Meteor? Darn near killed ‘er.

The bright “fireball” on Jupiter captured on camera the morning of June 3 by amateur astronomers Anthony Wesley and Christopher Go (a still image from Anthony’s video is above, rotated and cropped) is now believed to have been a meteor burning up high in the planet’s atmosphere, and not an impact like the July 2009…

Peekaboo Moon

Here’s another color composite from Cassini, showing Rhea on the far side of the rings, its northern tip peeking through the Cassini Division. (I’m not 100% sure what smaller moon that is on the left, but my guess is either Janus or Epimetheus.) What I find interesting in this image is the bright streak within…

Voyager’s Valentine

On February 14, 1990, after nearly 13 years of traveling the outer solar system the Voyager 1 spacecraft passed the orbit of Pluto and turned its camera around to take a series of photos of the planets. The image above shows those photos, isolated from the original series and labeled left to right, top to…

Spokes and Shadows

This animation, made up of several raw images from the Cassini spacecraft, shows the mysterious features known as spokes in Saturn’s B ring. These spokes, thicker regions of material within the otherwise uniform rings, were first observed by Voyager in 1980 and have yet to be have their mechanics explained by scientists. Theories range from…

Around the Track

Shepherd moons Prometheus and Daphnis race around Saturn’s rings within their respective gaps, affecting the ring material in their own distinct ways. Prometheus, on the left side, pulls the bright, ropy F ring into streamers while tiny Daphnis, embedded in the 25-mile-wide Keeler gap at lower center, sends up a mound of darker A ring…

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…

Cast Shadow

The shadow of Mimas falls across the Cassini Division in this beautiful natural color, wide-angle view from Cassini’s camera. Views like these are possible only once every 15 years, as Saturn’s spring and autumn equinoxes bring its rings and moons into horizontal alignment with the equitorial plane of the solar system and the light of…

What Is Space?

This is a reprint of an earlier article of mine from March 8, 2008. I thought it would have a good home here. Hope you enjoy it. Are We There Yet? We’ve all seen the grade-school models of the solar system. Maybe you made one in science class. Out of painted styrofoam balls or colored construction…