This holiday season, NASA's Cassini spacecraft has captured some spectacular images of Saturn and two of its most fascinating moons, Titan and Enceladus. Winter is approaching in the southern hemisphere of Saturn and with this cold season has come the familiar blue hue that was present in the northern winter hemisphere at the start of NASA's Cassini mission. (Photo : NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)
This holiday season, NASA's Cassini spacecraft has captured some spectacular images of Saturn and two of its most fascinating moons, Titan and Enceladus. Assembled by Cassini's imaging team, these pictures show a bit more about the three bodies.
Two views of Enceladus are included in the series of images. These views highlight the many fissures, fractures and ridges that decorate the moon's icy surface. Enceladus itself looks like a white, glittering snowball in the depths of space, and is famous for the nearly 100 geysers that are spread across its polar region. These geysers spout tiny ice particles into space before most of them fall back to the surface of the moon as snow. A small fraction of these particles, though, escape into space and helps form one of the rings of Saturn--the E ring.
Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is another story. The images show two of the moon's most outstanding features--dark, splotchy regions near the moon's polar areas. These regions are actually lakes and seas of liquid methane and ethane. Titan is the only other place in the solar system that we know of that has stable liquids on its surface, though in the case of Titan these liquids aren't water.
Take a look at Titan's south pole, and you may see a swirling high-altitude vortex. Titan's hazy atmosphere and surface environment are thought to be similar in certain respects to the early atmosphere of Earth.
That's not all the images capture, though. They also reveal the large planet of Saturn. In a wide-angle image overlooking the north pole, you can see the hexagonal jet stream and rapidly spinning polar vortex that reside there. At the planet's south pole, you can see brilliant blue hues.
"During this, our tenth holiday season at Saturn, we hope that these images from Cassini remind everyone the world over of the significance of our discoveries in exploring such a remote and beautiful planetary system," said Carolyn Porco, one of the researchers, in a news release. "Happy holidays from all of us on Cassini.
Want to see the images of Saturn and its moons? You can check them all out here.
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