Four of Saturn's moons parade by their parent

Mar 17, 2009
On Feb. 24, 2009, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope captured a photo sequence of four moons of Saturn passing in front of their parent planet. The moons, from far left to right, are the white icy moons Enceladus and Dione, the large orange moon Titan, and icy Mimas. Due to the angle of the sun, they are each preceded by their own shadow. Credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

On 24 February 2009, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope captured a photo sequence of four moons of Saturn passing in front of their parent planet. The moons, from far left to right, are the white icy moons Enceladus and Dione, the large orange moon Titan, and icy Mimas. Due to the angle of the Sun, they are each preceded by their own shadow.

These rare transits only happen when the tilt of Saturn's is nearly "edge on" as seen from the . Saturn's rings will be perfectly edge on to our line of sight on 10 August and 4 September 2009. Unfortunately, will be too close to the Sun to be seen by viewers on Earth at that time. This "ring plane crossing" occurs every 14-15 years. In 1995-96 Hubble witnessed the previous ring plane crossing, as well as many moon transits, and helped to discover several new moons of Saturn.

Early 2009 was a favourable time for viewers with small telescopes to watch moon and shadow transits crossing the face of Saturn. , Saturn's largest moon, crossed Saturn on four separate occasions: 24 January, 9 February, 24 February and 12 March, although not all events were visible from all locations on Earth.

Italian Galileo Galilei — often referred to as the father of astronomy — was the first to observe Saturn through a telescope in 1610. Dutch mathematician and astronomer Christian Huygens discovered Titan in 1655 and, 350 years later, the ESA probe named for him touched down on Titan (on 14 January 2005), giving the world its first views of the surface of the mysterious, icy world. Giovanni Domenico , a French/Italian astronomer, discovered Dione (in addition to others) and the German-born Englishman, William Herschel, discovered Mimas and Enceladus.

These pictures were taken with Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 on 24 February 2009, when Saturn was at a distance of roughly 1.25 billion kilometres from Earth. Hubble can see details as small as 300 kilometres across on Saturn. The dark band running across the face of the planet slightly above the rings is the shadow of the rings cast on the planet.

Source: ESA/Hubble Information Centre (news : web)

Explore further: NASA spacecraft almost to Pluto: Smile for the camera!

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Saturn's Crazy Christmas Tilt

Dec 22, 2008

You look through the telescope. Blink. Shake your head and look again. The planet you expected to see in the eyepiece is not the one that's actually there. Too much eggnog? No, it's just Saturn's crazy Christmas ...

Cassini Spacecraft Witnesses Saturn's Blues

Feb 09, 2005

Colorful new images from the Cassini spacecraft show that Saturn's northern hemisphere has a case of the blues. In the first image, the icy moon Mimas is set against a dazzling and dramatic portrait of Saturn's ...

The Vanishing Rings of Saturn

Mar 18, 2008

Saturn: jewel of the solar system, taker of breaths, ringed beauty. Even veteran astronomers can't help but gasp when they see her through a small telescope. Red Alert: Saturn's rings are vanishing.

Huygens on Titan, First Images 2:45 p.m. EST

Jan 14, 2005

European Space Agency mission managers for the Huygens probe confirm that data of the probe's descent to Saturn's moon Titan are being received. They expect to see first images around 2:45 p.m. Eastern Time. The data was ...

Recommended for you

NASA spacecraft almost to Pluto: Smile for the camera!

Jan 23, 2015

It's showtime for Pluto. NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has traveled 3 billion miles and is nearing the end of its nine-year journey to Pluto. Sunday, it begins photographing the mysterious, unexplored, icy ...

Gullies on Vesta suggest past water-mobilized flows

Jan 23, 2015

(Phys.org)—Protoplanet Vesta, visited by NASA's Dawn spacecraft from 2011 to 2013, was once thought to be completely dry, incapable of retaining water because of the low temperatures and pressures at its ...

SOHO and Hinode offer new insight into solar eruptions

Jan 23, 2015

The sun is home to the largest explosions in the solar system. For example, it regularly produces huge eruptions known as coronal mass ejections – when billions of tons of solar material erupt off the sun, ...

Getting to know Rosetta's comet

Jan 23, 2015

Rosetta is revealing its host comet as having a remarkable array of surface features and with many processes contributing to its activity, painting a complex picture of its evolution.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.