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RE: Saturn
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This false-colour image of Saturn was constructed by combining three images at three different infrared wavelengths.


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The image at the upper left was taken at 1.3 microns, where both Saturn and its rings strongly reflect light. The centre image in the top panel was taken at 2.4 microns, where the rings strongly reflect light, but Saturn, because of the methane in its atmosphere, absorbs most of the light. The third image on the right in the panel was taken at a wavelength of 5 microns where, because they are composed of almost pure water ice, the rings absorb almost all the light, and Saturn, because its interior is warm, glows. Assigning each of the three images to blue, green and red, respectively, results in the beautiful, false-colour, composite image shown below.

These images were taken on June 21, 2004, with Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer at a distance of 6.35 million kilometres from Saturn.

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This image of Saturn was taken by the Cassini spaceprobe on August 15, 2006, when it was approximately 1,184,523 kilometres away.

W00016748B
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The image was taken using the CL1 and VIO filters.

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This image of Saturn was taken by the Cassini spaceprobe on July 08, 2006, when it was approximately 2,625,198 kilometres away.

W00015935

The image was taken using the CL1 and CL2 filters.


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How long is a day on Saturn?
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Measuring the rotation period of a rocky planet like the Earth is easy, but similar measurements for planets made of gas, such as Saturn, pose problems. Researchers from JPL, Imperial College London and UCLA present new results in this week's Nature (4th May 2006) that may solve the mystery. Using the magnetometer instrument on Cassini, they have found a clear period in the magnetic field of the planet that they believe indicates a day of 10 hours and 47 minutes.

This is a whole 8 minutes slower than NASA Voyager results from the early 1980s, and slower than previous estimates from another Cassini instrument. The magnetometer results provide the best estimate of the Saturn day to date, because it can see deep inside Saturn.
Planets rotate around their "spin" axes as they orbit about the Sun. Rocky planets like the Earth and Mars have rotation periods that remain quite constant and are easy to measure because we can see the surfaces rotate.

Gaseous planets do not have a solid surface to track and are not as rigid as rocky planets. Thus, their periods may change more than those of rocky planets while being less easy to measure. Scientists have sought to use proxy measures such as the repetition rate of radio signals or the period of the rotation of the direction of the magnetic axis of the planet. However for Saturn this has proved difficult because previous missions could not detect a period in the magnetic field measurements and whilst radio data have shown a period - it has changed in the time between previous missions and Cassini.
Since the Voyager days scientists have been seeing changes in the period of radio observations. They knew that it was virtually impossible to slow down or speed up a mass as large as Saturn. As Cassini's measurements of the rhythms of natural radio signals from the planet continued to vary, scientists began to realize these signals were probably not a direct measurement of the internal rotation rate. Suddenly the length of Saturn's day became uncertain. Measurements of the magnetic field help scientists "see" deep inside Saturn and may have finally solved this puzzle.

"Making this measurement has been one of team's most important science goals. Finding a period in the magnetic field rotation helps us to understand the internal structure of Saturn's magnetic fields and from that, of Saturn itself, which will help us understand how the planet formed. After almost two years of collecting data, we are starting to get fascinating insights in Saturn, but we still have more questions than we do answers" - Professor Michele Dougherty of Imperial College London.

According to Dr Giacomo Giampieri, a researcher at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NASA) and lead author of the paper, Saturn's rotation posed a great challenge to scientists in the past. In fact, Saturn's internal magnetic field is almost perfectly aligned with the rotation axis. To explain the consequences of this alignment, Giampieri says to consider a Compact Disc in a CD player.

"Imagine you want to check whether the CD is playing. If your CD has a label it is easy to see at a glance that it is spinning very fast in the CD player. But if the CD has no label, you would not be able to tell whether the CD is moving or not because it would look static. Saturn's magnetic field is similar to a blank CD: if you just look at it, it seems that it is not rotating at all" - Dr Giacomo Giampieri.

In the past, Pioneer 11 and two Voyager spacecraft encountered Saturn during brief fly-bys and collected data, but no clear periodic signals were found in their magnetic field data. In July 2004 the Cassini spacecraft was inserted into orbit about Saturn and it now has completed many orbits around the gaseous planet. Thanks to the extent of data collected over this extended period of time and the use of appropriate algorithms, a small but regular periodic signature in the magnetic field close to the planet has been detected, with a period of 10 hours 47 minutes and 6 seconds (plus or minus 40seconds). This discovery is like finding a small spot on a CD that allows you to measure how fast it is spinning.

The result is somewhat surprising.

"The period we found from the magnetic field measurements has remained constant since Cassini entered orbit almost 2 years ago, while radio measurements since the Voyager era have shown large variability. By monitoring the magnetic field over the rest of the mission, we will be able to solve this puzzle" - Dr Giacomo Giampieri.

The periodic signal of Saturn's magnetic field does not fit simple models for planetary magnetic fields.

"Saturn's periodic magnetic field differs from that found at Jupiter, which can be modelled as a dipole field tilted with respect to the rotation axis. We now know that the internal rotation of Saturn and its connection to the external magnetic field is very complex. Our study is the first step in breaking the code" - Dr Giacomo Giampieri.

This study opens a new perspective on the internal structure and dynamics of Saturn, and how it affects the source of the magnetic field.

Source


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RE: Saturn
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This image of Saturn was taken by the Cassini spaceprobe on April 11, 2006 and received on Earth April 13, 2006, when it was approximately 4,029,493 kilometres away



The image was taken using the IRP0 and MT2 filters.

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This image of Saturn was taken by the Cassini spaceprobe on April 11, 2006 and received on Earth April 13, 2006, when it was approximately 4,028,567 kilometres away



The image was taken using the CB3 and IRP90 filters.

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This image of Saturn was taken by the Cassini spaceprobe on March 13, 2006 when it was approximately 2,562,060 kilometres away.


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The image was taken using the CL1 and CL2 filters.


Negative image to show the thin ring and two small moons

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University of Iowa researchers who are listening to signals being beamed back from a spacecraft orbiting the planet Saturn have discovered a giant lightning storm.
Research scientist Bill Kurth compares the sounds coming from NASA's Cassini space probe to the snap and crackle you might hear while listening to A.M. radio during a thunderstorm here on Earth.

http://www.radioiowa.com/mp3/saturn4.mp3

Those popping noises aren't technically interference, they're radio signals generated by lightning. The lightning storm on Saturn has been churning since late January and it's massive, bigger than the biggest hurricane ever recorded on Earth. It is a couple of thousand miles across, and the lightning bolts are more than a thousand times stronger than terrestrial lightning.

The sounds are being captured aboard the spacecraft and sent back using instruments built by the University of Iowa as part of the University's Radio and Plasma Wave Science investigation.

Source

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This image of Saturn was taken on January 03, 2006 by the Cassini spacecraft.
Saturn was approximately 2,781,611 kilometres away. The image was taken using the CL1 and CL2 filters.


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Saturns Moons
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Interactive diagram to show the position of Saturns brightest moons in their orbits about the planet.
(Just enter the date and time between January 1900 and December 2100)

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