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Cassini beams back first images from new orbit

9 December 2016 Astronomy Now

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has sent to Earth its first views of Saturn’s atmosphere since beginning the latest phase of its mission. The new images show scenes from high above Saturn’s northern hemisphere, including the planet’s intriguing hexagon-shaped jet stream.

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It’s chaos at Saturn’s moon Hyperion

5 December 2016 Astronomy Now

The moon Hyperion tumbles as it orbits Saturn. Hyperion’s spin axis has a chaotic orientation in time, meaning that it is essentially impossible to predict how the moon will be spinning in the future.

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The view from above

1 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Saturn appears as a serene globe amid tranquil rings in this view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft above the planet’s pole.

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‘Impossible’ cloud found on Saturn’s moon Titan — again

22 September 2016 Astronomy Now

The puzzling appearance of an ice cloud seemingly out of thin air in the stratosphere of Titan has prompted NASA scientists to suggest that a different process than previously thought — possibly similar to one seen over Earth’s poles — could be forming clouds in the giant Saturnian moon’s hazy, brownish-orange atmosphere.

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Moons of Saturn may be younger than the dinosaurs

25 March 2016 Astronomy Now

New research suggests that some of Saturn’s icy moons, as well as its famous rings, might be modern adornments. Their dramatic birth may have taken place a mere 100 million years ago. This would date the formation of the major moons of Saturn, with the exception of more distant Titan and Iapetus, to the relatively recent Cretaceous Period — the era of the dinosaurs.

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Cassini spies Titan’s tallest peaks

24 March 2016 Astronomy Now

By convention, mountains on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, are named for mountains from Middle-earth, the fictional setting in fantasy novels by J.R.R. Tolkien. Unfortunately for “Lord of the Rings” fans, Titan’s highest peak is not Doom Mons, but a trio of ridges known as Mithrim Montes, where the tallest peak is 10,948 feet (3,337 metres) high.

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Cassini views Helorus in half-light

22 March 2016 Astronomy Now

In this image from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft we see a crater duo on Saturn’s 698-mile-wide moon Dione. The upper of the pair, named Italus, is overprinted on a grouping of ancient troughs called Petelia Fossae. The lower crater, Caieta, sits atop a feature named Helorus Fossa. Fossae on Dione are believed to be tectonic features.

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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.