A Departing View From Cassini After Clearing the Gap

Cassini did it again! On May 2-3, 2017 the spacecraft made its second “ring dive” pass of Saturn, passing through the clear space between the innermost edge of the ring system and the planet itself. The animation above shows a view from Cassini looking back toward Saturn on its outbound flight on May 3, just a…

If You Were Wondering What Earth Looks Like From Saturn, Here You Go

That’s here; that’s home; that’s us. The image above shows what Earth looked like to NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on April 13, 2017 as it flew past Saturn’s night-shadowed A and F rings. At the time the raw images were captured Saturn and Cassini were about 889.6 million miles (1.43 billion kilometers) from Earth. From that distance…

Cassini Pinpoints a Propeller in Saturn’s Rings

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft captured these images of a propeller in Saturn’s A ring on Feb. 21, 2017. These are the sharpest images ever taken of a propeller and reveal an unprecedented level of detail. This propeller is nicknamed “Santos-Dumont” after the Brazilian-French aviator who is hailed as the father of aviation in Brazil. The February 2017 imaging…

Intricate Details of Saturn’s Rings Are Revealed in Latest Cassini Images

Like those fractal designs that were so popular in the ’90s Saturn’s rings reveal finer and finer structures the nearer Cassini gets, now in the final year of its mission. Recent images from the spacecraft, captured in December 2016, show groove-like density waves and skyscraper-sized clumps within the planet’s icy rings—and it’s just a hint at what…

Cassini Has Just Taken the Best Picture of Daphnis Yet!

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 the Beginning of the End for Cassini (But the Pictures Will Be Awesome)

After more than twelve years in orbit around Saturn, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is now in its final year of operation…and newly-positioned in an orbit that will send it soaring high over the planet’s north pole as well as close by the outer edge of its glorious shining rings. Over the course of 20 week-long “ring-grazing orbits” — the…

More Moons For Uranus?

The distant ice giant Uranus may not have been visited by a spacecraft since Voyager 2’s “Grand Tour” flyby in 1986 but the data gathered then is still being used today to make new discoveries. Most recently, researchers think they have found evidence of two previously unknown moons around Uranus, potentially bringing the planet’s count up…

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…

Bend It Like Saturn

The lines of Saturn’s rings appear to get sharply bent as their reflected light passes through the upper atmosphere of the planet before being captured by Cassini’s camera in this raw image, acquired on June 9, 2016. Enormous Saturn of course is, by volume, nearly all atmosphere with a solid core only about the size…

What’s Ahead for Cassini?

If you’ve been a faithful reader of Lights in the Dark over the past five years you know that I just love Cassini (and you probably do too!) In orbit around Saturn since 2004, Cassini has taken us on an intimate tour of the Saturnian system for a decade now, revealing the incredible beauty of the…

This is How Saturn’s Rings Would Look to a Butterfly

You don’t typically see Saturn’s rings looking like this, but then you can’t see in ultraviolet like Cassini (or many insects) can! The image above was acquired by the UVIS (UltraViolet Imaging Spectrograph) instrument aboard the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft on June 30, 2004, just as it was entering orbit around Saturn. The area shown here is…

Saturn’s Still in the Business of Making Moons

Congratulations! It’s a baby… moon? A bright clump spotted orbiting Saturn at the outermost edge of its A ring may be a brand new moon in the process of being born, according to research recently published in the journal Icarus. “We have not seen anything like this before,” said Carl Murray of Queen Mary University…