Hello, Daphnis! On January 16, 2017, the Cassini spacecraft captured the best photo yet of Daphnis, a 5-mile-wide shepherd moon that orbits Saturn inside the Keeler Gap at the outermost edge of the A ring (and also just so happens to be my personal favorite moon of Saturn!) The raw image arrived on Earth today, and it’s just beautiful.
Sad news today: Eugene A. Cernan, former NASA astronaut and one of the twelve people who walked on the Moon during the Apollo program, died today at the age of 82.
“It is with very deep sadness that we share the loss of our beloved husband and father,” Cernan’s family said in a news release from NASA. “Our family is heartbroken, of course, and we truly appreciate everyone’s thoughts and prayers. Gene, as he was known by so many, was a loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend.”
Turns out the Moon is even older than we thought—if just by a few dozen million years. Using samples of lunar material collected by Apollo 14 astronauts Alan Shepard and Ed Mitchell in February 1971, a team of researchers from UCLA, the University of Chicago, and Princeton have determined that the Moon must have formed within the first 60 million years after the birth of the Solar System, based on dating of uranium-lead isotopes inside fragments of lunar zircons. Their findings put the age of our Moon at at least 4.51 billion years old (give or take a few million years)…about 40-50 million years older than even some of the oldest previous estimates. That’s a lot more candles for Luna’s birthday cake!
Saturn’s moon Dione (pronounced DEE-oh-nee) is a heavily-cratered, 700-mile-wide world of ice and rock, its surface slashed by signature “wispy lines” that mark the bright faces of sheer ice cliffs. But Dione has some strange colorations too, evident here in a global map created in 2014 from Cassini images. Its leading half—the side that faces “forward” as it moves around Saturn in its tidally-locked orbit—is pale and bright, while its trailing hemisphere is stained a brownish color, the result of surface interaction with charged particles in Saturn’s magnetic field.
Floating high above Titan’s hydrocarbon lakes, wispy clouds have finally started to return to the moon’s northern latitudes…but in much less numbers than expected.
Models of Titan’s climate have predicted more cloud activity during early northern summer than what Cassini has observed so far, suggesting that the current understanding of the giant moon’s changing seasons is incomplete.
Powerful solar storms can charge up the soil in frigid, permanently shadowed regions near the lunar poles, and may possibly produce “sparks” that could vaporize and melt the soil—perhaps as much as meteoroid impacts, according to new NASA-funded research.
Read the rest of this article from NASA here: Solar Storms Could Spark Lunar Soil