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  • Feature

    As Cassini’s tour of Saturn draws to a close, a look back at postcards from the probe

    Take a bow, Cassini. It’s been a marathon performance: 20 years in space, more than 200 orbits around Saturn, and hundreds of thousands of images of the giant planet, its splashy rings and its many moons. On September 15, the veteran spacecraft will use its last burst of fuel to plunge into the sixth planet from the sun. Scientists and space enthusiasts around the world will watch it go with...

    08/23/2017 - 15:45 Astronomy, Planetary Science
  • Context

    The first Cassini to explore Saturn was a person

    As the Cassini spacecraft plunges toward its death on Saturn, the world’s knowledge of the famous ringed planet continues to accumulate. Thanks to years of observations by the versatile probe, astronomers now know Saturn as intimately as macaroni knows cheese. But still hardly anyone outside the world of astronomy knows anything about Cassini — and I don’t mean the spacecraft, but the guy it...

    05/15/2017 - 07:00 History of Science, Astronomy
  • News in Brief

    Cassini’s ring dive offers first close-up of Saturn’s cloud tops

    Cassini has beamed back stunning images from the spacecraft’s daring dive between Saturn and its rings.

    The first closeup pictures of the planet’s atmosphere reveal peculiar threadlike clouds and puffy cumulus ones, plus the giant hurricane first spotted on Saturn in 2008 (SN: 11/8/08, p. 9). Released April 27, the images of Saturn’s cloud tops are a “big step forward” for understanding...

    04/27/2017 - 17:49 Planetary Science
  • News

    No long, twisted tail trails the solar system

    The solar system doesn’t have a long, twisted tail after all.

    Data from the Cassini and Voyager spacecraft show that the bubble of particles surrounding the solar system is spherical, not comet-shaped. Observing a spherical bubble runs counter to 55 years of speculation on the shape of this solar system feature, says Tom Krimigis of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel...

    04/24/2017 - 11:00 Astronomy
  • Science Ticker

    In ‘grand finale,’ Cassini spacecraft sets off on collision course with Saturn

    View the animation

    Cassini is bravely going where no spacecraft has gone before — between Saturn and its rings.

    The probe, which launched in 1997 and has orbited Saturn since 2004, starts this daring expedition April 22. It will fly through the 2,400-kilometer-wide gap between Saturn and its rings 22 times before plunging into the planet’s atmosphere and burning up on Sept. 15....

    04/21/2017 - 07:00 Planetary Science
  • News in Brief

    Nitrogen fizz fuels ‘magic island’ on Titan, simulation suggests

    Saturn’s main moon, Titan, has a “magic island” that might be made of streams of nitrogen bubbles, scientists report April 18 in Nature Astronomy.

    Images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft show that the island, which appears as a bright spot, comes and goes. It sits in Ligeia Mare, a sea made of methane, ethane and nitrogen in Titan’s northern polar region. The sea is probably 100 to 200...

    04/18/2017 - 11:00 Planetary Science
  • News

    Food for microbes found on Enceladus

    Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus packs snacks suitable for microbial life.

    Data from the Cassini spacecraft show that the vaporous plume shooting out of the moon’s southern pole contains molecular hydrogen. It is probably generated when water in the moon’s subterranean ocean reacts with rock in its core, researchers report in the April 14 Science. Such reactions at hydrothermal vents and in...

    04/13/2017 - 14:00 Planetary Science, Astrobiology
  • News in Brief

    Saturn’s moon Pan looks like ravioli

    Saturn serves up the closest thing to space pasta, the latest images from NASA’s Cassini probe, released March 9, show.

    On March 7, the spacecraft snapped a series of portraits (one shown above) of Pan, Saturn’s small moon that orbits within a 325-kilometer-wide gap in one of the planet’s rings. Taken at a distance of 24,572 kilometers from the moon, these are the closest images of Pan...

    03/10/2017 - 16:30 Astronomy
  • Saturn’s 10th moon was the first satellite discovered in the modern space age

    Tenth moon of Saturn

    The first natural satellite in the solar system to be discovered since artificial satellites were launched has been found circling Saturn. Dr. Audouin Dollfus of the Observatory of Physical Astronomy at Meudon, France, spotted Saturn’s tenth satellite on three photographs taken in mid-December when the planet’s rings were seen edge-on from earth. — Science News...

    01/05/2017 - 10:00 Astronomy
  • News

    Experts don’t agree on age of Saturn’s rings

    PASADENA, Calif. — Saturn’s rings have maintained a youthful look, while still possibly being almost as old as the solar system itself. The dazzling belts of ice continue to keep their age a secret, but researchers hope to get answers from a spacecraft orbiting the ringed planet.

    Data from the Cassini spacecraft, in orbit since 2004, may help resolve a decades-long debate over the age of...

    10/20/2016 - 08:53 Planetary Science