After 15 Years NASA and DLR Prepare to Say Goodbye to GRACE

On March 17, 2002, a pair of satellites nicknamed “Tom” and “Jerry” launched aboard a Russian Rockot vehicle from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia. It was the start of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, aka GRACE, a partnership mission between NASA and the German space agency (DLR) to map Earth’s gravity field and how it…

Cassini Uncovers Even More Evidence for Enceladus’ Hidden Ocean

It’s been suspected for nearly a decade that Saturn’s 315-mile-wide moon Enceladus harbors a hidden ocean beneath its frozen crust, thanks to observations by the Cassini spacecraft of icy plumes spraying from its southern pole, and now scientists have even more evidence supporting its existence: Doppler measurements of the moon’s gravity taken during Cassini’s flybys show variations…

A Visual Demonstration of Gravity, Courtesy of Cassini

Prometheus is at it again! On Feb. 5, Cassini acquired a series of images with its narrow-angle camera of Saturn’s reflective and ropy F ring, around the inside of which travels the shepherd moon Prometheus. As it orbits Saturn it regularly arcs outwards toward the inner edge of the F ring and tumbles back inwards…

No, this isn’t a shot from the film “Gravity” (but it could be)

I could say “how have I never heard of this!?” but the truth is I wasn’t blogging about space in February 2006 when this image was taken. Still, it’s no less incredible 7 1/2 years later! But if you’re not already familiar with this, it may not be exactly what you think…

Titan’s Misty Mountains May Have “Roots As Nobody Sees”

It’s been thought for some time that Saturn’s largest moon Titan has a complex internal structure consisting of multiple layers of ice and liquid water. At one point it was even suggested that there are water ice “cryovolcanoes” on Titan, where watery slush oozes to the surface and freezes solid in the moon’s 270-degree-below temperatures,…

One Very Attractive Simulation

Here’s a fascinating physics model by computer artist Mark J. Stock, showing the 3-dimensional movements of 1 million bodies, each given their own gravity: One can easily imagine witnessing the birth of galaxies after the Big Bang, millions — even billions — of years passing before your eyes in seconds! It’s amazing how quickly a…

Daphnis in Full Color

If you’ve been following along with Lights in the Dark since the beginning, you may know that this is one of my favorite subjects of space imagery: the shepherd moon Daphnis, traveling in its orbit around Saturn within the 26-mile-wide Keeler Gap. Recently color-calibrated by Gordan Ugarvovic, this is a true-color version of an image…

Ring Racer (Take Two)

I came across this image today while going through the latest Cassini PDS (Planetary Data System) release, and remembered how excited I was to see it the first time when it came in last June. If you missed it, here it is again (with an image fresh off the PDS!) Man, I just LOVE this…

Ring Racer

Man, I just LOVE this stuff. 🙂 This has to be one of the coolest images yet of one of my favorite subjects: Saturn’s moon Daphnis casting a shadow and riling up the rings as it travels along the 26-mile-wide Keeler Gap, a channel it keeps clear around the outer edge of the A ring….

Inside a Black Hole

Unlike the typical artist’s portrayal of a black hole as being surrounded by a massive glowing accretion disk of inwardly-swirling matter, like some sort of galactic bathtub drain, this scenario shows a rather naked-looking black hole exerting a lensing effect on the background field of stars. This is a result of a new simulator application…