Splendors seldom seen are revealed in this glorious picture from Saturn’s shadow. Imaged by Cassini on October 17, 2012 during its 174th orbit, the ringed planet’s night side is viewed from a perspective 19 degrees below the ring plane at a distance of about 800,000 kilometers with the Sun almost directly behind the planet. A 60 frame mosaic, images made with infrared, red, and violet filters were combined to create an enhanced, false-color view.
What spacecraft is humanity currently using to explore our Solar System? Presently, every inner planet has at least one robotic explorer, while several others are monitoring our Sun, some aremapping Earth’s Moon, a few are chasing asteroids and comets, one is orbiting Saturn, and several are even heading out into deep space.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has provided scientists the first close-up, visible-light views of a behemoth hurricane swirling around Saturn’s north pole.
It was one of the largest and longest lived storms ever recorded in our Solar System. First seen in late 2010, the above cloud formation in the northern hemisphere of Saturn started larger than the Earth and soon spread completely around the planet. The storm was tracked not only from Earth but from up close by the robotic Cassini spacecraft currently orbiting Saturn. Pictured above in false colored infrared in February, orange colors indicate clouds deep in the atmosphere, while light colors highlight clouds higher up. The rings of Saturn are seen nearly edge-on as the thin blue horizontal line. The warped dark bands are the shadows of the rings cast onto the cloud tops by the Sun to the upper left. A source of radio noise from lightning, the intense storm was thought to relate to seasonal changes when spring emerges in the north of Saturn. After raging for over six months, the iconic storm circled the entire planet and then tried to absorb its own tail — which surprisingly caused it to fade away.
In the three years since it first provided images of the sun in the spring of 2010, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has had virtually unbroken coverage of the sun’s rise toward solar maximum, the peak of solar activity in its regular 11-year cycle. This video shows those three years of the sun at a pace of two images per day.
The dark, inner shadow of planet Earth is called the umbra. Shaped like a cone extending into space, it has a circular cross section and is most easily seen during a lunar eclipse. But the complete cross section is larger than the Moon’s angular size in the stages of an eclipse. Still, this thoughtful composite illustrates the full extent of the circular shadow by utilizing images from both partial and total eclipses passing through different parts of the umbra.