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.

Enceladus Plus

Enceladus in "Saturnshine" by Cassini.  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Enceladus in “Saturnshine” by Cassini. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Here’s a picture of Enceladus from Cassini. The image was taken from a distance of 832,000 km (517,000 miles). The Sun and the camera are on opposite sides of the moon. The light provided to be able to see the moon and the now famous jets of water is “Saturnshine”, light reflected off Saturn.

Plus this:

You might have seen the news of Curiosity finding water on Mars. The soil sample contained two percent water. This is the first direct measurement as far as I know. There have been estimates of soil water detected by the HEND instrument on the Mars Odyssey. I managed to find the reference. Further findings will be very interesting, I’d look in one of the “gullies”, then again I’d be doing all sorts of things that might be fun for me but not for the mission.

Two percent is quite a lot I would think considering. Seems like there are a few variables too, like soil particle size. I’m assuming, and I say that because I don’t know nor have I been able to find out for sure, is this hygroscopic water (i.e. beyond capillary water)? I would think it would sublimate when exposed, continuing to look at that. Here’s the story. If anybody knows leave a comment.

Cygnus :

There will be an attempt a docking tomorrow morning (Sunday, 29 Sept.). Coverage starts at 08:30 UTC (04:30 EDT). I’ll put a video link here before hand.

Capture was successful.  Nice and smooth as far as I could see.   I noted about a four second delay between the streamed version and the television.  Had a little bit of a time getting the right feed and then my computer decided to spaz out for a few minutes.  Not a disease or anything but ever since a couple updates ago, we seem to have these little “fits”.  LOL.

Cygnus is now attached!

Space X

There will be yet another launch tomorrow too. Space X is scheduled to launch the Falcon 9 with Canadian research satellite (and the Canadian Space Agency) and MDA Corp.

The launch window opens at 16:00 UTC. I’ll have more on that launch tomorrow morning.

Mini-jet in Saturn’s Ring

Mini-jet in Saturn F ring, click for a zoomed in version.  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Mini-jet in Saturn F ring, click for a zoomed in version. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Here’s a Cassini image of a “mini-jet” in the F ring of Saturn. The mini-jets are thought to be caused by low-speed collisions of material in the F ring and this causes dusty material from the ring.

The mini-jets are sometimes called exotic trails (actually what I’ve always called them), to learn more about them have a look here.

This image is from the “dark side” of the rings, that is below the ring plane by about 48 degrees from a distance of about 1.4 million km (841,000 miles) on June 20, 2013.

Here’s a link to the original image at the Cassini page at JPL.

See the newly launched Cygnus Spacecraft in flight:

Do you want to see the Cygnus spacecraft in flight? You can go to Heaven’s Above PLUS(!) you can see if you will be able to observe the Juno spacecraft flyby of Earth on its way to Jupiter and of course the ISS sightings and other spacecraft.

For those who downloaded Stellarium from a few posts back you can set that up for the appropriate time and really narrow down where to look. I’ve been doing that lately with the morning passes of the ISS and it works very well.

BTW: You will need to configure Heaven’s Above. It’s easy and safe, I’ve been registered for nearly 10 years and NEVER got any unwanted email, hmmm, to be honest no email at all. So don’t worry about such things.

Saturn’s Rings

Cassini's look at Saturn and  an arc of the rings. Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini’s look at Saturn and an arc of the rings. Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

It seems like its been a while since I put a Cassini image up and this one is very nice. The image was taken from a distance of 1.1 million km (657,000 miles) using the wide-angle camera in the near-infrared light.

It almost seem like the rings have a dish shape to them.

See the full image and caption at the JPL Photojournal page Arc Across the Heavens.

TOMORROW:

Tomorrow there is a scheduled launch of the Orbital Sciences Corp. Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft on a demonstration mission to the ISS.

The launch was delayed due to weather concerns holding up the roll-out and a technical communications issue Friday. A look at the expected weather conditions on Wednesday shows no concerns, nice and sunny with temperatures around 22 C (72 F).

Launch is set for 14:50 to 15:05 UTC / 10:50 to 11:05 EDT.

We will have more on the launch and a link to the live shot tomorrow morning. Hope you can make it!