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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Taking a shine to Enceladus

3 April 2018 Astronomy Now

Saturn’s rings cast shadows on the planet’s cloud tops, providing a perfect backdrop for the brilliant sphere of the moon Enceladus in this image taken by NASA’s Cassini probe.

Observing

See the Red Planet, Saturn and Moon get close in the dawn sky

26 March 2018 Ade Ashford

Early risers will already be aware that there’s currently a lot of planetary activity in the morning sky, but at dawn in Western Europe on Monday, 2 April, Mars and Saturn will be just 1¼ degrees apart and seen in the same field of view of telescopes at 30x magnification. The waning Moon is close by on the mornings of 7 & 8 April too.

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Saturn’s ‘Great Northern Storm’ still an awesome sight to behold

6 March 2018 William Harwood

For reasons not yet understood, Saturn seems to store energy in its atmosphere over decades before suddenly releasing it in massive lightning storms that affect the ringed planet’s atmosphere across enormous distances. The Great Northern Storm of 2010/11 circled Saturn like a snake eating its tail, persisting for months before dissipating.

Observing

See the Moon join a dawn planetary parade from 7–11 March

1 March 2018 Ade Ashford

Three naked-eye planets – Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – grow in prominence in the dawn sky this month. If you wish to identify them for yourself, let the waning Moon be your celestial guide from 7–11 March. We also show you what to look for in binoculars and telescopes.

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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.

News

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.

News

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.