In the shadows of Saturn's ringsJune 20th, 2012 in Astronomy & Space / Space Exploration
Titan and Saturn, seen when the Cassini spacecraft passed by Titan at a distance of 700, 000 km on 6 May 2012. 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 centre is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/J. Major
(Phys.org) -- Titan appears to be strung like a bead on Saturns rings, which cast shadows onto the southern hemisphere of the gas giant in this beautiful image from Cassini.
Faint but exquisite detail in the gas giants upper atmosphere paints a tranquil scene. A thin band of bright white ammonia ice clouds is etched into the planets disc towards the top of the image while clouds dotted below are faded scars of a huge storm that raged across the planet through much of 2011.
Shadows cast by Saturns iconic rings appear painted onto the planets southern hemisphere in two thick bands broken by thin, lighter stripes, reflecting the intricacies of the individual rings.
As Saturns seasons progress towards northern hemisphere summer, the rings will appear to grow wider and wider.
Meanwhile Titan, Saturns largest moon, appears to hang on the planets rings like a bead on a necklace. The effect is a result of the line-of-sight viewing position; Titan orbits Saturn at an average distance of 1, 221, 870 km.
The moon is an enigma in itself cloaked in a thick nitrogen-rich atmosphere, it is the only moon in the Solar System that has a dense atmosphere. Lakes of liquid hydrocarbons pool on its surface, and an active methane cycle plays a similar role to Earths water cycle, complete with clouds and methane rain.
Cassini has been in orbit around Saturn since 2004 and is now in its second extended mission phase, the Cassini Solstice Mission, which will continue until 2017.
Provided by European Space Agency
"In the shadows of Saturn's rings." June 20th, 2012. http://phys.org/news/2012-06-shadows-saturn.html