Cassini: After 4 Years of Adventure at Saturn

On July 1, 2004, Cassini-Huygens spacecraft arrived at Saturn. Today, four and a half year later, it’s still there, still strong and healthy, still busy exploring the Saturnian world for us.

Cassini is now working “overtime”. It has actually completed its initial four-year mission in June 2008 and is currently working on an extended mission for another two years called the Cassini Equinox Mission.

Cassini Equinox Mission

For the past 4+ years, Saturn, together with its rings and moons, were illuminated from the south by the Sun. Now, Saturn is going to reach equinox in August 2009 and, as with the equinox here on Earth, the Sun is going to shine directly on the equator during that time.

And this very reason of Saturn entering its equinox is why the rings “disappear” when view from Earth now.

After the equinox, the Sun will continue to move northward and is going to slowly light up Saturn’s northern hemisphere and the northern side of its rings. What Cassini will do is observe the seasonal changes on Saturn, and the motion of the rings’ shadow due to the changing angle of the Sun. The moons are not left behind either. There are plans to revisit the moons Titan, Enceladus, Iapetus, Rhea, Dione and Tethys again.

In the past four years, Cassini had showed us worlds that before only exist in our imaginations. Here I would like to share a few fantastic postcards sent back by Cassini.

by cassini. Click for details.
Storms at Saturn’s North Pole

by cassini. Click for details.
Saturn and its moons

by cassini. Click for details.
Mimas, Prometheus and the Rings

by cassini. Click for details.
Enceladus – a moon full with fractures, folds, and ridges

by cassini. Click for details.
Iapetus – a moon with two faces

by cassini. Click for details.
Hyperion – an odd world

All images credit to NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
For more images, go to the Cassini imaging team (CICLOPS) home page.

I really love the portrait of the moons. Closed-up, we can see their difference faces; some has cracks and spewing out geysers; some can have two-coloured face; some can even looked like something under the sea… They are truly a world by themselves.


~ by thChieh on January 14, 2009.

One Response to “Cassini: After 4 Years of Adventure at Saturn”

  1. […] extension, thus the name extended-extended mission or XXM. The first extension was called the Equinox Mission, which study Saturn and its moons as it entered equinox. This second extension – the Solstice […]

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