Scientists have discovered an ice corridor that wraps nearly halfway around Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.
When the Cassini mission arrived in the Saturn system in 2004, it discovered something rather unexpected in Enceladus’ southern hemisphere. From hundreds of fissures located in the polar region, plumes of water and organic molecules were spotted periodically spewing forth. This was the first indication that Saturn’s moon may have an interior ocean caused by hydrothermal activity near the core-mantle boundary.
How chemical reactions on a lifeless planet floating around in the cold darkness of space can suddenly give rise to living organisms is one of the biggest questions in science. We don’t even know whether the molecular building blocks of life on Earth were created here or whether they were brought here by comets and meteorites.
NASA's Cassini spacecraft still has a few months to go before it completes its mission in September, but the veteran Saturn explorer reaches a new milestone today. Saturn's solstice -- that is, the longest day of summer in the northern hemisphere and the shortest day of winter in the southern hemisphere -- arrives today for the planet and its moons. The Saturnian solstice occurs about every 15 Earth years as the planet and its entourage slowly orbit the sun, with the north and south hemispheres alternating their roles as the summer and winter poles.
NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured this view of bands of bright, feathery methane clouds drifting across Saturn's moon Titan on May 7, 2017. The view was obtained during a distant (non-targeted) flyby, during which Cassini passed 303,000 miles (488,000 kilometers) above the moon's surface. Although Cassini will have no further close, targeted flybys of Titan, the spacecraft continues to observe the giant moon and its atmosphere from a distance.
Cassini is the most sophisticated space probe ever built. Launched in 1997 as a joint NASA/European Space Agency mission, it took seven years to journey to Saturn. It’s been orbiting the sixth planet from the sun ever since, sending back data of immense scientific value and images of magnificent beauty.
Besides Earth, Saturn may be the only other planet where you can order rings with a side of ravioli. Closeup photos taken by the Cassini probe of the the planet’s second-innermost moon, Pan, on March 7 reveal remarkable new details that have us grasping at food analogies in a feeble attempt to describe its unique appearance.
Last week – from Monday, February 27th to Wednesday, March 1st – NASA hosted the “Planetary Science Vision 2050 Workshop” at their headquarters in Washington, DC. In the course of the many presentations, speeches and panel discussions, NASA’s shared its many plans for the future of space exploration with the international community.
From the 17th century onward, astronomers made some profound discoveries around the planet Saturn, which they believed was the most distant planet of the Solar System at the time. Christiaan Huygens and Giovanni Domenico Cassini were the first, spotting the largest moons of Saturn – Titan, Tethys, Dione, Rhea and Iapetus. More discoveries followed; and today, what we recognized as the Saturn system includes 62 confirmed satellites.
Saturn is home to more than 60 moons – from the massive Titan and the crater-riddled Phoebe, to Enceladus with its geysers. Enceladus in particular has been put forward as a good candidate for harbouring microbial life, thanks to its warm internal ocean. After all, if intelligent life could evolve on Earth in a few billion years, why couldn’t at least some simple organisms exist elsewhere in our 4.5 billion-year-old solar system?