Saturn’s Moon Atlas is Literally a Flying Saucer

If you thought Pan resembled a UFO, Atlas is even more saucer-shaped! Slightly larger at about 19 miles across, Saturn’s moon Atlas was passed by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on April 12, 2017, coming within about 9,000 miles. The images above are a collection of eight from Cassini’s closest approach. Like its smaller sibling Pan, Atlas…

Watch Saturn’s Moons Race Inside the Rings

Round and round they go… the animation above, made from 14 raw images taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on August 23, 2016, shows the moons Prometheus and Atlas orbiting Saturn within the Roche Division gap between its A (top right) and F (center) rings. The gravitational tug of Prometheus (92 miles / 148 km long) is strong…

Happy 5th Launchiversary SDO!

Five years ago today, at 10:23 a.m. EST on Feb, 11, 2010, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory launched aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, sending the most advanced solar observatory satellite into orbit and giving us an amazing new look at our home star. Since then SDO has been monitoring the…

Ghosts of Worlds Passed

Saturn’s F ring is a fascinating structure. Made of fine icy particles — most no larger than the particulates found in cigarette smoke — it orbits Saturn just outside the A ring and is easily perturbed by the gravity of nearby moons and embedded moonlets, which create streamers and clumps that rise up in fanciful…

Up and Over the Rings – Atlas and Pandora

Cassini’s at it again! After its last flyby of Titan the spacecraft changed course, heading up and away from Saturn’s equatorial plane at an angle that will allow it to better study the rings and the planet’s polar regions. This raw image, captured on May 23, shows Cassini’s view as it heads upwards. It shows…

Juno Launches!

(Can’t see the video below? Click here.) Today, at 12:25 pm EDT, an Atlas V 551 rocket took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base with the Juno spacecraft aboard, headed for the planet Jupiter. And I was there, along with 149 other “space tweeps”, watching from the press site at Kennedy Space Center. It…

Shepherds Passing

  Without as much as a wave shepherd moons Prometheus and Atlas pass by each other, each on their own paths around the rings. Prometheus, casting a long shadow,  pulls at the F ring’s bands of material while smaller Atlas guards the edges of the A ring. The larger is 93 miles across at its…