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Topic: Saturn

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft begins last close flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will make its final close flyby of Saturn’s haze-enshrouded moon Titan this weekend.

The flyby marks the mission’s final opportunity for up-close observations of the lakes and seas of liquid hydrocarbons that spread across the moon’s northern polar region, and the last chance to use its powerful radar to pierce the haze and make detailed images of the surface.

Closest approach to Titan is planned for 11:08pm PDT on April 21st (2:08am EDT April 22nd). During the encounter, Cassini will pass as close as 608 miles (979 kilometers) above Titan’s surface at a speed of about 13,000 mph (21,000 kph).

Cassini will make its final close flyby of Saturn's moon Titan on April 21st (PDT), using its radar to reveal the moon's surface lakes and seas one last time. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Cassini will make its final close flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan on April 21st (PDT), using its radar to reveal the moon’s surface lakes and seas one last time. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft takes photos of Saturn’s moon Atlas

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – These raw, unprocessed images of Saturn’s moon, Atlas, were taken on April 12th, 2017, by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. The flyby had a close-approach distance of about 7,000 miles (11,000 kilometers).

These images are the closest ever taken of Atlas and will help to characterize its shape and geology. Atlas (19 miles, or 30 kilometers across) orbits Saturn just outside the A ring — the outermost of the planet’s bright, main rings.

This unprocessed image of Saturn's moon Atlas was taken on April 12, 2017, by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

This unprocessed image of Saturn’s moon Atlas was taken on April 12, 2017, by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Cassini mission and Hubble Space Telescope provides new details about moons Enceladus and Europa

 

Written by Felicia Chou
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Two veteran NASA missions are providing new details about icy, ocean-bearing moons of Jupiter and Saturn, further heightening the scientific interest of these and other “ocean worlds” in our solar system and beyond. The findings are presented in papers published Thursday by researchers with NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn and Hubble Space Telescope.

In the papers, Cassini scientists announce that a form of chemical energy that life can feed on appears to exist on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, and Hubble researchers report additional evidence of plumes erupting from Jupiter’s moon Europa.

This artist's rendering shows Cassini diving through the Enceladus plume in 2015. New ocean world discoveries from Cassini and Hubble will help inform future exploration and the broader search for life beyond Earth. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s rendering shows Cassini diving through the Enceladus plume in 2015. New ocean world discoveries from Cassini and Hubble will help inform future exploration and the broader search for life beyond Earth. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to begin final orbits around Saturn

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, in orbit around Saturn since 2004, is about to begin the final chapter of its remarkable story. On Wednesday, April 26th, the spacecraft will make the first in a series of dives through the 1,500-mile-wide (2,400-kilometer) gap between Saturn and its rings as part of the mission’s grand finale.

“No spacecraft has ever gone through the unique region that we’ll attempt to boldly cross 22 times,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “What we learn from Cassini’s daring final orbits will further our understanding of how giant planets, and planetary systems everywhere, form and evolve. This is truly discovery in action to the very end.”

This illustration shows Cassini above Saturn's northern hemisphere prior to one of its 22 Grand Finale dives. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration shows Cassini above Saturn’s northern hemisphere prior to one of its 22 Grand Finale dives. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA is developing Tech, Robotic Arms to explore Icy, Ocean Worlds

 

Written by Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Want to go ice fishing on Jupiter’s moon Europa? There’s no promising you’ll catch anything, but a new set of robotic prototypes could help.

Since 2015, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has been developing new technologies for use on future missions to ocean worlds. That includes a subsurface probe that could burrow through miles of ice, taking samples along the way; robotic arms that unfold to reach faraway objects; and a projectile launcher for even more distant samples.

A robotic claw, one of several innovative tools developed at JPL for exploring icy, ocean worlds like Europa. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A robotic claw, one of several innovative tools developed at JPL for exploring icy, ocean worlds like Europa. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Dawn mission reveals Ceres’ Ice in Shadowed Craters related to dwarf planet’s tilt

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Dwarf planet Ceres may be hundreds of millions of miles from Jupiter, and even farther from Saturn, but the tremendous influence of gravity from these gas giants has an appreciable effect on Ceres’ orientation.

In a new study, researchers from NASA’s Dawn mission calculate that the axial tilt of Ceres — the angle at which it spins as it journeys around the sun — varies widely over the course of about 24,500 years. Astronomers consider this to be a surprisingly short period of time for such dramatic deviations.

This animation shows how the illumination of Ceres' northern hemisphere varies with the dwarf planet's axial tilt, or obliquity. Shadowed regions are highlighted for tilts of 2 degrees, 12 degrees and 20 degrees. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This animation shows how the illumination of Ceres’ northern hemisphere varies with the dwarf planet’s axial tilt, or obliquity. Shadowed regions are highlighted for tilts of 2 degrees, 12 degrees and 20 degrees. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA researchers say Mars may have had Rings

 

Written by Brian Wallheimer
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – As children, we learned about our solar system’s planets by certain characteristics — Jupiter is the largest, Saturn has rings, Mercury is closest to the sun. Mars is red, but it’s possible that one of our closest neighbors also had rings at one point and may have them again someday.

That’s the theory put forth by NASA-funded scientists at Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana, whose findings were published in the journal Nature Geoscience. David Minton and Andrew Hesselbrock developed a model that suggests that debris that was pushed into space from an asteroid or other body slamming into Mars around 4.3 billion years ago alternates between becoming a planetary ring and clumping together to form a moon.

This sequence of images from NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows one of Mars' two moons, Phobos, passing directly in front of the other, Deimos, in 2013. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems/Texas A&M Univ.)

This sequence of images from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows one of Mars’ two moons, Phobos, passing directly in front of the other, Deimos, in 2013. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems/Texas A&M Univ.)

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NASA study shows hydrocarbon seas on Saturn’s moon Titan could bubble with Nitrogen

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A recent NASA-funded study has shown how the hydrocarbon lakes and seas of Saturn’s moon Titan might occasionally erupt with dramatic patches of bubbles.

For the study, researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, simulated the frigid surface conditions on Titan, finding that significant amounts of nitrogen can be dissolved in the extremely cold liquid methane that rains from the skies and collects in rivers, lakes and seas.

Cassini captured this mosaic of images showing the northern lakes and seas of Saturn's moon Titan on Feb. 17, 2017. The mission's final close Titan flyby is planned for April 22. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Cassini captured this mosaic of images showing the northern lakes and seas of Saturn’s moon Titan on Feb. 17, 2017. The mission’s final close Titan flyby is planned for April 22. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft detects Heat under Ice of Saturn’s Moon Enceladus

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new study in the journal Nature Astronomy reports that the south polar region of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus is warmer than expected just a few feet below its icy surface. This suggests that Enceladus’ ocean of liquid water might be only a couple of miles beneath this region — closer to the surface than previously thought.

The excess heat is especially pronounced over three fractures that are not unlike the “tiger stripes” — prominent, actively venting fractures that slice across the pole — except that they don’t appear to be active at the moment.

This enhanced-color Cassini view of southern latitudes on Enceladus features the bluish "tiger stripe" fractures that rip across the south polar region. (NASA)

This enhanced-color Cassini view of southern latitudes on Enceladus features the bluish “tiger stripe” fractures that rip across the south polar region. (NASA)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft examines ice moon with a salty ocean, Saturn’s Enceladus

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – On February 17th, 2005, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft was making the first-ever close pass over Saturn’s moon Enceladus as it worked through its detailed survey of the planet’s icy satellites. Exciting, to be sure, just for the thrill of exploration. But then Cassini’s magnetometer instrument noticed something odd.

Since NASA’s two Voyager spacecraft made their distant flybys of Enceladus about 20 years prior, scientists had anticipated the little moon would be an interesting place to visit with Cassini. Enceladus is bright white — the most reflective object in the solar system, in fact — and it orbits in the middle of a faint ring of dust-sized ice particles known as Saturn’s E ring.

A dramatic plume sprays water ice and vapor from the south polar region of Saturn's moon Enceladus. Cassini's first hint of this plume came during the spacecraft's first close flyby of the icy moon on February 17, 2005. (NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

A dramatic plume sprays water ice and vapor from the south polar region of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Cassini’s first hint of this plume came during the spacecraft’s first close flyby of the icy moon on February 17, 2005. (NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

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