News

Saturn’s clouds run deep, rings may rain organics

6 April 2018 Stephen Clark

Saturn’s clouds have roots deeper inside the planet’s atmosphere than scientists previously thought, and Saturn’s rings — now believed to have formed in the last 200 million years — appear to be raining organic molecules down on the planet, according to observations made by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft last year in the final weeks of its mission.

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Cassini’s farewell to Saturn

26 November 2017 Stephen Clark

Two days before its final plunge into Saturn, the Cassini spacecraft turned its camera toward the ringed world to take a series of images for a colour mosaic, capturing a last evocative close-up until a new mission reaches the planet.

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Cassini results still keeping scientists busy

19 October 2017 Stephen Clark

Scientists examining data from the Cassini mission’s final months reported this week unexpected measurements of Saturn’s gravity field and outer atmosphere, suggesting they may have to revisit theories about the planet’s rings and the forces that generate magnetic fields.

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Intense storms batter Saturn’s largest moon, scientists report

14 October 2017 Astronomy Now

Titan, the largest of Saturn’s more than 60 moons, has surprisingly intense rainstorms, according to research by a team of UCLA planetary scientists and geologists. Although the storms are relatively rare — they occur less than once per Titan year, which is 29 and a half Earth years — they occur much more frequently than the scientists expected.

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Enceladus’ phantom limb

4 October 2017 Astronomy Now

The brightly lit limb of a crescent Enceladus looks ethereal against the blackness of space. The rest of the moon, lit by light reflected from Saturn, presents a ghostly appearance.

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NASA counts down final month of Cassini’s tour of Saturn

15 August 2017 Stephen Clark

NASA’s Cassini orbiter sailed through the tenuous outermost reaches of Saturn’s atmosphere without trouble Monday, performing the first of five close swings nearer to the planet than any previous spacecraft before a final dive Sept. 15 to end the probe’s nearly 20-year mission.

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Haze on Saturn’s horizon

27 July 2017 Astronomy Now

This false-color view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft gazes toward the rings beyond Saturn’s sunlit horizon. Along the limb at left can be seen a thin, detached haze. This haze vanishes toward the left side of the scene.