It's been a little while since I posted any Cassini pictures just because they were pretty, so here's a few recent ones, produced by amateurs from the images available on the Cassini raw images website.
NASA has just announced that once Cassini's Equinox Mission runs out in June of this year, they will extend it a further seven more years, long enough for the spacecraft to see Saturn through its solstice!!
I love posting animations of Cassini images that I compose from frames grabbed from the mission's raw images website, but they are shoddy compared to the versions that eventually come out from the mission's imaging team.
So many goodies on the Cassini raw images website lately! I am especially excited when Cassini takes photos through red, green, and blue filters so that it's possible to create views that look roughly like what you'd see with your own eyes.
Last week, planetary astronomers Anne Verbiscer, Michael Skrutskie, and Doug Hamilton published a paper in Nature succinctly titled "Saturn's Largest Ring." In the paper, they announce the discovery, using the Spitzer infrared space telescope, of a gargantuan, previously unseen ring around Saturn, encompassing the orbit of Phoebe.
Each Titan flyby is not a fork in the road, but rather a Los Angeles style cloverleaf in terms of the dizzying number of possible destinations. So how did our current and future plans for the path of the Cassini spacecraft come to be? That's the question Dave Seal put to me since that's my job -- I am a tour designer.
Saturn is rapidly approaching equinox, where the Sun passes through the ring plane (south-to-north, i.e. the northern vernal equinox), and its ring system (i.e. its great now-gloomy poorly-lit circles of large blocks of water ice) is starting to show some really interesting behavior.
I monitor the Cassini website to keep my eye out for cool pictures, and it's usually relatively easy to figure out what the spacecraft is looking at (rings, moon, Saturn, whatever). Sometimes, though, the images can be very confusing.