Variations in Tan, Yellow, and Gray

Cassini’s imaging systems continue to offer up the glory of God’s creation in the outer solar system. Above is today’s feature image on the Cassini site, the icy moon Rhea in the foreground with Saturn and a near-edge-on view of the rings behind.

Saturn’s moons are interesting places with the speculation of dusty rings around the moon Rhea–these have yet to be espied from Cassini; the evidence is indirect as of this writing. Then we have the geysers of Enceladus–but the icy particles spewing from the south pole of that moon are hardly a waterfall, and of course, snow-white. It would seem that visually beautiful objects are large and have atmospheres. Moons and asteroids: faces only a rock (or ice-) hound can love.

This past summer, Cassini imaged this pole to pole view of Saturn. The southern hemisphere is yellow, but the north is just emerging form the winter shadow of the rings. Scientists were surprised to see the north image in blue when Cassini arrived in 2004. The blue has faded since, but differences still remain as Spring approaches. If Cassini maintains function over the next several years, atmospheric scientists will watch as the south gets cold, the north warms, and the bands and clouds formations change.

At 900 million miles from the sun, warmth is a relative term. Remember everything out here is a few hundred below zero on the Fahrenheit scale.

The last image today is the feature from the Astronomy Picture of the Day web site. Not all Saturnian moons are pale gray and white; Titan has a delicious orange atmosphere, as we see in this family portrait:


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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