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Topic: Titan

NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft observes Saturn’s Solstice

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft still has a few months to go before it completes its mission in September, but the veteran Saturn explorer reaches a new milestone today. Saturn’s solstice — that is, the longest day of summer in the northern hemisphere and the shortest day of winter in the southern hemisphere — arrives today for the planet and its moons.

The Saturnian solstice occurs about every 15 Earth years as the planet and its entourage slowly orbit the sun, with the north and south hemispheres alternating their roles as the summer and winter poles.

These natural color views from Cassini show how the color of Saturn's north-polar region changed between June 2013 and April 2017, as the northern hemisphere headed toward summer solstice. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton Univ.)

These natural color views from Cassini show how the color of Saturn’s north-polar region changed between June 2013 and April 2017, as the northern hemisphere headed toward summer solstice. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton Univ.)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft finishes last close orbit 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 has had its last close brush with Saturn’s hazy moon Titan and is now beginning its final set of 22 orbits around the ringed planet.

The spacecraft made its 127th and final close approach to Titan on April 21st at 11:08pm PDT (1:08am CDT on April 22nd), passing at an altitude of about 608 miles (979 kilometers) above the moon’s surface.

Cassini transmitted its images and other data to Earth following the encounter.

This unprocessed image of Saturn's moon Titan was captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during its final close flyby of the hazy, planet-sized moon on April 21, 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

This unprocessed image of Saturn’s moon Titan was captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft during its final close flyby of the hazy, planet-sized moon on April 21, 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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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 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 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 mission to Saturn inspires people of Earth

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Although the motivation behind NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn was scientific, part of the planet’s allure has long been in its undeniable physical beauty.

Since Cassini arrived at Saturn in 2004, dramatic views from the spacecraft’s imaging cameras — and other sensors that observe in infrared, ultraviolet and radio frequencies — have revealed the ringed planet and its moons in unprecedented detail for scientists to study.

Saturn Mosaic by Ian Regan. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Ian Regan)

Saturn Mosaic by Ian Regan. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Ian Regan)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft takes detail images of Saturn’s Rings

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Newly released images showcase the incredible closeness with which NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, now in its “Ring-Grazing” orbits phase, is observing Saturn’s dazzling rings of icy debris.

The views are some of the closest-ever images of the outer parts of the main rings, giving scientists an eagerly awaited opportunity to observe features with names like “straw” and “propellers.” Although Cassini saw these features earlier in the mission, the spacecraft’s current, special orbits are now providing opportunities to see them in greater detail.

This Cassini image features a density wave in Saturn's A ring (at left) that lies around 134,500 km from Saturn. Density waves are accumulations of particles at certain distances from the planet. This feature is filled with clumpy perturbations, which researchers informally refer to as "straw." (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

This Cassini image features a density wave in Saturn’s A ring (at left) that lies around 134,500 km from Saturn. Density waves are accumulations of particles at certain distances from the planet. This feature is filled with clumpy perturbations, which researchers informally refer to as “straw.” (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA looks back at Huygens probe’s descent to the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After a two-and-a-half-hour descent, the metallic, saucer-shaped spacecraft came to rest with a thud on a dark floodplain covered in cobbles of water ice, in temperatures hundreds of degrees below freezing.

The alien probe worked frantically to collect and transmit images and data about its environs — in mere minutes its mothership would drop below the local horizon, cutting off its link to the home world and silencing its voice forever.

Although it may seem the stuff of science fiction, this scene played out 12 years ago on the surface of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. The “aliens” who built the probe were us. This was the triumphant landing of ESA’s Huygens probe.

Images taken by Huygens were used to create this view, which shows the probe's perspective from an altitude of about 6 miles (10 kilometers). (ESA/NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

Images taken by Huygens were used to create this view, which shows the probe’s perspective from an altitude of about 6 miles (10 kilometers). (ESA/NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

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