Colorful Holiday Treats from Saturn

by Nancy Atkinson on December 22, 2011

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The moons Titan and Dione are photographed with rings and Saturn in the background. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

“Hey! Look what our Santa at Saturn has sent our way!” said Carolyn Porco, the Cassini imaging team lead, in a post on Twitter. This wonderful collection of just-released colorful images from the Saturn system are a holiday gift from the Cassini and CICLOPS (Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations)team.

Above, Saturn’s third-largest moon, Dione, can be seen through the haze of the planet’s largest moon, Titan, in this view of the two posing before the planet and its rings from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.

More treats below!

Saturn's moon Tethys, with its stark white icy surface, peeps out from behind the larger, hazy, colorful Titan in this view of the two moons obtained by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Saturn's rings lie between the two. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

These views from NASA's Cassini spacecraft look toward the south polar region of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, and show a depression within the moon's orange and blue haze layers near the south pole. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The colorful globe of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, passes in front of the planet and its rings in this true color snapshot from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Saturn's largest moon, Titan, appears deceptively small paired here with Dione, Saturn's third-largest moon, in this view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

To see more details and larger versions of these images, visit the CICLOPS website. (And thanks, Carolyn and team for the beautiful gifts!)

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Anonymous December 23, 2011 at 9:46 AM

The close-up of Titan’s atmosphere is a fantastic image. However, I do not quite understand the “depression”. If it is actually at the planet’s surface, what thoughts do the scientists have in way of explaining this flattening(?) at the South Polar Region (if it is not some sort of refractive optical effect).

One could easily mistake Titan in front of Ring image (#4 down) for an over-fanciful space-art cover of a 50s Science Fiction novel. The subtle bluish glow at the moon’s poles, in that same picture, is marvelous (always appreciate being informed when a photo is in true color.)

If there is any spacecraft which has delivered an enriching treasure trove of Science and imagery for the expenditure of cost, time and work invested, Cassini would surely rank high on any list. And the human minds and hands behind that dutiful robot, have earned award-winning acknowledgment for their efforts. It is also a “living” testament to the designers and engineers who built that technological wonder!

Earth-bound man longs to know and understand what lies beyond his planetary reach of discovery, so he creates the instrumentation to enable him to venture-out and explore, whether through a crude little telescope held an arms-length away, or a sophisticated robotic machine remotely operated a billion+ miles out in space, in orbital survey of an Ice Giant’s Fantasia-like realm.

Anonymous December 23, 2011 at 11:11 AM

I believe it’s an atmospheric depression, though am not 100%… Just surmising.

Anonymous December 23, 2011 at 11:27 AM

Thanks. Sounds right.

Anonymous December 23, 2011 at 11:12 AM

Ahh…, sweet Planet Porn! Gorgeous stuff! Too bad Titan has to be such a camera hog though, lol!

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