Happy holidays from Saturn and its moons, and from the astronomers who study them

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Saturn and two of its most fascinating moons, Titan and Enceladus, are the focus of a holiday image release from NASA's Cassini imaging team. Cassini Imaging Team leader Carolyn Porco writes:

We on the Cassini imaging team deliver to the world this holiday season ... what else! ... the gift of heavenly imagery starring the majestic globe of Saturn and its two most astounding moons, Titan and Enceladus. In this, our 10th Christmas offering from across the hundreds of millions of miles that lie between us and Saturn, you will find some of the most splendid and fascinating sights this historic exploration of the ringed planet has uncovered: the hexagonally-shaped jet stream encircling the pole in Saturn's northern hemisphere, the graceful shadows of its rings arcing across its south, the northern lakes and seas of liquid organics hidden under the hazy atmosphere of Titan, the brilliant ball of glittering ice that is the small active world of Enceladus, and more.

More about the image above:

Winter is approaching in the southern hemisphere of Saturn and with this cold season has come the familiar blue hue that was present in the northern winter hemisphere at the start of NASA's Cassini mission. The changing blue hue that we have learned marks winter at Saturn is likely due to reduction of ultraviolet sunlight and the haze it produces, making the atmosphere clearer and increasing the opportunity for Rayleigh scattering (scattering by molecules and smaller particles) and methane absorption: both processes make the atmosphere blue. The small black dot seen to the right and up from image center, within the ring shadows of the A and F rings, is the shadow of the moon, Prometheus. For an image showing winter in the northern hemisphere see PIA08166.

This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 44 degrees below the ring plane. Images taken using red, green and blue spectral filters were combined to create this natural color view. The images were taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on July 29, 2013.

This view was acquired at a distance of approximately 1.003 million miles (1.615 million kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is 58 miles (93 kilometers) per pixel. The Cassini Solstice Mission is a joint United States and European endeavor. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team consists of scientists from the US, England, France, and Germany. The imaging operations center and team lead (Dr. C. Porco) are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini Solstice Mission visit ciclops.org, nasa.gov/cassini and saturn.jpl.nasa.gov.