Observing

See ringed planet Saturn at its best in late June

13 June 2018 Ade Ashford

While excitement among planetary observers is growing for the best views of Mars for 15 years (Martian dust storms permitting) in late July, there’s still one prior planetary treat: the opposition of Saturn on 27 June, which coincides with a close lunar conjunction. We show you what to look for in and around the Saturnian system.

News

Cassini offers best-ever view of Saturn’s rings

30 January 2017 Stephen Clark

A sequence of images captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft last month are the most detailed pictures ever taken of Saturn’s famous rings, revealing complex, unexplained bands and the movements of dozens of tiny icy moonlets spinning around the planet.

News

Saturn probe prepares for dramatic ring-grazing orbits

23 November 2016 Astronomy Now

A thrilling ride is about to begin for NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Engineers have been pumping up the probe’s orbit around Saturn this year to increase its tilt with respect to the planet’s equator and rings. And on 30 November, following a gravitational nudge from Saturn’s moon Titan, Cassini will enter the first phase of the mission’s dramatic endgame.

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Saturn’s seasonal shadows

9 August 2016 Astronomy Now

The shadow of Saturn’s globe on the rings, which stretched across all of the rings earlier in the Cassini spacecraft’s mission, now barely makes it past the Cassini Division. The changing length of the globe’s shadow marks the passing of the seasons on Saturn. As the planet nears its northern-hemisphere solstice in May 2017, the shadow will get even shorter.

News

Saturn’s rings: less than meets the eye?

3 February 2016 Astronomy Now

You might think that, in the rings of Saturn, more opaque areas contain a greater concentration of material than places where the rings seem more transparent. But this intuition does not always apply, according to a recent study of the rings using data from NASA’s Cassini mission. The research also suggests that the planet’s brightest B ring could be a few hundred million years old instead of a few billion.

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Saturn’s moons Janus and Tethys

19 January 2016 Astronomy Now

Janus and Tethys demonstrate the main difference between small moons and large ones; it’s all about their shape. Moons like Tethys are large enough that their own gravity is sufficient to overcome the material strength of the substances they are made of and mould them into spherical shapes, but small moons like Janus are not massive enough for their gravity to form them into a sphere.