Holiday Greeting from your favorite ringed planet.
IMAGE ADVISORY: December 22, 2011
CASSINI DELIVERS HOLIDAY TREATS FROM ACROSS THE SOLAR SYSTEM
No team of reindeer was necessary for these holiday treats from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. A beam of radio signals, from clear across the solar system, has delivered a Christmas package of glorious images of Saturn’s largest, most colorful ornament, Titan, and other icy baubles in orbit around this splendid planet. These treats are being featured today in a public release from the mission’s imaging team.
The release includes images of satellite conjunctions in which one moon passes in front of or behind another. Cassini scientists regularly make these observations to study the ever-changing orbits of the planet’s moons. But even in these routine images, the Saturnian system shines. A few of Saturn’s stark, airless, icy moons appear to dangle next to the orange orb of Titan, the only moon in the solar system with a substantial atmosphere. Titan’s atmosphere is of great interest because of its great similarities to the atmosphere believed to exist long ago on the early Earth.
While it may be Christmastime and wintry in Earth’s northern hemisphere, it is currently northern spring in the Saturnian system and will remain so for several Earth years. Current plans to extend the Cassini mission through 2017 will surely beget a continued bounty of scientifically rewarding and majestic views of Saturn and its moons and rings, as we spectators are treated to the passage of northern spring and the final arrival of summer in May 2017.
“As another year traveling this magnificent sector of our solar system draws to a close, all of us on Cassini wish all of you a very happy and peaceful holiday season,” said Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team lead at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo…
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