5.3.07

Don’t Forget Saturn

While I have always been a big fan of Jupiter and its four Galilean moons, I have to say that Cassini has really swayed my opinion. With its breathtaking rings and numerous strange moons, the Saturnian system is easily equal to the Jovian in terms of beauty and intrigue.


Our robotic emissary, flying high above Saturn, captured this view of an alien copper-colored ring world. The overexposed planet has deliberately been removed to show the unlit rings alone, seen from an elevation 60 degrees, the highest Cassini has yet attained. [Source with more information and much, much larger, higher quality version]

And yet… Saturn does have one thing pulling it down, or so many have thought. “Saturn is a much blander world than Jupiter” is a sentiment expressed by many (in this case I’m quoting Patrick Moore). But I think this line of thinking needs to be nipped in the bud. Certainly, Saturn’s pastel clouds are more muted than those of Jupiter, but that doesn’t make them any less attractive. And, in its own quiet way, Saturn does interesting things. For example, suddenly turning blue.

Scientists studying Saturn are not yet sure about the precise cause of the color change from north to south. NASA Voyager spacecraft flybys witnessed a more evenly painted planet in the early 1980s, when Saturn was closer to equinox. However, the bluish color was readily apparent upon Cassini's approach to the planet in late 2003, when Saturn was just coming out of its northern hemisphere winter. Scientists have speculated that the color is due to seasonal effects on the atmosphere.

Words from the caption for this image, which nicely shows the patterning in Saturn’s cloud-tops from north to south:

3 comments:

Geosomin said...

Saturn's always been my favorite. It's the rings...Mercury was a close second.
2 years ago when Saturn was really close my friend Ken took out his telescope in the winter and we all looked at Saturn one clear night. It was amazing...you could actually see the rings. It was incredible to think we were actually looking at another planet so very far away... We've got a saturn in our stars on our ceiling in our basement now to comemorate.
Only saturn and the moonare up so far...it wasn't really intentional but we seem to only have up planets if we've seen them through the telescope :)
I have to get our telescope fixed for the summer...

Terri /Tinker said...

I've always thought Saturn's rings made it look more attractive. As for turning blue, that only seems natural when it's been so cold during its winter. *_*

Michelle said...

Who can forget Saturn/ For me, it is the archtype of planets. Whatever that means.