Known for its bright ring system and many moons, gas giant Saturn looks strange and unfamiliar in this false-color view from the Cassini spacecraft. In fact, in this Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) mosaic the famous rings are almost invisible, seen edge-on cutting across picture center. The most striking contrast in the image is along the terminator or boundary between night and day. To the right (day side) blue-green hues are visible sunlight reflected from Saturn’s cloud tops. But on the left (night side) in the absence of sunlight, the lantern-like glow of infrared radiation from the planet’s warm interior silhouettes features at Saturn’s deeper cloud levels. The infrared glow also shines from the broad shadows of Saturn’s rings sweeping across the planet’s upper hemisphere.
Credit: VIMS Team, U. Arizona, ESA, NASA
Even in a peaceful looking scene such as this one of Saturn and its moon Tethys, the Cassini spacecraft reveals clues about how Saturn is ever-changing. Saturn’s northern hemisphere still shows the scars of the huge storm that raged through much of 2011 (see PIA14905). And, day by day, the shadows cast by the rings on the planet’s southern hemisphere are growing wider as the seasons progress toward northern summer. See PIA11667 and PIA09793 to learn about the changing seasons and the shadows cast by the rings.Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Tethys (660 miles, or 1,062 kilometers across) appears above the rings to the left of the center of the image.
The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Jan. 10, 2012 using a spectral filter sensitive to wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 752 nanometers. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 1.4 million miles (2.3 million kilometers) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 39 degrees. Image scale on Saturn is 84 miles (136 kilometers) per pixel.
A brightly reflective Enceladus appears before Saturn’s rings, while the planet’s larger moon Titan looms in the distance.
Jets of water ice and vapor emanating from the south pole of Enceladus, which hint at subsurface sea rich in organics, and liquid hydrocarbons ponding on the surface on the surface of Titan make these two of the most fascinating moons in the Saturnian system.
Enceladus (313 miles, or 504 kilometers across) is in the center of the image. Titan (3,200 miles, or 5,150 kilometers across) glows faintly in the background beyond the rings. This view looks toward the anti-Saturn side of Enceladus and the Saturn-facing side of Titan. The northern, sunlit side of the rings is seen from just above the ringplane.
The image was taken in visible green light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on March 12, 2012. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 600,000 miles (1 million kilometers) from Enceladus and at a Sun-Enceladus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 36 degrees. Image scale is 4 miles (6 kilometers) per pixel on Enceladus.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
This false-color image shows evidence for lakes of liquid hydrocarbons, probably methane or ethane, on Titan’s surface. The lakes are represented as dark areas, but are not what the human eye would see, because radar was used to penetrate the thick haze obscuring Titan’s surface. The Cassini radar instrument acquired this image on July 22, 2006. The image is centered near 80 degrees north, 35 degrees west and is about 140 kilometers (84 miles) across. The strip of radar imagery is foreshortened to simulate an oblique view of the highest latitude region, seen from a point to its west. Smallest details in this image are about 500 meters (1,640 feet) across.Credit: NASA/JPL/USGS
Phoebe’s true nature is revealed in startling clarity in this mosaic of two images taken during Cassini’s flyby on June 11, 2004. The image shows evidence for the emerging view that Phoebe may be an ice-rich body coated with a thin layer of dark material. Small bright craters in the image are probably fairly young features. This phenomenon has been observed on other icy satellites, such as Ganymede at Jupiter. When impactors slammed into the surface of Phoebe, the collisions excavated fresh, bright material — probably ice — underlying the surface layer. Further evidence for this can be seen on some crater walls where the darker material appears to have slid downwards, exposing more light-colored material. Some areas of the image that are particularly bright - especially near lower right - are over-exposed.Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
An accurate determination of Phoebe’s density — a forthcoming result from the flyby — will help Cassini mission scientists understand how much of the little moon is comprised of ices.
This spectacular view was obtained at a phase, or Sun-Phoebe-spacecraft, angle of 84 degrees, and from a distance of approximately 32,500 kilometers (20,200 miles). The image scale is approximately 190 meters (624 feet) per pixel. No enhancement was performed on this image.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA’s Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras, were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.
Images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft have revealed half-mile-sized (kilometer-sized) objects punching through parts of Saturn’s F ring, leaving glittering trails behind them. These trails in the rings, which scientists are calling “mini-jets,” fill in a missing link in our story of the curious behavior of the F ring.
Ontario Lacus is Titan’s largest lake in its southern hemisphere. It is an ephemeral lake that resembles Etosha Pan in Namibia, Africa. On Titan the liquid is made of hydrocarbons, whereas on Earth it is made of water.Credits: Cassini radar image JPL/NASA. Envisat radar image ESA. Composite image: LPGNantes.
Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus hangs below the gas giant’s rings while Titan lurks in the background, in this new image taken by the Cassini spacecraft.Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Faint detail of the tiger stripe markings can be seen on Enceladus’ surface, which is framed against Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. With jets of water ice and vapour streaming from Enceladus’ south pole, and liquid hydrocarbon lakes pooling beneath Titan’s thick atmosphere, these are two of Saturn’s most enigmatic moons.
The northern, sun-lit side of Saturn’s rings are seen from just above the ring plane in this image, which was taken in visible green light by Cassini’s narrow-angle camera on 12 March while it was approximately one million kilometres from Enceladus. The image scale is six kilometres per pixel on Enceladus.
Below a darkened Enceladus, a plume of water ice is backlit in this view of one of Saturn’s most dramatic moons.Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Dramatic plumes, both large and small, spray water ice from many locations along the moon’s famed “tiger stripes” near the south pole of Enceladus. The tiger stripes are fissures that spray icy particles, water vapor and organic compounds.
The terrain seen here is on the leading hemisphere of Enceladus (313 miles, or 504 kilometers across). North is up. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Feb. 20, 2012. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 83,000 miles (134,000 kilometers) from Enceladus and at a Sun-Enceladus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 165 degrees. Image scale is 2,628 feet (801 meters) per pixel.
This view highlights tectonic faults and craters on Dione, an icy world that has undoubtedly experienced geologic activity since its formation.Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
To create the enhanced-color view, ultraviolet, green and infrared images were combined into a single black and white picture that isolates and maps regional color differences. This “color map” was then superposed over a clear-filter image. The origin of the color differences is not yet understood, but may be caused by subtle differences in the surface composition or the sizes of grains making up the icy soil.
This view looks toward the leading hemisphere on Dione (1,126 kilometers, or 700 miles across). North is up and rotated 20 degrees to the right.
See PIA07690 for a similar monochrome view.
All images were acquired with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Dec. 24, 2005 at a distance of approximately 151,000 kilometers (94,000 miles) from Dione and at a Sun-Dione-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 99 degrees. Image scale is 896 meters (2,940 feet) per pixel.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.