Having settled into orbit around Saturn, the Cassini probe has begun returning new images of the gas giant. The BBC reports that it will be "making a series of daredevil maneuvers" in the coming months, risking doom near Saturn's moons to get better shots of them and the rings.
Cassini began what are known as its ring-grazing orbits on 30 November. Each of these week-long orbits - 20 in all - lifts the spacecraft high above Saturn's northern hemisphere before sending it hurtling past the outer edges of the planet's main rings.
Nasa said that it would release images from future passes that included some of the closest-ever views of the outer rings and small moons that orbit there.
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“Frigid alien landscapes” are coming to light in new radar images of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, captured from NASA's Cassini spacecraft.
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Two of the new images show the surface of Dione at the best resolution ever.
Researchers created this enhanced-color image by compositing recent shots of Tethys taken by Cassini. Current top hypotheses for the unusual red arcs are: Read the rest
“Their non-planetary status is a handicap because these are the worlds that we need to get Earthlings excited about exploring.”
Cassini will get as close as 321 miles (516 kilometers) of Dione's surface if all goes as planned.
Boing Boing Science Editor Maggie Koerth-Baker
recaps the latest news from the far-flung probe, whose journey to the outer solar system yields more beautiful images.
Fun fact: Saturn has a storm that's every bit as big as Jupiter's better-known Great Red Spot. It's been spinning over Saturn's north pole for 30 years. And it's shaped like a hexagon
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Dawn on Saturn is greeted across the vastness of interplanetary space by the morning star, Venus, in this image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft.
, Cassini Imaging Team Leader and director of CICLOPS
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Every so often, our cameras on Cassini digitally record, either intentionally or incidentally, other celestial bodies besides those found around Saturn. The Cassini Imaging Team is releasing a pair of images that did just that. Venus, a lovely shining beacon of light and Earth's `twin' planet, was recently sighted amidst the glories of Saturn and its rings.
Carolyn Porco, Cassini Imaging Team Leader and director of CICLOPS in Boulder, CO, writes:
For no other reason than that they are gorgeous, the Cassini imaging team is releasing today a set of fabulous images of Saturn and Titan...in living color...for your day-dreaming enjoyment. Note that our presence at Saturn for the last 8 years has made possible the sighting of subtle changes with time, and one such change is obvious here. As the seasons have advanced, and spring has come to the north and autumn to the south throughout the Saturn system, the azure blue in the northern winter Saturnian hemisphere that greeted Cassini upon its arrival in 2004 is now fading; and it is now the southern hemisphere, in its approach to winter, that is taking on a bluish hue.
[B]ack here on Earth, the Cassini mission was recently given rave reviews by a panel of planetary scientists and NASA program managers for its contributions to our understanding of the solar system, a circumstance that bodes well for a well-funded continuing mission over the next 5 years. Despite the fact that we can't know exactly what the next five years will bring us, we can be certain that whatever it is will be wondrous.
Photo above: "A giant of a moon appears before a giant of a planet undergoing seasonal changes in this natural color view of Titan and Saturn from NASA's Cassini spacecraft."
More beautiful images from Cassini here.
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