The sixth planet from the Sun. Saturn is a gas giant, second only in size to Jupiter with a diameter more than 9 times that of Earth. It has a spectacular system of rings and a large collection of moons (23 currently known). Saturn also has the most flattened shape of any of the major planets. Its average density is so low that if placed in a big enough tub of water, it would easily float. Saturn's atmosphere consists of 96.3% hydrogen and 3.25% helium, with traces of methane, ammonia, ethane, ethylene, and phosphine. Because Saturn is colder than Jupiter, the more colorful chemicals sink lower in its atmosphere and can't be seen. At Saturn's center is believed to lie a core of rocky material about the size of the Earth, but more dense. Around this is a metallic hydrogen shell some 30,000 km deep, surmounted, in turn, by a region composed of liquid hydrogen and helium with a gaseous atmosphere some 1,000 km deep.
A glistening spaceship, with seven lonely years and billions of miles behind it, glides into orbit around a ringed, softly-hued planet. A flying-saucer shaped machine descends...
What caused a giant arrow-shaped cloud on Saturn's moon Titan?Last Updated on 2011-08-15 00:00:00UCLA, (Aug. 15, 2011) – Why does Titan, Saturn's largest moon, have what looks like an enormous white arrow about the size of Texas on its surface?
A research group led by Jonathan L. Mitchell, UCLA assistant professor of earth and space sciences and of atmospheric and oceanic sciences, has answered this question by using a global circulation model of Titan to demonstrate how planetary-scale atmospheric waves affect the moon's weather patterns, leading to a "stenciling" effect that results in sharp and sometimes surprising cloud shapes.
"These atmospheric waves are somewhat like the natural, resonant vibration of a wine glass," Mitchell said. "Individual clouds might 'ring the bell,' so to speak, and once the ringing starts, the clouds have to respond to that vibration."
The fascinating clouds, including arrow-shaped ones, that result from... More »
"Ingredients for Life" Present on Saturn's Moon EnceladusLast Updated on 2010-02-09 17:25:03LONDON (Feb. 8, 2010) – Some of ‘the major ingredients for life’ are present on one of Saturn’s moons, according to UCL scientists.
A team from the Mullard Space Science Laboratory working on the Cassini-Huygens mission have found negatively charged water ions in the ice plume of Enceladus.
Figure Caption – Cassini captured this stunning mosaic of Enceladus as the spacecraft sped away from the geologically active moon of Saturn.
Their analysis of data gathered during the spacecraft’s plume fly-throughs in 2008 provide evidence for the presence of liquid water.
The spacecraft’s plasma spectrometer, used to gather this data, also found other species of negatively charged ions including hydrocarbons.
MSSL’s Professor Andrew Coates, lead author of a paper on the latest discovery, said: “While... More »
Glint of Sunlight Confirms Liquid in Northern Lake District of TitanLast Updated on 2009-12-18 00:00:00PASADENA, CA (Dec. 17, 2009) – NASA's Cassini Spacecraft has captured the first flash of sunlight reflected off a lake on Saturn's moon Titan, confirming the presence of liquid on the part of the moon dotted with many large, lake-shaped basins.
Cassini scientists had been looking for the glint, also known as a specular reflection, since the spacecraft began orbiting Saturn in 2004. But Titan's northern hemisphere, which has more lakes than the southern hemisphere, has been veiled in winter darkness. The sun only began to directly illuminate the northern lakes recently as it approached the equinox of August 2009, the start of spring in the northern hemisphere. Titan's hazy atmosphere also blocked out reflections of sunlight in most wavelengths. This serendipitous image was captured on July 8, 2009, using Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer.
The new infrared image... More »
NASA Space Telescope Discovers Largest Ring Around SaturnLast Updated on 2009-10-07 00:00:00NASA-JPL (Oct. 5, 2009) – NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has discovered an enormous ring around Saturn -- by far the largest of the giant planet's many rings.
FIGURE CAPTION – This artist's conception shows a nearly invisible ring around Saturn - the largest of the giant planet's many rings. It was discovered by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/KecK
The new belt lies at the far reaches of the Saturnian system, with an orbit tilted 27 degrees from the main ring plane. The bulk of its material starts about six million kilometers (3.7 million miles) away from the planet and extends outward roughly another 12 million kilometers (7.4 million miles). One of Saturn's farthest moons, Phoebe, circles within the newfound ring, and is likely the source of its material.
Saturn's newest halo is thick, too -- its vertical height is about 20 times the diameter... More »
Cassini Reveals New Ring Quirks, Shadows During Saturn EquinoxLast Updated on 2009-09-22 00:00:00NASA JPL (Sep. 22, 2009) – NASA scientists are marveling over the extent of ruffles and dust clouds revealed in the rings of Saturn during the planet's equinox last month. Scientists once thought the rings were almost completely flat, but new images reveal the heights of some newly discovered bumps in the rings are as high as the Rocky Mountains. NASA released the images Monday.
"It's like putting on 3-D glasses and seeing the third dimension for the first time," said Bob Pappalardo, Cassini project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "This is among the most important events Cassini has shown us."
On Aug. 11, sunlight hit Saturn's rings exactly edge-on, performing a celestial magic trick that made them all but disappear. The spectacle occurs twice during each orbit Saturn makes around the sun, which takes approximately 10,759 Earth days, or about 29.7... More »
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