Monday, December 30, 2013

NASA's Cassini Spacecraft: Saturn's rings cast shadows on the planet

The spectacular rings of Saturn cast dark shadows on the ringed planet as the winter season approaches in Saturn's southern hemisphere in this view from the Cassini spacecraft

With the cold season comes a blue hue on Saturn that is likely caused by a drop in ultraviolet sunlight and haze it produces. This image was taken on July 29, 2013 and released on Dec. 23.

Credit: NASA /JPL-Caltech /Space Science Institute

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has capped 2013 with a spectacular new collection of Saturn photos showcasing the planet's beauty, as well with its trademark rings and strange moons.

The newly released Saturn photos by Cassini include two views of Enceladus, Saturn's sixth-largest moon. Enceladus is a winter-appropriate ice world.

Geysers at its poles shoot ice particles into space, some of which make it into orbit around Saturn. Some of this space "snow" becomes part of Saturn's E ring, Saturn's second outermost ring that is made of microscopic particles.

Other images highlight Saturn's largest moon, Titan. There are no jolly elves at Titan's north pole; liquid methane and ethane seas appear as splotchy features near the moon's poles.

At the south pole, a high-altitude vortex swirls. The hazy orange atmosphere of Titan is thought to resemble the atmosphere of early Earth.

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