BY DR EMILY BALDWIN
Posted: 22 June, 2009
Cassini has been orbiting Saturn since 1 July 2004 and is now in its Equinox mission phase that will see the giant planet experience equinox this August, the twice-yearly occasion when the Sun passes through the plane containing the planet's rings. For Saturn this occurs once every 15 Earth years.
The shadow of moon Mimas dips onto the planet’s rings and straddles the Cassini Division in this natural colour image. Image: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.
The unique illumination geometry allows features to be discerned in unprecedented detail. Just last week we reported on the spectacular out-of-plane structures seen towering out of the planet’s rings, and this week’s bounty includes time-lapse sequences of Saturn’s moons as they eclipse each other and cast long shadows onto the rings.
“It has been a scientist's delight to watch this almost wafer-thin collection of icy debris, that we have come to know so well, change in character and spring into the third dimension,” says Cassini Imaging Team leader Carolyn Porco. “Five years into this mission and we find there are still new tales to be told.”
The release of the new images coincides with the opening of a week-long celebration of the Cassini mission, which has been exploring the Saturnian for the last five years. The "Visions of Saturn" exhibition is on display at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich and includes striking pictures of hurricane-force storms in Saturn's turbulent atmosphere, the delicate tracery of the ring system and a weird and wonderful array of satellites, including enigmatic worlds Enceladus and Titan.
Members of the Cassini Project, including Carolyn Porco, will be speaking to the public at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich during the evenings of the 25, 26 and 27 June. Check http://www.nmm.ac.uk/visit/events/cassini-talks for details.