Jupiter and Saturn moon videos

Some great videos created out of still shots from the Cassini spacecraft as it flew by Jupiter and Saturn, showing orbiting moons.

Images of Saturn and Earth

Just over a week ago the Cassini spacecraft was deliberately crashed into Saturn at the end of it’s extended mission orbiting the gas giant planet.

Saturn and its magnificent rings

NASA:  Cassini Spacecraft Ends Its Historic Exploration of Saturn

Cassini launched in 1997 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and arrived at Saturn in 2004. NASA extended its mission twice – first for two years, and then for seven more. The second mission extension provided dozens of flybys of the planet’s icy moons, using the spacecraft’s remaining rocket propellant along the way. Cassini finished its tour of the Saturn system with its Grand Finale, capped by Friday’s intentional plunge into the planet to ensure Saturn’s moons – particularly Enceladus, with its subsurface ocean and signs of hydrothermal activity – remain pristine for future exploration.

While the Cassini spacecraft is gone, its enormous collection of data about Saturn – the giant planet, its magnetosphere, rings and moons – will continue to yield new discoveries for decades to come.

Just prior to this:  Cassini Spacecraft Makes Its Final Approach to Saturn

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is on final approach to Saturn, following confirmation by mission navigators that it is on course to dive into the planet’s atmosphere on Friday, Sept. 15.

Cassini is ending its 13-year tour of the Saturn system with an intentional plunge into the planet to ensure Saturn’s moons – in particular Enceladus, with its subsurface ocean and signs of hydrothermal activity – remain pristine for future exploration. The spacecraft’s fateful dive is the final beat in the mission’s Grand Finale, 22 weekly dives, which began in late April, through the gap between Saturn and its rings. No spacecraft has ever ventured so close to the planet before.

Some of the last images taken by Cassini:

Saturn Hemisphere

Saturn’s northern hemisphere with rings in the background

Enceladus

One of Saturn’s moons, Enceladus, on the horizon
(Saturn has 62 confirmed moons)

 

Saturn Rings

Saturn’s rings

Saturn's rings and our planet Earth

An earlier (2013) photo of Earth from Saturn

And zooming in a bit closer:

New Earthrise Image from LRO spacecraft

A view of earth from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)

Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini’s end of mission

The Cassini-Huygens spacecraft will fly into Saturn tonight (about midnight NZ time). Final data will be received about 83 minutes after it stops transmitting (radio waves travel at the speed of light).

Cassini is being crashed so there is not risk of colliding with any of Saturn’s moons after it runs out of fuel.

Cassini was launched twenty years ago, on 15 October 1997. After two fly buys of Venus and a flyby of Earth and our Moon Cassini headed off out into the Solar System.

It entered orbit around Saturn in July 2004. An orbiter landed on the moon Total a year later.

The primary mission was scheduled to complete in 2008 but it was extended and extended again until this year.

Sept. 13, 2017 (2:15 p.m. PDT)

Cassini is on final approach to Saturn, following confirmation by mission navigators that it is on course to dive into the planet’s atmosphere on Sept. 15. The mission’s final calculations predict a signal will be received on Earth indicating loss of contact with the Cassini spacecraft on Sept. 15 is 4:55 a.m. PDT (7:55 a.m. EDT).

More details

NASA: projected times for the end of mission

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Earth as seen from near Saturn.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Links from NASA:

  • What did we learn about Saturn during our 13 year tour? Lots.
  • Explore Cassini’s rich history of discovery in our Timeline.
  • Take a tour of our Greatest Images. 
  • Spend some time browsing the latest Raw Images straight from Saturn.
  • Explore Cassini’s rich history of discovery in our Timeline.

Between the rings

A cool photo:

Not all of us. I’m not sure what side of Earth is facing Cassini there so I don’t know whether that view is of us, or of the other lot on the other side of our planet.

A closer look:

And zoomed in you can see the moon more easily:

More information about the Cassini mission:

http://www.nasa.gov/cassini

http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov

‘Ingredients for life’ on Saturn moon

NASA reports: Ingredients for Life at Saturn’s Moon Enceladus

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft discovered hydrogen in the plume of gas and icy particles spraying from Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

The discovery means the small, icy moon — which has a global ocean under its surface — has a source of chemical energy that could be useful for microbes, if any exist there. The finding also provides further evidence that warm, mineral-laden water is pouring into the ocean from vents in the seafloor.

On Earth, such hydrothermal vents support thriving communities of life in complete isolation from sunlight.

Enceladus now appears likely to have all three of the ingredients scientists think life needs:

  • liquid water,
  • a source of energy (like sunlight or chemical energy),
  • and the right chemical ingredients (like carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen).

Cassini is not able to detect life, and has found no evidence that Enceladus is inhabited. But if life is there, that means life is probably common throughout the cosmos; if life has not evolved there, it would suggest life is probably more complicated or unlikely than we have thought.

Either way the implications are profound.

Future missions to this icy moon may shed light on its habitability.

White smoker footage courtesy of: NOAA-OER / C.German (WHOI)

Saturn has 62 diverse moons (with confirmed orbits) so there is plenty of scope for a variety of conditions, including conditions including the ingredients of life.

Enceladus is the sixth largest moon of Saturn, about 500 kilometres in diameter (Earth’s Moon has a diameter of 3474 km).

280px-pia17202_-_approaching_enceladus

Photo of Enceladus taken from Cassini

If life was able to become established and thrive on Earth then it’s logical to assume it could and will have happened elsewhere, but it’s cool to find evidence of where it could actually happen within our own solar system.

Some space stuff

Some cool space stuff.

Saturn’s moon Pan:  Here’s Our Best Look Yet at Saturn’s ‘UFO’ Moon

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There’s a tiny “flying saucer” orbiting deep within Saturn’s rings, and a NASA probe has just gotten its most impressive look yet at the strange object.

The saucer is actually a little moon called Pan, and NASA’s Cassini spacecraft captured its distinctive shape on March 7 in a stunningly detailed series of images.

Named for the flute-playing Greek god of wild places, 21-mile-wide Pan is what’s called a shepherd moon. It lives within a gap in Saturn’s A ring, which is the farthest loop of icy particles from the planet.

“The shape, as others have also pointed out, is probably because it is always sweeping up fine dust from the rings,” Showalter explains. “The rings are very thin compared to the size of Pan, so the dust accumulates around its equator.”

Pan isn’t alone in its bizarre appearance: Another small moon, Atlas, bears a similar shape for similar reasons.

And on a different scale: Hubble Showcases a Remarkable Galactic Hybrid

A remarkable galactic hybrid

 This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image showcases the remarkable galaxy UGC 12591. UGC 12591 sits somewhere between a lenticular and a spiral. It lies just under 400 million light-years away from us in the westernmost region of the Pisces–Perseus Supercluster, a long chain of galaxy clusters that stretches out for hundreds of millions of light-years — one of the largest known structures in the cosmos.

The galaxy itself is also extraordinary: it is incredibly massive. The galaxy and its halo together contain several hundred billion times the mass of the sun; four times the mass of the Milky Way. It also whirls round extremely quickly, rotating at speeds of up to 1.8 million kilometers (1.1 million miles) per hour.

Observations with Hubble are helping astronomers to understand the mass of UGC 12591, and to determine whether the galaxy simply formed and grew slowly over time, or whether it might have grown unusually massive by colliding and merging with another large galaxy at some point in its past.


Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

Text credit: European Space Agency

 

 

View of Saturn

This is a cool picture of Saturn, taken overnight from Otago Peninsula:

Oh my gosh. Astonishing astronomical seeing here in Portobello tonight. Saturn was ASTONISHING!

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Ian Griffin often posts great pictures of the night sky from here.

@iangriffin

Promoting science, innovation & culture in Dunedin New Zealand & beyond. I’m the 8th Director of the Otago Museum, but this is my personal twitter account

If you are interested in astronomy with a local flavour he is worth following.

Ian has also been instrumental in setting up the Planetarium at the Otago Museum which is well worth a look if you are interested in this sort of thing. I’ve been a couple of times already and will go again.