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The Hidden Face of Titan

From Astronomy Picture of the Day for 9/1/21 here is a view of Saturn’s moon Tiatn that you would never see if you were somehow be able to be on Saturn itself.

Titan is tide-locked to its primary and so always presents the same face to it. Its reverse side however was however visible to the Cassini probe.

Since Titan has an atmosphere its surface is not seen directly but the fuzziness around its edges – seen against the thick line of Saturn’s rings and the planet itself beyond – shows the atmosphere’s thickness relative to the satellite.

Titan from Cassini

Five Moons of Saturn

I love photographs like this.

From Astronomy Picture of the Day for 17/10/19.

Janus, Pandora, Enceladus, Mimas and Rhea, not to mention an arc of Saturn’s rings almost end-on. Taken by the Cassini probe.

Five Moons of Saturn

Enceladus Backlit

From Astronomy Picture of the Day, for 15/2/18, another wonderful photograph from the Cassini mission to Saturn, this one showing the moon Enceladus outgassing plumes of ice.

At bottom right of middle just below the edge-on rings of Saturn can be seen the small moon Pandora.

Enceladus backlit

Approaching Saturn

A fine video – as shown in Astronomy Picture of the Day for 11/9/2017 and made by amalgamating individual pictures – of one of the Cassini probe’s passes through the Saturn system.

5.6k Saturn Cassini Photographic Animation – First 1 minute of footage from In Saturn's Rings from Stephen van Vuuren on Vimeo.

Pan from Cassini

Nasa’s Cassini probe has produced an intriguing close-up view of Saturn’s moon Pan.

This photograph is today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Pan from Cassini

Pan orbits inside the the Encke Gap of Saturn’s A-ring but is an odd object indeed.


Astronony Picture of the Day has been great viewing this past week.

This is Iapetus, from 13/1/12.

Iapetus APOD 13/1/12

Iapetus is one of Saturn’s moons. It is famous for having a “bright” side and a “dark” side – in technical terms, its albedo varies. Its discoverer, Cassini, for whom both the large obvious space between Saturn’s rings (the Cassini Division) and the spacecraft sent to Saturn to photograph the system are named, correctly deduced this when he couldn’t see it on one side of Saturn a few months after it being clearly visible on the other, then it reappeared on the other side: an improved telescope showed it as two magnitudes dimmer when its “dark” side faced the Sun (and Earth.)

In this view you can see some of the dark material on the right as well as a huge impact crater, superimposed on another seemingly as large.

Iapetus also has an equatorial ridge – see this picture from 1/2/2005 – which makes the moon look like a walnut!

Titan and Dione

Another fantastic photo from Astronomy Picture of the Day (5/1/12) taken by the Cassini spacecraft.

This clearly shows that the moons orbit in the same plane as Saturn’s rings (whose shadows are cast on the main planet in the background.) In this view the two moons are 900,000 kiolmetres apart from each other, Dione nearer to Saturn, with the edge of the rings another 300,000 kilometres beyond Dione.

Also obvious is Titan’s atmosphere which makes its edges appear fuzzy.

Titan and Dione

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