Saturn In the News ...

What are Saturn's rings made of? A solid band of rock   Live Science - January 14, 2022

Distant images make Saturn's rings appear to be one solid band of rock. However close flybys and studies have provided detailed images of the rings' arrangement, with precise snaps of some of the unique objects orbiting Saturn. Saturn's rings are an array of rocky and icy fragments, which scientists believe to be pieces of moons, asteroids and comets, according to NASA. The theory is that these giant rocks were shattered into fragments under the force of Saturn's gravity. The result is a combination of huge, mountain-sized rocks and tiny particles of dust. Many of the larger objects in the planet's rings are coated in a layer of dust.

'Weird' Molecule Detected on Titan Has Never Been Found in Any Atmosphere   Science Alert - October 28, 2020
Titan, the already pretty weird moon of Saturn, just got a little bit weirder. Astronomers have detected cyclopropenylidene (C3H2) in its atmosphere - an extremely rare carbon-based molecule that's so reactive, it can only exist on Earth in laboratory conditions. In fact, it's so rare that it has never before been detected in an atmosphere, in the Solar System or elsewhere. The only other place it can remain stable is the cold void of interstellar space. But it may be a building block for more complex organic molecules that could one day lead to life.

Billionaire Yuri Milner working with NASA on private mission to hunt for alien life on Saturn's moon Enceladus   Daily Mail - November 10, 2018
Russian-Israeli billionaire Yuri Milner is planning the first private mission to deep space - and NASA is helping him. Milner hopes to for life on Saturn's moon Enceladus, which many experts believe is the most likely place in the universe to contain alien life. According to New Scientist, 'agreements signed by NASA and Milner's non-profit Breakthrough Starshot Foundation in September show that the organizations are working on scientific, technical and financial plans for the ambitious mission.'

Study details the history of Saturn's small inner moons   PhysOrg - May 22, 2018
The small inner moons of Saturn look like giant ravioli and spaetzle. Their spectacular shape has been revealed by the Cassini spacecraft. For the first time, researchers of the University of Bern show how these moons were formed. The peculiar shapes are a natural outcome of merging collisions among similar-sized little moons as computer simulations demonstrate.

  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
Scientists believe they have detected the first liquid waves on the surface of another world. The signature of isolated ripples was observed in a sea called Punga Mare on the surface of Saturn's moon Titan. However, these seas are filled not with water, but with hydrocarbons like methane and ethane.

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.