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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.

Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD)

Astronomy Picture of the Day was 20 years old on Jun 16th. It has been on a bit of a roll recently.

The Pinwheel Galaxy (Jun 14th):-

Pinwheel Galaxy

The Black Eye galaxy (Jun 18th):-

the black eye galaxy

On 23rd Jun there was this star bubble round Sharpless 2-308:-

Star Bubble

This is a picture of Zeta Ophiuchi (Jul 5th) which is travelling to the left at 24 kilometres per second thus causing the bow-shock in the interstellar dust as shown:-

Zeta Ophiuchi

The next day gave us this picture of clouds near Rho Ophiuchi

Clouds near Rho Ophiuchi

Then Jul 8th had this stunning scene of Dione, Saturn and Enceladus (Saturn is visible only as a faint arc and its rings are edge-on):-

Dione

Fly-over Ceres, Jun 10th, a composite of still pictures:-

It’s exciting times for NASA as New Horizons is getting very close to Pluto. See yesterday’s picture:-

5 million miles from Pluto

Wonderful stuff.

Saturn’s Hexagonal Polar Storm

This sequqnce appeared on The Daily Galaxy on Tuesday 4/2/14.

Don’t You Feel Small?

Earth and Moon from Cassini spacecraft

The above is a photo of the Earth and Moon as taken from the Cassini spacecraft in orbit around Saturn.

A slightly different view is given on yesterday’s Astronomy Picture of the Day.

The photo was taken on July 19th.

The JPL site (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) has more.

Strange Moon

This is Methone, one of Saturn’s moons, as shown in Astronomy Picture of the Day 6/11/12.

Methone

What makes it strange is its apparent smoothness. Most celestial bodies in the Solar System outwith the gas giants and the Sun – including Earth – are cratered. Not only is Methone’s unpock-marked surface unusual, its egg-like shape is puzzling. As a rule small celestial objects are irregular in shape.

Enceladus in Saturnlight

Well, Saturnlight in the same sense as moonlight. Both “shine” by reflecting sunlight.

This was Astronomy Picture of the Day for 8/2/12.

Enceladus in Saturnlight

The yellow tinge is from Saturn’s cloud bands. True sunlight illuminates Enceladus on the right side of the picture.

Enceladus may have an ocean of water beneath its icy surface. Occasionally plumes of water vapour/ice are ejected through cracks in the ice.

Saturn’s North Pole

Yes, Astronomy Picture of the Day again (22/1/12.)

This is really weird. It’s a storm on Saturn, located at its north pole. The source as usual is the Cassini probe.

Hexagonal Storm on Saturn

Quite how a storm can result in a hexagonal pattern is puzzling. More puzzling still is how it has lasted – since it was discovered in the 1980s flypasts.

This is the same storm in infrared (from APOD of 3/4/07.)

Saturn polar storm in infrared

This links to a photo of hexagonal cloud forms on Earth, the nearest similar meteorological phenomenon.

Here’s a time-lapse film of Saturn’s north polar storm. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.

Iapetus

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

Giant Storm on Saturn

This was Astronomy Picture of the Day on Monday (26/12/11.)

The storm apparently has 18 times the surface area of the Earth. It’s one of the longest lasting storms ever recorded. (It can’t match Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, though.)

I like the way Saturn’s rings show up here as a thin blue line right across the middle of the photo. Their shadows are impressive too. There also seems to be the shadow of a moon on the lower left.

Giant Storm on Saturn

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