A Day in Astronomy: Cassini Orbits Saturn

Image (Credit): On July 29, 2011, Cassini captured five of Saturn’s moons in a single frame with its narrow-angle camera. This is a full-color look at a view that was originally published in September 2011. Moons visible in this view: Janus is on the far left; Pandora orbits just beyond the thin F ring near the center of the image; brightly reflective Enceladus appears above center; Saturn’s second largest moon, Rhea, is bisected by the right edge of the image; and the smaller moon Mimas is seen just to the left of Rhea.. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

On this day 2004, the Cassini spacecraft entered the orbit of Saturn. A collaboration of NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Italian Space Agency, the mission containing NASA’s Cassini space probe and ESA’s Huygens probe was launched in October 15, 1997. Cassini remained in orbit around Saturn from 2004 to 2007. The Cassini spacecraft spent 20 years in space – 13 of them exploring Saturn and its moons.

The ESA’s Huygen’s probe entered the atmosphere of Saturn’s largest moon Titan on January 14, 2005 to study the moon’s smog-like atmosphere and take pictures from the surface. The probe was not designed to survive past landing, though it was able to take photos for about three hours before it died. You can watch the probe enter Titan’s atmosphere in this video from ESA.

Image (Credit): An artist’s concept of the Huygens probe on Titan. (NASA)

Space Quote: Early View of the Cosmos

Image (Credit): James Webb Space Telescope mirrors. (NASA)

“It’s really hard to not look at the universe in a new light and not just have a moment that is deeply personal…It’s an emotional moment when you see nature suddenly releasing some of its secrets, and I would like you to imagine and look forward to that.”

-Statement by Thomas Zurbuchen, who leads NASA’s scientific programs, regarding the James Webb Space Telescope’s early images, which should be released to the public on July 12, 2022. He was quoted in an Arstechnica story, “NASA Scientists Say Images from the Webb Telescope Nearly Brought Them to Tears.”