The North of Saturn

A view of Saturn from Cassini. Click for larger. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini is still alive and well around Saturn as we can see from this image of the northern hemisphere.

From JPL’s Cassini website:

Just as Saturn’s famous hexagonal shaped jet stream encircles the planet’s north pole, the rings encircle the planet, as seen from Cassini’s position high above. Around and around everything goes!

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Opposition Surge

Opposition surge at Saturn August 2013. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

The bright spot you can see on the rings of Saturn is called an “opposition surge” was taken in August 2013 and just released.

The opposition surge happens when the Sun-Ring-Cassini angle gets to zero degrees. The image here was taken through a polarized filter on the camera. The filter acts to allow only light polarized in one direction pass this reduces the scattering of light. This is very similar to the polarized lenses we have on our sunglasses.

Using the polarized filter and the size and magnitude of the spot scientists can learn about the properties of the particles making up the rings.

A nice explanation was given on an opposition surge image in the A-ring from August of 2006 – seven years before this one was taken almost to the day.

The image above was taken from a distance of 1.1 million km / 712,000 miles. The actual Sun-rings-Cassini phase angle here was seven degrees, this could account for the spot maybe not as clearly defined as the 2006 image.

The Maelstrom

A very detailed look at the northern polar vortex on Saturn.  Click for larger to really see the nice detail.  Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

A very detailed look at the northern polar vortex on Saturn. Click for larger to really see the nice detail. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

I hope everybody saw the new year come in and enjoyed yourselves. I am working again today so I didn’t make it very long into the night. If all goes well today will be my Friday and it is quite overdue after working for two weeks straight.

The image here is a very nicely detailed look at Saturn’s polar vortex and a fine way to bring in 2014.

Cassini’s caption for “The Maelstrom”:

The vortex at Saturn’s north pole — seen here in the infrared — takes on the menacing look of something from the imagination of Edgar Allan Poe. But really, of course, it’s just another example of the amazing, mesmerizing meteorology on Saturn.

The eye of the immense cyclone is about 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) wide, 20 times larger than most on Earth. For another view of the vortex, see PIA14946.

This view is centered on clouds at 89 degrees north latitude, 109 degrees west longitude. North is up and rotated 33 degrees to the left. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on June 14, 2013 using a spectral filter sensitive to wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 750 nanometers.The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 476,000 miles (766,000 kilometers) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 45 degrees. Image scale is 3 miles (5 kilometers) per pixel.

Northern Hexagon of Saturn

Nice!  Saturn in natural color is always good anyway, but this is amazing.

Nice! Saturn in natural color is always good anyway, but this is amazing.

Nice! Saturn in natural color is always good anyway, but this is amazing.

From the Cassini site:

The globe of Saturn, seen here in natural color, is reminiscent of a holiday ornament in this wide-angle view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. The characteristic hexagonal shape of Saturn’s northern jet stream, somewhat yellow here, is visible. At the pole lies a Saturnian version of a high-speed hurricane, eye and all.

To learn more about Saturn’s north polar region see PIA14944 and PIA14945.

This view is centered on terrain at 75 degrees north latitude, 120 degrees west longitude. Images taken using red, green and blue spectral filters were combined to create this natural-color view. The images were taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on July 22, 2013.

This view was acquired at a distance of approximately 611,000 miles (984,000 kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is 51 miles (82 kilometers) 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.

Moon Art

Saturn moon art from Cassini. Image Credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Saturn moon art from Cassini. Image Credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Click for a larger version, you might find it helpful to see the Daphnis waves easier. There is a high-res version available at the link below too.

From the Cassini site:

Saturn’s moons create art on the canvas of Saturn’s rings with gravity as their tool. Here Prometheus is seen sculpting the F ring while Daphnis (too small to discern in this image) raises waves on the edges of the Keeler gap.

Prometheus (53 miles, or 86 kilometers across) is just above image center while Daphnis (5 miles, or 8 kilometers across), although too small to see in its location in the Keeler gap just to the right of center, can be located by the waves it creates on the edges of the gap.

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Saturn’s Hexagon

Saturn's northern vortex - the hexagon.  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton University

Saturn’s northern vortex – the hexagon. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton University

WOW! Cassini took the best images yet of Saturn’s northern vortex we know as the hexagon. Be sure to check out the animated gif from the JPL page (linked below).

JPL’s caption:

This colorful view from NASA’s Cassini mission is the highest-resolution view of the unique six-sided jet stream at Saturn’s north pole known as “the hexagon.” This movie, made from images obtained by Cassini’s imaging cameras, is the first to show the hexagon in color filters, and the first movie to show a complete view from the north pole down to about 70 degrees north latitude.

 

Scientists can see the motion of a wide variety of cloud structures that reside within the hexagon in this movie. There is a massive hurricane tightly centered on the north pole, with an eye about 50 times larger than the average hurricane eye on Earth. (More information about that Saturn hurricane is at Saturn Hurricane Movie.)

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Titan’s Polar Vortex

Titan's Polar Vortex from Cassini.  Click for larger. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Titan’s Polar Vortex from Cassini. Click for larger. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

It is probably just me but that vortex always looks like it sticks out a little, like a 3-D effect. Nice picture though.

BTW: There is a nice image of the Kliuchevskoi Volcano taken from the ISS on the wallpaper link above.  Looks quite nice on my desktops.

The JPL caption released with the image:

The sunlit edge of Titan’s south polar vortex stands out distinctly against the darkness of the moon’s unilluminated hazy atmosphere. The Cassini spacecraft images of the vortex led scientists to conclude that its clouds form at a much higher altitude — where sunlight can still reach — than the surrounding haze.

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Stunning Rings and Two Moons

Saturns rings and two moons. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Saturns rings and two moons. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

A stunning image of Saturn’s rings. There are two moons in this image too, the larger of the two is obvious and is Epimetheus and the other is Daphnis.

Daphnis is a wee moon being only 8 km / 5 mi. and is very difficult to see unless you click the image to get the larger view. Look just to the right of center and in the rings just to the inside of the (Keeler) gap.

More about Saturn.

Before you read the NASA supplied caption below, I wanted to let you know there are TWO different launches today and they are only a short time apart from each other:

1. The Progress 53 cargo ship is scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 20:53 UTC (15:53 EST) The coverage should be here: http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/ustream/ Update:  Launched,

2. A SpaceX launch is scheduled for 22:45 UTC (17:45 EST). The flight will put the SES-8 communications into a geostationary orbit from Cape Canaveral Florida USA. Coverage: http://www.spacex.com/webcast/ Update: A delay due to an issue, next attempt not before Thursday.  The delay came around T minus 3 minutes 40 seconds.  I could not get back to the time and a news release with more info is still in the works.

 

Here’s the caption from NASA (link goes to much larger versions of the image):

Amidst and Beyond the Rings

While the moon Epimetheus passes by, beyond the edge of Saturn’s main rings, the tiny moon Daphnis carries on its orbit within the Keeler gap of the A ring. Although quite different in size, both moons create waves in the rings thanks to their gravitational influences.

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The Ring Plane

Cassini looks at Saturn's ring plane. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini looks at Saturn’s ring plane. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

A rather unique look at the ring-plane of Saturn. It appears we are looking at the F-ring to the right then the wide gap called the Roche Division. The light colored part is the A-ring with it’s Keeler
Gap. Keeler Gap is home to the moon Daphnis and the Cassini’s camera was pointed at Daphnis in this image. I cannot see the moon, however I can see the ripples in the ring caused by the moons gravity as it goes around. Look on the other side of the narrow Keeler Gap and you will notice a “ragged” look, those are the ripples.

The leftmost gap, is the Encke gap.

The Keeler gap looks pretty narrow and it is, being only 42 km (26 miles) across and little Daphnis keeps things in an orderly state, other then the ripples or waves it creates as it zips by.  Zips is a good description too, Daphnis makes a complete orbit in about 14 hours!.

Daphis is one of the more recent discoveries and was made by Cassini in 2005.

Mean radius: 3.8 km

Orbit radius: 136,505 km

Mass: 7.7 (+/-1.5) x 1013 kg

More about Saturn here.

Atmosphere of Saturn

Atmosphere of Saturn. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Atmosphere of Saturn. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Here is one of the latest Cassini images of Saturn. The image has pretty nice detail of the atmospheric features of the planet. You can see the polar vortex, the question is which one. The image caption was no help, just saying the camera was pointed at Anthe.

Anthe is a very tiny moon of Saturn, only about 1km in diameter and I’m not sure it is even in frame, Anthes has a semi-major axis of 197,700 km (122,845 mi) and was discovered in 2007 by the Cassini spacecraft.