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Tantalizing photos of Titan, Dione, Tethys, and Saturn

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/05/23 02:23 CDT

It figures. I just start a three-week trip, with my only computer a diminutive Netbook, and guess what's just been radioed across the 1.3 billion kilometers separating us and Saturn? A set of photos that should become -- when properly processed -- an iconic image from Cassini's fourteen-year mission to the Saturn system.

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Titan's lack of lightning

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/05/19 12:27 CDT

It's a fact of life in science that not all of your hypotheses will turn out to be correct (or even verifiable at all). But there's a bias toward the publication of positive results -- the discovery of this, or the proof of that.

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Are there more Titans than Earths in the Milky Way?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/04/14 11:30 CDT

Might there be many Titan-like planets and moons, with atmospheres and liquid methane rain, rivers, and lakes, across the galaxy? It's an important question if you think that liquid methane environments could support alien life, because it turns out that Titan-like planets might be more common than Earth-like planets.

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Lots of great stuff in the latest Cassini data release

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/04/13 04:56 CDT

I've got some lovely pictures from Saturn to show you! Every three months, the Cassini mission dumps gigabytes worth of precious Saturn data into the Planetary Data System, and the latest gift came on April 1. This particular pile of data, which was taken between April 1 and June 30, 2010, contains a lot of really terrific moon observations.

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365 Days of Astronomy Podcast: What's up in the second quarter of 2011

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/04/07 11:16 CDT

Regular readers of this blog will find the content of today's 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast familiar, because it's an update on what the solar system exploration spacecraft are up to, based on my monthly "what's up" updates.

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Evidence for rain on Titan

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/03/22 04:40 CDT

Last week, Zibi Turtle and Jason Perry and a dozen other coauthors published a paper in Science discussing evidence for rain on Titan.

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Mercury: a moon-scale body

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/03/17 06:15 CDT

As I wait for the MESSENGER Mercury Orbit Insertion webcast to start, I thought I'd fiddle with some images to point out that Mercury is a bridge between the scales of planets and the scales of moons.

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LPSC 2011: Wanted: Pioneer 10 & 11 digital data

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/03/11 01:39 CST

This is both a Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) update and a public service announcement. Ted Stryk has been working for years to locate the original Pioneer 10 and 11 image data from the Jupiter and Saturn encounters.

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Decoding a Titan crater

Posted by Emily Martin on 2010/08/16 01:42 CDT

In response to Emily's entry about finally getting her hands on a subscription to the planetary science journal Icarus, I thought I would report on an article from the most recent issue: Geology of the Selk crater region on Titan from Cassini VIMS observations, by Jason Soderblom and 11 other scientists.

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Radar glories in Titan rivers

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/05/11 04:53 CDT

Wow, this is a cool paper. Here's the gist: the Cassini RADAR team has spotted some river channels on Titan that shine so brightly in radar images, there must be something special going on to explain that brightness.

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Titan and Dione: The same, but different

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/04/22 05:29 CDT

Here's a new lovely color composition of Titan and Dione captured by Cassini. This one was taken on April 20, 2010; a set of 15 raw images taken of the two moons just showed up on the Cassini raw images website.

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A calming Titan

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/04/19 03:35 CDT

Usually I like Mondays, but today I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed. When I get overwhelmed, I look at pictures from Cassini.

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Cassini VIMS sees the long-awaited glint off a Titan lake

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/17 04:28 CST

The Cassini mission announced today the first observation of a specular reflection off of a lake on Titan. A specular reflection is a mirror-like flash, and you only get one when you have a mirror-like surface -- very, very smooth.

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Changes in Titan's southern lakes

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/10/06 05:19 CDT

Today's science press release out of the Division of Planetary Sciences meeting concerns changes in lakes near Titan's south pole observed during Cassini's mission. In brief, repeat Cassini RADAR observations of the same spots during different Titan flybys turned up places where there appeared to be dark lakes in earlier images and dry lakes in later images.

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Cassini RADAR continues to gaze at Titan

Posted by Jani Radebaugh on 2009/07/27 07:08 CDT

The Cassini spacecraft made its 59th flyby of Titan, Saturn's largest moon, on Friday, July 24, and in the last few hours we have received images from the RADAR instrument in SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) mode.

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Designing the Cassini Tour

Posted by John Smith on 2009/06/07 12:01 CDT

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.

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Canto II: Titan's Atmosphere and the Solar Cycle

Posted by David Seal on 2009/06/03 04:44 CDT

David Seal explains the complications for Cassini coming from Titan's atmosphere and Solar Cycle.

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Connections

Posted by David Seal on 2009/06/02 01:58 CDT

David Seal muses on his time as the mission planner for Cassini, and the history behind its name, and astronomy in Rome.

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DPS meeting: Sunday: Lakes on Titan

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/10/15 03:52 CDT

This time around DPS features three separate oral sessions on Titan, indicating just how much attention that moon is getting from the scientific community right now. From the first session, on Titan's lower atmosphere, I'm just covering the two talks on Titan's lakes.

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Proof for liquids on Titan

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/07/30 07:02 CDT

A press release from the Cassini VIMS team today is titled "NASA Confirms Liquid Lake on Saturn Moon." This may be making some of you ask: but wait, haven't they already proven there's liquid lakes on Titan?

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