, a robot spacecraft launched in 1997 by NASA, became close enough in 2002 to resolve many rings and moons of its destination planet: Saturn. At that time, Cassini snapped several images during an engineering test. Several of those images were combined into the contrast-enhanced color composite featured here. Saturn's rings and cloud-tops are visible toward the image bottom, while Titan, its largest moon, is visible as the speck toward the top. When arriving at Saturn in July 2004, the Cassini orbiter began to circle and study the Saturnian system. A highlight was when Cassini launched the Huygens probe that made an unprecedented landing on Titan in 2005, sending back detailed pictures. Now nearing the end of its mission, Cassini is scheduled to embark on a Grand Finale phase in late 2016 where it will repeatedly dive between the giant planet and its innermost rings.




Bizarre Giant Hexagon on Saturn May Finally Be Explained   Live Science - September 23, 2015

The scenario that best fits Saturn's hexagon involves shallow jets at the cloud level, study team members said. Winds below the cloud level apparently help keep the shape of the hexagon sharp and control the rate at which the hexagon drifts. Different models, such as ones that involve deeper winds or do not take winds lower down into account, do not match Saturn's hexagon well. For instance, they might result in a six-pointed star, or shapes with more or less than six points, or six pairs of storms arranged in a hexagonal pattern.




Cassini finds global ocean in Saturn's moon Enceladus   Science Daily - September 15, 2015

A global ocean lies beneath the icy crust of Saturn's geologically active moon Enceladus, according to new research using data from NASA's Cassini mission. Researchers found the magnitude of the moon's very slight wobble, as it orbits Saturn, can only be accounted for if its outer ice shell is not frozen solid to its interior, meaning a global ocean must be present. The finding implies the fine spray of water vapor, icy particles and simple organic molecules Cassini has observed coming from fractures near the moon's south pole is being fed by this vast liquid water reservoir.




Scientists solve planetary ring riddle: Universal particle distribution of Saturn's rings   Science Daily - August 5, 2015

In a breakthrough study, an international team of scientists, has solved an age-old scientific riddle by discovering that planetary rings, such as those orbiting Saturn, have a universally similar particle distribution. The observed distribution is not peculiar for Saturn's rings, but has a universal character. In other words, it is generic for all planetary rings which have particles to have a similar nature. Most of the planets in the Solar System have smaller bodies, or satellites, that orbit a planet. Some of them, such as Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune, additionally possess planetary rings -- a collection of still smaller bodies of different sizes that also orbit a planet. It is likely that planetary rings also exist beyond the Solar System.




Biggest Ring Around Saturn Just Got Supersized   Live Science - June 11, 2015

A giant ring around Saturn is even larger than thought, spanning an area of space nearly 7,000 times larger than Saturn itself. We knew it was the biggest ring, but know we find it's even bigger than we thought, new and improved," the study's lead author, Douglas Hamilton. The immense ring was discovered around Saturn in 2009. The dark grains of dust making up this faint ring are probably debris that cosmic impacts knocked off the gas giant's distant and equally dark moon Phoebe.




Saturn pinpointed to within one mile by giant telescope   BBC - January 9, 2015

Thanks to a continent-wide radio telescope, astronomers say they know where Saturn is - to within one mile. The calculation is many times more accurate than previous estimations and will be useful for the future study of our solar system and beyond.




Gravity measurements confirm subsurface ocean on Saturn's moon Enceladus   Science Daily - April 3, 2014

In 2005, NASA's Cassini spacecraft sent pictures back to Earth depicting an icy Saturnian moon spewing water vapor and ice from fractures, known as "tiger stripes," in its frozen surface. It was big news that tiny Enceladus - a mere 500 kilometers in diameter - was such an active place. Since then, scientists have hypothesized that a large reservoir of water lies beneath that icy surface, possibly fueling the plumes. Now, using gravity measurements collected by Cassini, scientists have confirmed that Enceladus does in fact harbor a large subsurface ocean near its south pole, beneath those tiger stripes.




'Waves' detected on Titan moon's lakes   BBC - March 18, 2014




Total Volume of Saturn Moon Titan's Otherworldly Seas Calculated   Live Science - December 20, 2013

The lakes and seas on Saturn's largest moon Titan hold massive amounts of liquid hydrocarbons - 40 times more than are found in Earth's proven oil reserves, new observations by NASA's Cassini spacecraft suggest. Titan, which is about 1.5 times bigger than Earth's moon, harbors about 2,000 cubic miles (9,000 cubic kilometers) of liquid methane and ethane on its frigid surface, researchers announced last week. The hydrocarbons are almost all contained in an area near Titan's north pole that's just 660,000 square miles (1.62 million kilometers) in size, a region slightly larger than Alaska. The find indicates there is something favorable in the geology that restricts most liquid to Titan's northern hemisphere, researchers said. The prime suspect is regional extension of the moon's crust, a process that on Earth created fault lines with depressions and mountain ranges parallel to each other.




Spring on Saturn's Moon Titan Reveals Amazing Views of Otherworldly Lakes (Photos)   Live Science - October 25, 2013

NASA's Cassini space probe is getting an exceptional look at the vast liquid lakes of Titan's north pole, where dense winter clouds are finally retreating thanks to a change in seasons on Saturn's largest moon. A clearer view of Titan's wet northern region could provide clues about the moon's hydrologic cycle and the evolution of its seas. New images released by NASA this week even revealed the Titan equivalent of salt flats surrounding its northern lakes, some of which are as big as the Caspian Sea and Lake Superior combined. Titan more closely resembles Earth than any other planet or moon in our solar system, with a dense atmosphere and stable liquids on its surface. But Titan's clouds, lakes and rain are made up of hydrocarbons, such as ethane and methane, rather than water.




'Diamond rain' falls on Saturn and Jupiter   BBC - October 14, 2013

Diamonds that are the right size to have been worn by stars of the Silver Screen could rain down on Saturn and Jupiter, US scientists have calculated. New atmospheric data for the gas giants indicates that carbon is abundant in its dazzling crystal form, they say. Lightning storms turn methane into soot (carbon) which as it falls hardens into chunks of graphite and then diamond.




Lake detected near equator of Saturn's Titan   PhysOrg - June 13, 2012
In a surprise find, scientists say they have spotted hints of a methane-rich lake and several ponds near the equator of Saturn's biggest moon. Lakes were previously spied near Titan's polar regions. It was long thought that bodies of liquid could not exist near the tropics because they would evaporate. This discovery was completely unexpected because lakes are not stable at tropical latitudes.




Oxygen envelops Saturn's icy moon   BBC - March 1, 2012
A Nasa spacecraft has detected oxygen around one of Saturn's icy moons, Dione. The discovery supports a theory that suggests all of the moons near Saturn and Jupiter might have oxygen around them. Researchers say that their finding increases the likelihood of finding the ingredients for life on one of the moons orbiting gas giants.




Pictures: Saturn Moon Coated in Fresh Powder   National Geographic - October 5, 2011
Skiers, get your poles ready: Saturn's moon Enceladus appears to be cloaked in drifts of powdery snow around 330 feet (100 meters) thick, scientists announced this week.




Saturn's moon Enceladus spreads its influence   PhysOrg - September 22, 2011
Chalk up one more feat for Saturn's intriguing moon Enceladus. The small, dynamic moon spews out dramatic plumes of water vapor and ice -- first seen by NASA's Cassini spacecraft in 2005. It possesses simple organic particles and may house liquid water beneath its surface. Its geyser-like jets create a gigantic halo of ice, dust and gas around Enceladus that helps feed Saturn's E ring. Now, thanks again to those icy jets, Enceladus is the only moon in our solar system known to influence substantially the chemical composition of its parent planet.




Enceladus rains water onto Saturn   PhysOrg - July 26, 2011
ESA's Herschel space observatory has shown that water expelled from the moon Enceladus forms a giant torus of water vapor around Saturn. The discovery solves a 14-year mystery by identifying the source of the water in Saturn's upper atmosphere.




It's Raining on Titan   NASA - April 1, 2011

It's been raining on Titan. In fact, it's likely been raining methane on Titan and that's not an April Fools' joke. The almost familiar scene depicted in this artist's vision of the surface of Saturn's largest moon looks across an eroding landscape into a stormy sky.




Ice Volcano Found on Saturn Moon Titan   Space.com - April 1, 2011

For the first time, scientists now have solid evidence for an ice volcano on Saturn's moon Titan, according to a new study.




Ring 'ripples' in Saturn and Jupiter linked to comets   BBC - April 1, 2011
Scientists say that strange ripples observed in the ring systems of Saturn and Jupiter were caused by comets. The ripples, which the researchers say resemble the undulations of corrugated metal, were detected in both Saturn's rings and in Jupiter's lesser-known rings. The ripples in Jupiter's rings are believed to have been caused by the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which struck the planet in 1994.




Scarred by Comets: Rings of Saturn and Jupiter Show Signs of Impacts   Space.com - March 31, 2011
Strange formations in the rings around Saturn and Jupiter are the telltale marks of dramatic comet impacts that occurred in the last few decades, two new studies suggest. The newly discovered ripples show that bits of a broken-up comet likely plowed through Saturn's C ring, one of many around the planet, back in 1983 - an event that went undetected by astronomers at the time. Similar structures appeared in Jupiter's gossamer rings in 1994, when the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 slammed into that gas giant's southern hemisphere, researchers said.




  Cassini sees seasonal methane rains transform Titan's surface   Live Science - March 17, 2011




Spring Rains Darken Saturn's Moon Titan   National Geographic - March 17, 2011
They probably won't bring May flowers, but April showers do fall on Saturn's largest moon Titan, according to a new study.




'Ice volcano' identified on Saturn's moon Titan   BBC - December 15, 2010

Scientists think they now have the best evidence yet for an ice volcano on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. The Cassini probe has spotted a 1,500m-high mountain with a deep pit in it, and what looks like a flow of material on the surrounding surface. The new feature, which has been dubbed "The Rose", was seen with the probe's radar and infrared instruments. Titan has long been speculated to have cryovolcanoes but its hazy atmosphere makes all observations very difficult.




Saturn's magnetic field inflated by hot plasma explosions   PhysOrg - December 15, 2010
A new analysis based on data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft finds a causal link between mysterious, periodic signals from Saturn's magnetic field and explosions of hot ionized gas, known as plasma, around the planet.




Saturn's moon Rhea has thin atmosphere   BBC - November 26, 2010
Rhea, the second biggest moon of Saturn, has an atmosphere of oxygen and carbon dioxide, scientists say. It is incredibly thin, however. The density of O2, for example, is probably about five trillion times less dense than the oxygen that blankets Earth. The presence of an exosphere, as it is more properly called, was confirmed by instruments on the Cassini probe which orbits the ringed planet and its moons. Oxygen exospheres have been seen at Jupiter's moons Europa and Ganymede, but this is the first time such a detection has been made in the Saturnian system.




Saturn Moon Rhea Has Oxygen Atmosphere   National Geographic - November 25, 2010
An oxygen atmosphere has been found on Saturn's second largest moon, Rhea, astronomers announced Thursday - but don't hold your breath for colonization opportunities. For one thing, the 932-mile-wide (1,500-kilometer-wide), ice-covered moon is more than 932 million miles (1.5 billion kilometers) from Earth. For another, the average surface temperature is -292 degrees Fahrenheit (-180 degrees Celsius)




Saturn Moon Rhea Loses Its Ring, Gains a Mystery   National Geographic - August 6, 2010
Until this week Saturn's small moon Rhea was the only known solid space object thought to have a ring. (Other known ringed bodies, such as Saturn, are mainly gaseous.) But a new study of optical images has failed to detect any signs of structures encircling the natural satellite. Rhea orbits within Saturn's magnetic field, which creates a bubble of charged particles ions and electrons around the planet. During a 2005 flyby of Rhea, scientists working with NASA's Cassini spacecraft expected to see a dip in their readings where the moon's surface intercepted the particles. The craft's readings did show the moon's wake, but they also revealed several unexpected dips in particle detections just outside the moon's diameter. The best possible explanation seemed to be that something physical a ring of debris around Rhea was blocking the ions and electrons from reaching Cassini.




Discovery of Saturn's Auroral Heartbeat   Science Daily - August 5, 2010
An international team of scientists led by Dr Jonathan Nichols of the University of Leicester has discovered that Saturn's aurora, an ethereal ultraviolet glow which illuminates Saturn's upper atmosphere near the poles, pulses roughly once per Saturnian day.




Life on Titan? New Clues to What's Consuming Hydrogen, Acetylene on Saturn's Moon   Science Daily - June 7, 2010
Two new papers based on data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft scrutinize the complex chemical activity on the surface of Saturn's moon Titan. While non-biological chemistry offers one possible explanation, some scientists believe these chemical signatures bolster the argument for a primitive, exotic form of life or precursor to life on Titan's surface. According to one theory put forth by astrobiologists, the signatures fulfill two important conditions necessary for a hypothesized "methane-based life."




Probe sees 'Pac-man in Saturn's moon Mimas'   BBC - March 30, 2010

The Cassini spacecraft in orbit around Saturn has caught an interesting new view of the tiny moon Mimas. The probe measured temperature differences across the object's surface and produced a map that looks just like the 1980s Pac-Man video games icon. Scientists are unsure why Mimas should display such variations but say it is probably related to the diversity of textures in the surface materials. Some textures may retain heat better than others, they explain. Mimas is about 400km (250 miles) across. It has a distinctive scar called Herschel Crater which has led many to draw comparisons with the "Death Star" from the Star Wars movies.




  What Saturn's rings tell us about the forces that formed the entire Solar System   BBC - March 12, 2010
It's exactly 400 years since Galileo first pointed a telescope at the planet Saturn. He immediately realized he had discovered something remarkable: the planet appeared to have ears. Today, we know the mysterious bulges he described are a magnificent network of rings. Their intricate beauty is captivating but Saturn's rings are more than cosmetic wonders. Many astronomers now believe the patterns encoded in the rings tell us something fundamental about the forces that formed the entire Solar System




Images show gushing geysers on Saturn moon   MSNBC - February 25, 2010

Like sprinklers hidden beneath the surface, a series of geysers - more than previously thought - are gushing water ice from fissures near the south pole of Saturn's icy moon Enceladus, new images reveal.




Fog Seen on Saturn Moon Titan - A First   National Geographic - December 22, 2009
Earth-like fog shrouds chilly lakes on the south pole of Saturn's moon Titan, scientists say.




Scientists explain puzzling lake asymmetry on Titan   PhysOrg - November 29, 2009




Dark Side of a Saturnian Moon: Iapetus Is Coated With Foreign Dust   Science Daily - December 11, 2009
Iapetus is often called Saturn's most bizarre moon, due to its starkly contrasting hemispheres - one black as coal, the other white as snow.




New 8th ring detected around Saturn   BBC - October 7, 2009

The dusty hoop lies some 13 million km (eight million miles) from the planet, about 50 times more distant than the other rings and in a different plane. Scientists tell the journal Nature that the tenuous ring is probably made up of debris kicked off Saturn's moon Phoebe by small impacts. They think this dust then migrates towards the planet where it is picked up by another Saturnian moon, Iapetus. The discovery would appear to resolve a longstanding mystery in planetary science: why the walnut-shaped Iapetus has a two-tone complexion, with one side of the moon significantly darker than the other.




New Saturn Ring Is Largest Known; May Solve Moon Puzzle   National Geographic - October 7, 2009

A newly discovered, dark ring around Saturn is the largest known planetary ring in the solar system, a new study says. If the new ring were visible from Earth, it would look twice as wide as the full moon.




Saturn Lightning Storm Breaks Solar System Record   National Geographic - September 15, 2009
A lightning storm has been raging on Saturn since mid-January, making the tempest the longest-lasting storm ever detected in our solar system, astronomers announced today. The lightning flashes are 10,000 times stronger than lightning flashes on Earth.




Saturn's Raging Storms   Thunderbolts - April 28, 2009

Cassini has detected immense hurricanes surging through Saturn's atmosphere since it began observing the planet in February of 2004. What force energizes these tempests? Recent images from the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft have shown that the north pole of Saturn is similar to the south pole: both locations are home to spinning vortices on a colossal scale. In the South, say mission specialists, a persistent whirlpool of clouds demonstrates "upwelling" of heat from deep beneath the planet's frigid outer atmosphere. A new image from Cassini reveals regions beneath the clear surface atmosphere, rising and condensing into puffy clouds similar to those in a hurricane on Earth. The "eye" of the southern vortex is said to indicate the colder surface gases are being drawn down into the warm interior, completing a heat transfer mechanism. Why the cyclonic rotation is confined to the south pole is not understood, since the hurricanes on Earth draw their power from warm water as they move across the ocean.




Saturn's New Moon in Transit NASA - March 19, 2009

Every 14 to 15 years, Saturn's rings are tilted edge-on to our line of sight. As the bright, beautiful rings seem to grow narrower it becomes increasingly difficult to see them, even with large telescopes. But it does provide the opportunity to watch multiple transits of Saturn's moons. During a transit, a sunlit moon and its shadow glide across the cloudy face of the gas giant. Recorded on February 24, this Hubble image is part of a sequence showing the transit of four of Saturn's moons. From left to right are Enceladus and shadow, Dione and shadow, and Saturn's largest moon Titan. Small moon Mimas is just touching Saturn's disk near the ring plane at the far right. The shadows of Titan and Mimas have both moved off the right side of the disk. Saturn itself has an equatorial diameter of about 120,000 kilometers.




New Saturn Moon: Tiny Gem Found in Outer Ring   National Geographic - March 3, 2009
A faint pinprick of light embedded in one of Saturn's outermost rings is now the 61st moon known to be circling the giant planet, astronomers announced today. Images taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft over a 600-day stretch revealed the tiny moonlet moving in a partial ring known as a ring arc that extends about a sixth of the way around Saturn's faint G ring.




New lakes materialize on Saturn moon   New Scientist - February 2, 2009
A downpour of liquid methane seems to have created new lakes on Saturn's moon Titan, according to images taken by NASA's Cassini probe. More such activity could be revealed as the seasons change on the hazy moon.Methane makes up about 5% of Titan's thick atmosphere and is thought to rain down to the surface and then evaporate back into clouds in a cycle similar to the water cycle on Earth.




Saturn Moon Has Lake Effect Clouds?    National Geographic - December 16, 2008

Saturn's moon Titan has odd clouds forming downwind of its lakes apparently much like clouds seen near North America's Great Lakes. The clouds appear to form from liquid evaporating from the lakes, which then recondense over land, said Mike Brown, a planetary astronomer at the California Institute of Technology. Near the Great Lakes, similar ribbons of clouds called lake effect clouds form downwind on cold winter days, according to data from NASA's Cassini orbiter.




Saturn's moon Titan has 'ice volcanoes'    BBC - December 16, 2008
Titan, the haze-shrouded moon of Saturn, displays tantalizing evidence of ice volcanoes. Two regions of Titan have been seen recently, by the Cassini spacecraft, to undergo clear changes in brightness. This activity, and radar images hinting at flow-like structures, suggest the presence of volcanoes, scientists say. Rather than erupting molten rock, Titan's "cryovolcanoes" are thought to ooze a slurry made of water ice, ammonia and methane.




Saturn: Titan's Volcanoes Give Cassini Chilly Reception    PhysOrg - December 16, 2008

Data collected during several recent flybys of Titan by NASA's Cassini spacecraft have put another arrow in the quiver of scientists who think the Saturnian moon contains active cryovolcanoes spewing a super-chilled liquid into its atmosphere. Cryovolcanoes are some of the most intriguing features in the solar system




Saturn: Enceladus has 'spreading surface' - very Earth-like    BBC - December 16, 2008
A US space agency (Nasa) probe has witnessed a moon of Saturn do something very unusual and Earth-like. Pictures of the icy satellite Enceladus suggest its surface splits and spreads apart - just like the ocean floor on our planet splits to create new crust. The information was released at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. The data from the Cassini spacecraft is said to strengthen the idea that Enceladus harbors a sub-surface sea.




Photo: Saturn Moon "Mother Lode": Icy Jets Located National Geographic - August 15, 2008

The exact location of jets on Saturn's geologically active moon Enceladus have been found a discovery scientists are calling a "mother lode." NASA's Cassini flyby mission released new photos this week of icy jets erupting from the surface.




Jupiter and Saturn full of liquid metal helium PhysOrg - August 6, 2008
A strange, metal brew lies buried deep within Jupiter and Saturn. The study, published in this week's online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, demonstrates that metallic helium is less rare than was previously thought and is produced under the kinds of conditions present at the centers of giant, gaseous planets, mixing with metal hydrogen and forming a liquid metal alloy.




Giant Lake Confirmed on Saturn's Moon Titan National Geographic - July 31, 2008

Scientists have confirmed the presence of a suspected big, black, glassy lake on Saturn's moon Titan, adding to the growing body of evidence that the giant satellite is oddly Earthlike. Titan is thought to host mountains, desert-like flats, rivers, lakes and possibly an underground ocean.




"Pinball" Collisions Seen in Saturn Ring National Geographic - June 4, 2008
Small moons within one of Saturn's faintest rings may occasionally collide with other large ring particles on a near-daily basis, a new study suggests. Scientists tracked the pinball-like action by looking at changing patches of dust in Saturn's active F ring, which was discovered in the late 1970s.




Nonstop "Hurricane" Raging on Saturn's South Pole National Geographic - March 27, 2008

Earth's hurricane seasons may be dangerous, but at least they're temporary. On Saturn, the storm apparently never stops. A massive tempest that's nearly the size of our planet has been howling above Saturn's south pole since it was first detected in 2003.




Dive Into Saturn Moon's Jets Shows Ingredients for Life National Geographic - March 27, 2008

Water, heat, and now organic materials three of the basic ingredients for life as we know it have all been confirmed on Saturn's moon Enceladus, scientists announced today. The new data come from the closest flyby of the moon yet by NASA's Cassini spacecraft.




Saturn: Icy Moon Tethys Had Ancient Underground Ocean National Geographic - March 24, 2008

An enormous rift on Saturn's moon Tethys might be evidence that the giant iceball once had an underground ocean, scientists announced at a meeting earlier this month. While most of this ancient ocean would have frozen solid long ago, a few dregs might still exit.




Saturn Moon May Have Rings -- A First National Geographic - March 7, 2008

Rhea, Saturn's second largest moon, may be the first known moon with its own small system of rings, astronomers announced. Although no one has actually seen Rhea's rings, scientists say that odd data collected during a 2005 flyby of the Cassini spacecraft provides strong clues.




> Saturn's Rings as Old as Solar System, Study Says National Geographic - December 13, 2007

Saturn's rings may be nearly as old as the solar system, a new study says, contradicting prior calculations that they clock in at only a few hundred million years. That's because ring particles may have been repeatedly recycled during the previous four billion years, said study author Larry Esposito of the University of Colorado at Boulder a finding that hints that the rings could last for many more eons.




Saturn's "Flying Saucer" Moons Made Mainly of Ring Dust National Geographic - December 6, 2007

A new glimpse of two of Saturn's tiny moons has scientists rethinking how those satellites were created. Once thought to be solid chunks of long-gone, larger bodies, the moons Pan and Atlas may actually be largely composed of dust and debris that has accumulated over millennia, new studies say.




Moonlet Study Sheds Light on Origins of Saturn's Rings National Geographic - October 24, 2007

The origin of Saturn's ring system remains a mystery. Some experts say the rings are remnants of the same gas and dust that formed Saturn. Others support the idea that the ring's icy chunks formed from moons that were battered by asteroid impacts or blasted apart by collisions with meteors.




Saturn's sixtieth moon discovered BBC - July 20, 2007
A new moon has been discovered orbiting Saturn - bringing the planet's latest moon tally up to 60. The body was spotted in a series of images taken by cameras onboard the Cassini spacecraft. Initial calculations suggest the moon is about 2km-wide (1.2 miles) and its orbit sits between those of two other Saturnian moons, Methone and Pallene. The Cassini Imaging Team, who found the object, said Saturn's moon count could rise further still.




Saturn "Sponge Moon" Has Ingredients for Life? National Geographic - July 5, 2007

Despite its bathtub-ready appearance, Hyperion - Saturn's largest irregularly shaped moon - is anything but spongy. High-resolution images taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft - including the picture above taken in 2005 - suggest the satellite's cuplike craters are reservoirs for hydrocarbons. The finding could mean that the ingredients needed for life as we know it may be more common in our solar system than previously thought, according to NASA. Dark material spotted at the bottoms of some of the moon's craters has the same chemical signature as hydrocarbons, NASA scientists said. These organic molecules - made of hydrogen and carbon - are also found in comets, meteorites, and galactic dust.




Probe reveals seas on Saturn moon BBC - March 14, 2007
Nasa's Cassini probe has found evidence for seas, probably filled with liquid hydrocarbons, at the high northern latitudes of Saturn's moon Titan. The dark features, detected by Cassini's radar, are much bigger than any lakes already detected on Titan. The largest is some 100,000 sq km (39,000 sq miles) - greater in extent than North America's Lake Superior. It covers a greater fraction of Titan than the proportion of Earth covered by the Black Sea. The Black Sea is the Earth's largest inland sea and covers about 0.085% of our planet's surface. The newly observed body on Titan covers at least 0.12% of that world's surface. Cassini team members argue that this gives them reason to call it a sea. Since Cassini's radar has caught only a portion of each of the new features, only their minimum size is known.




Saturn's Icy Moon May Have Been Hot Enough for Life, Study Finds National Geographic - March 14, 2007

One of the places in the solar system most likely to have extraterrestrial life may have gotten off to a hot, highly radioactive start. Enceladus, a moon of Saturn, stunned scientists two years ago when NASA's Cassini orbiter discovered geyser-like jets of water vapor shooting into space from its south pole.




Awesome image of Saturn from above NASA - March 6, 2007

This image of Saturn could not have been taken from Earth. No Earth based picture could possibly view the night side of Saturn and the corresponding shadow cast across Saturn's rings. Since Earth is much closer to the Sun than Saturn, only the day side of the planet is visible from the Earth. In fact, this image mosaic was taken in January by the robotic Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn. The beautiful rings of Saturn are seen in full expanse, while cloud details are visible near the night-day terminator divide.




Saturn Moon's Ice Geysers Create "Cosmic Graffiti" National Geographic - February 9, 2007
Saturn's moon Enceladus is spewing giant geysers of ice that have sandblasted several nearby moons, making them some of the solar system's most reflective objects, research shows. A new study published in the journal Science bills Enceladus as "a cosmic graffiti artist, caught in the act."




Liquid Lakes on Saturn's Titan NASA - February 7, 2007

Why would some regions on Titan reflect very little radar? The leading explanation is that these regions are lakes, possibly composed of liquid methane. The above image is a false-color synthetic radar map of a northern region of Titan taken during a flyby of the cloudy moon by the robotic Cassini spacecraft last July. On this map, which spans about 150 kilometers across, dark regions reflect relatively little of the broadcast radar signal. Images like this show Titan to be only the second body in the Solar System to possess liquids on the surface. Future observations from Cassini during Titan flybys will further test the methane lake hypothesis, as comparative wind effects on the regions are studied.




'Proof' of methane (liquid) lakes on Titan BBC - January 4, 2007
The Cassini probe has spotted what scientists say is unequivocal evidence of lakes of liquid methane on Titan, Saturn's largest moon. Radar images reveal dark, smooth patches that range in size from three to 70km across (two to 44 miles). The team says the features, which were spied in the moon's far north, look like crater or caldera lakes on Earth. The researchers tell the journal Nature that everything about the patches points to them being pools of liquid. The atmospheric chemistry on Titan is dominated by nitrogen and carbon-based compounds. And with temperatures on the Saturnian satellite rarely venturing above -179C (-290F), it has long been hypothesized that abundant volumes of methane should pool on the surface into lakes, and even large seas.




Saturn Moon Has Lakes, "Water" Cycle Like Earth's, Scientists Say National Geographic - January 5, 2007

Saturn's giant moon has lakes and a "water" cycle remarkably similar to Earth's, new evidence suggests. But Titan's lakes aren't made of water. Instead, they probably consist of liquid methane, which plays the role of water in Titan's superchilled climate, the researchers say. The lakes were discovered by radar mapping when the Cassini spacecraft, now orbiting Saturn, did a close flyby of northern Titan last July.




Mountain range spotted on Titan BBC - December 13, 2006
The Cassini spacecraft has spied the tallest mountains yet seen on Titan, Saturn's major moon. The range is about 150km long (93 miles), 30km (19 miles) wide and about 1.5km (nearly a mile) high. The feature was identified by the probe on a recent pass, using a combination of radar and infrared data. Dr Bob Brown, one of the scientists behind the discovery, said it reminded him of the Sierra Nevada mountains in the western US. The mountains lie south of the equator. Scientists told the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting that the range was probably as hard as rock, but made of icy materials. The mountains appear to be coated with layers of organic, or carbon-rich, material. This could be methane "snow".




Huge 'hurricane' rages on Saturn BBC - November 10, 2006

A hurricane-like storm, two-thirds the diameter of Earth, is raging at Saturn's south pole, new images from Nasa's Cassini space probe reveal. Measuring 5,000 miles (8,000km) across, the storm is the first hurricane ever detected on a planet other than Earth. Scientists say the storm has the eye and eye-wall clouds characteristic of a hurricane and its winds are swirling clockwise at 350mph (550km/h).




Faint new ring discovered around Saturn BBC - September 21, 2006

The Cassini spacecraft has identified a faint, previously unknown ring circling the giant planet Saturn. It appears to be composed of material blasted off the surface of two saturnian moons by meteoroid impacts. The moons Janus and Epimetheus may be too small to hold on to dust kicked out by these impacts, so it escapes into space, spreading out into a ring. The tenuous, wispy ring coincides with the orbits of these two moons, mission scientists noted. Researchers expected meteoroid impacts on Janus and Epimetheus to kick particles off the moons' surfaces and inject them into an orbit around Saturn. But they were surprised to find such a well-defined ring at this location.




Methane Rain Possible on Titan NASA - August 2, 2006

Might it rain cold methane on Saturn's Titan? Recent analyses of measurements taken by the Huygen's probe that landed on Titan in 2005 January indicate that the atmosphere is actually saturated with methane at a height of about 8 kilometers. Combined with observations of a damp surface and lakes near the poles, some astrobiologists conclude that at least a methane drizzle is common on parts of Titan. Other astrobiologists reported computer models of the clouded moon that indicate that violent methane storms might even occur, complete with flash floods carving channels in the landscape. The later scenario is depicted in the above drawing of Titan. Lightning, as also depicted above, might well exist on Titan but has not been proven. The findings increase speculation that a wet Titanian surface might be hospitable to unusual forms of life.




Saturn Moon Has Seas of Sand, Images Reveal National Geographic - May 7, 2006

When scientists first began using powerful instruments to peer through the dense atmosphere of Titan, Saturn's largest moon, they found sprawling dark areas - regions that looked remarkably like oceans. Now the latest images from a close flyby last October by NASA's Cassini probe reveal that these dark areas are seas of sand, complete with vast complexes of startlingly Earth-like dunes. The dunes are up to 150 meters (500 feet) tall and hundreds of kilometers long, dominating large areas of Titan's surface near the equator. They are long, linear dunes similar to a type commonly seen in Namibia, the Sahara, parts of Australia, and the Arabian Peninsula.




Saturn Moon Has Water Geysers and May Support Life National Geographic - March 11, 2006

Once-wet Mars has long been the primary focus of the search for life on other planets. But Saturn's moon Enceladus could be an even more promising place to start the search for extraterrestrials. Startling new images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft indicate that Enceladus may contain pockets of liquid water below its icy crust.




Titan moon occupies 'sweet spot' BBC - September 9, 2005
Earth and Saturn's moon Titan show striking similarities because both occupy "sweet spots" in our Solar System, researchers have said. Many processes that occur on Earth also take place on this moon, say scientists participating in the US-European Cassini-Huygens mission. Wind, rain, volcanism and tectonic activity all seem to play a role in shaping Titan's surface. One scientist even sees a way that life could survive on the freezing world.




Saturn ring particles 'fluffy' BBC - September 5, 2005
Hopes of finding hydrocarbon oceans on Saturn's smoggy moon, Titan, appear to be dashed, scientists report in Nature. The moon's atmosphere is thick with methane and ethane, prompting speculation that lakes or oceans of these chemicals may sit on the surface. The Huygens that landed on Titan sent back images suggesting possible shorelines and rivers. But an extensive search for tell-tale infrared reflections has now revealed no sign of lakes or seas on Titan. Scientists who made the measurements using the Keck II telescope in Hawaii suggest the flat surfaces previously spotted on Titan are more likely to be solid and dry.




Saturn rings have own atmosphere BBC - July 2, 2005
Saturn's vast and majestic ring system has its own atmosphere - separate from that of the planet itself, according to data from the Cassini spacecraft. And Saturn is rotating seven minutes more slowly than when probes measured its spin in the 70s and 80s - an observation experts cannot yet explain. Cassini-Huygens mission scientists are celebrating the spacecraft's first year in orbit around the ringed planet.




Huygens Team Releases First Enhanced Mosaics Of Titan Science Daily - May 17, 2005

The European Space Agency's Huygens probe descended onto Titan on January 14, 2005. The University of Arizona-led DISR team released mosaics made from raw, unprocessed images days after Huygens landed, but they continue processing the data. The team now has produced the first enhanced mosaic images. They used special image projection techniques in combining a series of images taken as Huygens rotated on its axis 20 kilometers, or 12.4 miles, above Titan's surface. The images are online at the DISR Web site. and the European Space Agency Web site.




Cassini Offers Insights Into Titan's Similarities With Earth Space Daily - May 13, 2005

Titan is the only moon in the solar system with a substantial atmosphere. Like Earth, Titan's atmosphere is primarily composed of nitrogen, but unlike Earth, one of the most abundant constituents is methane (CH4). The Huygens probe will determine if the abundance of argon exceeds that of methane. Methane, the main component in natural gas, plays a key role in the make-up of atmospheric conditions on Titan. The organic chemistry that occurs in Titan's atmosphere is an analog of the processes that may have been present in the early terrestrial atmosphere.




Saturn Moon's Bizarre Geography Revealed by Spacecraft National Geographic - May 13, 2005
Scientists have speculated for years that Titan, Saturn's largest moon, may give clues to what Earth's chemistry was like before life formed on Earth. They have also wondered what lies under the moon's thick cloud cover - perhaps large lakes and rivers filled by methane rain? Now, thanks to the Cassini spacecraft and the Huygens probe, they're getting some answers. ' Analysis of the first flybys of Titan reveals that this second largest moon in the solar system (larger even than the planet Mercury) is perhaps even more mysterious than scientists previously believed: Titan is an icy planet-like rock, where it rains methane and where perhaps ice volcanoes exude frozen "cryomagma."




Cassini Finds a Watery Atmosphere on Saturn's Moon Enceladus Space.com - March 2005
The Cassini spacecraft has revealed that Saturn's icy moon Enceladus has a significant atmosphere. The spacecraft unlocked the moon's secret during recent flybys, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced Wednesday. Scientists, using Cassini's magnetometer instrument for their studies, said the source may be volcanism, geysers, or gases escaping from the surface or the interior.




Saturn's A Ring Has Oxygen, But Not Life Science Daily - March 2005
Data from the Cassini-Huygens satellite showing oxygen ions in the atmosphere around Saturn's rings suggests once again that molecular oxygen alone isn't a reliable indicator of whether a planet can support life. That and other data are outlined in two papers in the Feb. 25 issue of the journal Science co-authored by University of Michigan engineering professors Tamas Gombosi, J. Hunter Waite and Kenneth Hansen; and T.E. Cravens from the University of Kansas. The papers belong to a series of publications on data collected by Cassini as it passed through the rings of Saturn on July 1. Molecular oxygen forms when two oxygen atoms bond together and is known in chemical shorthand as O2. On Earth, it is a continual byproduct of plant respiration, and animals need this oxygen for life. But in Saturn's atmosphere, molecular oxygen was created without life present, through a chemical reaction with the sun's radiation and icy particles that comprise Saturn's rings.




3 Newest Saturn moons given names - Methone, Pallene, and Polydeuces BBC - February 2005
Three new moons discovered around Saturn by the Cassini spacecraft have been given provisional names. The discoveries were made last year, not long after Cassini had arrived in orbit around the ringed planet. Two moons detected in August have been given the names Methone and Pallene, while another found in October has been provisionally named Polydeuces. Three more candidate objects are still awaiting confirmation as moons. Methone and Pallene circle Saturn between the orbits of two other Saturnian moons, Mimas and Enceladus. Polydeuces is an example of a so-called Trojan moon - it is twinned with a larger satellite in orbit around the planet




Crater Face: 24 Surface Features Named on Saturn's Moon Phoebe Space.com - February 25, 2005

Twenty-four of the largest craters on Phoebe, the small, retrograde outer moon of Saturn have been assigned names by the International Astronomical Union.




Saturn's "Greatest Portrait Yet" National Geographic - February 2005

Spotlighted by the sun, Saturn throws its thick shadow across its rings, which in turn throw threads of shade across the planet's blue northern hemisphere. Actually 126 images assembled in a tiled pattern, this natural-color picture is being called the "greatest Saturn portrait" yet by the NASA imaging specialists who released it yesterday. At its original size (about 125 inches, or 320 centimeters, across), the picture is the "largest, most detailed, global natural color view" ever made of the planet.




Measuring Wind Velocity BBC - February 2005

Scientists have successfully measured the wind speeds that pummeled Huygens during its bumpy descent through the atmosphere of Titan. Researchers had feared the information was lost because one of Cassini's receivers was not switched on. But a network of terrestrial radio telescopes has managed to salvage the data, to the delight of the team.




Check out Saturn's gorgeous Blue Rings!! National Geographic - February 2005

Striped by shadows of its rings, Saturn is a true- blue backdrop for the icy moon Mimas in this just-released image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. As on Earth, a clear sky on Saturn is generally a blue sky, because the unclouded atmosphere scatters sunlight at bluer wavelengths. Cassini is the first craft to explore Saturn's moons and rings from the planet's orbit. The Cassini-Huygens mission made headlines last month when the European Space Agency's Huygens probe, which had been ejected from Cassini, began transmitting data from Saturn's moon Titan.




Saturn: Lapetus moon bulges at its sides BBC - January 10, 2005

The Cassini spacecraft's flyby of Saturn's moon Iapetus has revealed a bizarre geological feature in its images: a bulging ridge at its equator. Mission scientists have started to release detailed images of the moon's surface, which is sharply divided into a bright half and a dark half.




Liquid 'suggested' on Titan BBC - October 29, 2004


Scientists examining images from the Cassini craft think they may be closer to showing there is liquid hydrocarbon on Saturn's moon Titan. Radar images of a strip of the moon, covering 1% of the surface, revealed dark patches which could indicate liquid methane or ethane. The images also show streaky areas of the surface could be caused by winds.




New ring discovered around Saturn - F-Ring BBC - September 9, 2004


Scientists using the Cassini probe have found a new ring and one, possibly two, new objects orbiting Saturn. The discoveries are in the planet's contorted F-ring region, and look to be associated with Saturn's moon Atlas. University of London scientists working on the four-year mission say that confirmation of another moon would raise Saturn's tally to 34 satellites. The Cassini-Huygens mission is a joint venture of the US, European and Italian space agencies.




Cassini Reveals Saturn's Cool Rings Science Daily - September 3, 2004

The Cassini spacecraft has taken the most detailed temperature measurements to date of Saturn's rings. Data taken by the composite infrared spectrometer instrument on the spacecraft while entering Saturn's orbit show the cool and relatively warm regions of the rings.




Best Ever UV Images Of Saturn's Rings Hint At Their Origin, Evolution Science Daily - July 8, 2004

The best view ever of Saturn's rings in the ultraviolet indicates there is more ice toward the outer part of the rings, hinting at ring origin and evolution, say two University of Colorado at Boulder researchers involved in the Cassini mission.




Cassini Exposes Puzzles About Ingredients In Saturn's Rings Science Daily - July 8, 2004

Just two days after the Cassini spacecraft entered Saturn orbit, preliminary science results are already beginning to show a complex and fascinating planetary system. One early result intriguing scientists concerns Saturn's Cassini Division, the large gap between the A and B rings. While Saturn's rings are almost exclusively composed of water ice, new findings show the Cassini Division contains relatively more "dirt" than ice. Further, the particles between the rings seem remarkably similar to the dark material that scientists saw on Saturn's moon, Phoebe. These dark particles refuel the theory that the rings might be the remnants of a moon. The F ring was also found to contain more dirt.




Winds Measured On Titan To Help Robot Probe Science Daily - July 2004

This artist's conception shows Titan's surface with Saturn appearing dimly in the background through Titan's thick atmosphere of mostly nitrogen and methane. The Cassini spacecraft flies overhead with its high-gain antenna pointed at the Huygens probe as it nears the surface.




Probe sees Titan's methane clouds and large impact crater BBC - July 4, 2004

The Cassini-Huygens probe has seen what appear to be methane clouds and a giant impact crater on its first flyby of Saturn's biggest moon, Titan. The spacecraft used its instruments to peer through the haze of the moon's atmosphere to detect surface features in unprecedented detail. The images indicate there has been geologic activity of some kind on Titan.




Phoebe's Surface Reveals Clues To Its Origin Science Daily - June 15, 2004

Images collected during Cassini's close flyby of Saturn's moon, Phoebe, have yielded strong evidence that the tiny object may contain ice-rich material, overlain with a thin layer of darker material perhaps 300 to 500 meters (980 to 1,600 feet) thick.




Cassini pass reveals moon secrets BBC - June 14, 2004

The Cassini spacecraft, which is en route to Saturn, has made a close pass of the planet's mysterious moon Phoebe. The US-European spacecraft made its closest approach to the moon on Friday at 2156 BST at a distance of 2,078km. Images show a scarred moon pounded by massive impacts that tossed building-sized rocks out on to its surface.




Probe sees storms merge on Saturn BBC - April 2004
The Cassini spacecraft has caught two huge, swirling storms in the act of merging on Saturn. It is just the second time this has been seen, occurring as the probe nears Saturn to begin a four-year mission of exploration in orbit around the planet.




Colorful Saturn in close-up BBC - September 10, 2003

This is Saturn, seen by the Hubble Space Telescope in different colored light, when the planet's rings were on display during their rare maximum tilt of 26 degrees towards the Earth. Over its 29.5 year-orbit Saturn and its ring system experience seasonal tilts away from and towards the Sun, in much the same way Earth does. It means that about every 30 years, astronomers get their best view of Saturn's South Pole and the southern side of its rings. The most recent best time was between March and April 2003, and researchers took full advantage obtaining some of the best images ever





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