Huygens probe landed on Saturn’s moon Titan on 14 January 10 years ago


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Image of Titan taken by NASA’s Cassini Space Orbiter (Click Image to Download)

In honor of the Huygens probe’s historic 2005 landing on the surface of Titan (Saturn’s largest satellite, and the only moon in our solar system with a dense atmosphere), NASA has released a movie that recreates, with data collected by Huygens and the Cassini orbiter, a dramatic approach of the moon’s surface from deep space.

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CREDIT : NASA

The descent on 15 January 2005 lasted a total of two hours, with Huygens landing on a frigid floodplain surrounded by icy cobblestones.

It is the only landing that has ever been performed in the outer solar system to date, and one of only a handful of bodies – the others being Venus, Mars, the moon, two asteroids and most recently a comet – that manmade probes have ever landed on.

On the surface the probe continued to send back data for more than an hour, until its batteries were drained.

Since that historic moment, scientists have pored over volumes of data about Titan sent back to Earth.

Here is the Video ,

Source : Dailymail , io9

Amazing details of Saturn & its moons captured by NASA


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Image of Saturn Taken by Cassini Space Probe (Click Image to Download)

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has been studying Saturn and its moons for a decade now, routinely delivering stunning images of the second largest planet in our solar system. One of its noteworthy achievements is that it is now shedding a lot more light on six moons that were once shrouded in mystery.

When NASA’s Voyager spacecraft flew by moons like Mimas, Enceladus, Tethys, Dione, Rhea, and Iapetus back in the 1980s, it sent back landmark images that were nevertheless fuzzy, incomplete, and hard to make out. Now, Cassini has plugged the holes – with bursts of color, no less – and delivered stunning new images of these icy satellites.

Here is a before/after shot of Mimas showcasing the differences between Voyager’s image (left) and Cassini’s (right).

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“The most obvious [discoveries] are differences in color and brightness between the two hemispheres of Tethys, Dione and Rhea,” wrote Preston Dyches of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “The dark reddish colors on the moons’ trailing hemispheres are due to alteration by charged particles and radiation in Saturn’s magnetosphere.”

“Except for Mimas and Iapetus, the blander leading hemispheres of these moons – that is, the sides that always face forward as the moons orbit Saturn – are all coated with icy dust from Saturn’s E-ring, formed from tiny particles erupting from the south pole of Enceladus.”

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You can view the rest of the images here. Impressively, however, these aren’t the only photographs of Saturn and its moons making headlines this week.

Source : RT.com

Scientists Discover Why Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Is Red


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We know that Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is red. Its color is right there in the name. However, why is it red? A team of NASA scientists recently found out.

Previous theories about the reddish color of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot suggested that the color comes from chemicals beneath Jupiter’s clouds, with certain chemicals forming lower in Jupiter’s atmosphere and then rising to the top of the spot.

However, after studying new data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, along with laboratory experiments, scientists think that the red in the Red Spot comes from sunlight hitting chemicals higher up in Jupiter’s upper atmosphere.

After studying Cassini’s data, researchers used ultraviolet light to mimic sunlight, and blasted it at two gases known to exist on Jupiter: ammonia and acetylene. The result was a red material that matched Cassini’s observations of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot.

“Our models suggest most of the Great Red Spot is actually pretty bland in color, beneath the upper cloud layer of reddish material,” says Kevin Baines, a Cassini team scientist. “Under the reddish ‘sunburn’ the clouds are probably whitish or grayish.”

The Great Red Spot is actually a massive storm on the surface of Jupiter. It’s so big that three Earths could easily fit inside it. Discovered in the 1600s, the storm reaches high into Jupiter’s upper atmosphere.

“The Great Red Spot is extremely tall,” Baines says. “It reaches much higher altitudes than clouds elsewhere on Jupiter.”

This high altitude is why the Great Red Spot’s color is so intense: the storm’s winds bring ammonia ice particles into the upper atmosphere, exposing it to more sunlight. Because the storm is spinning, similar to a hurricane, the ammonia particles can’t escape. This creates a constant red color at the top of the storm.

So why is the Great Red Spot’s color so important? Jupiter only has a few elements, with its body mostly formed of hydrogen and helium. By examining the colors on the planet’s surface, scientists can identify those elements and get a better idea of the planet’s chemical composition.

Jupiter displays a variety of similar shades across its surface: oranges, browns and other shades of red. These colors suggest areas with thinner and higher clouds, which lets us see deeper into Jupiter’s atmosphere.

The Great Red Spot, though, stands out as one of Jupiter’s more mysterious features. Jupiter has no land mass, so a storm of that magnitude should have disappeared quickly in such a turbulent atmosphere. However, the Great Red Spot is still there, although recent measurements show that it’s possibly shrinking.

Source : techtime

Amazing photo of Saturn and its Titan moon looks like high art in deep space


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This amazing image shows Saturn and its moon Titan as crescents on Aug. 11, 2013. NASA/JPL-CALTECH/SPACE SCIENCE INSTITUTE

An amazing photo taken by a NASA probe shows Saturn and its large moon Titan shining as pretty crescents in deep space.

The two cosmic bodies were imaged by the Cassini spacecraft, which has been exploring the Saturn system for about 10 years. The image — released on Monday (Nov. 3) — was captured as the robotic ship was flying about 1.1 million miles (1.7 million kilometers) from the ringed wonder on Aug. 11, 2013, according to NASA. Some of Saturn’s ring plane can even be seen in the black and white image.

“More than just pretty pictures, high-phase observations — taken looking generally toward the sun, as in this image — are very powerful scientifically since the way atmospheres and rings transmit sunlight is often diagnostic of compositions and physical states,” NASA officials said in an image description. “In this example, Titan’s crescent nearly encircles its disk due to the small haze particles high in its atmosphere scattering the incoming light of the distant sun.”

Continue reading Amazing photo of Saturn and its Titan moon looks like high art in deep space

Cassini sees sunny seas on Titan


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This near-infrared, color view from Cassini shows the Sun glinting off of Titan’s north polar seas.

As it soared past Saturn’s large moon Titan recently, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft caught a glimpse of bright sunlight reflecting off hydrocarbon seas.

In the past, Cassini had captured separate views of the polar seas and the Sun glinting off them, but this is the first time both have been seen together in the same view.

Also in the image:

– An arrow-shaped complex of bright methane clouds hovers near Titan’s north pole. The clouds could be actively refilling the lakes with rainfall.

– A “bathtub ring,” or bright margin, around Kraken Mare — the sea containing the reflected sunglint — indicates that the sea was larger at some point, but evaporation has decreased its size.

Titan’s seas are mostly liquid methane and ethane. Before Cassini’s arrival at Saturn, scientists suspected that Titan might have bodies of open liquid on its surface. Cassini found only great fields of sand dunes near the equator and lower latitudes but located lakes and seas near the poles, particularly in the north.

The new view shows Titan in infrared light. It was obtained by Cassini’s Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) on August 21.

 

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