More of Saturn for another 7 years!

Are you one of those people out there who is always stunned by Cassini’s images of Saturn? I know I’m… and the good news is we are going to be stunned for another SEVEN more years!

Few days ago, NASA has just announced that it will extend the mission to 2017 after the current extended mission expired on June this year. This is the mission second 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 Mission – will continue until a few months past Saturn’s summer solstice.

When Cassini first arrived at Saturn in 2004, it was just after the planet’s northern winter solstice. On August 2009, Saturn entered equinox as the sun shines directly on the equator and then begin to illuminate the northern hemisphere and the rings’ northern face. The mission extension into the northern summer solstice will present opportunity to follow seasonal and other long-term weather changes of Saturn’s system all the way from its winter to its summer.

And to remind us on how beautiful Saturn system can be…

Saturn at Equinox

Storms at Saturn’s North Pole

Saturn’s moon Pan, orbiting in the Encke Gap, casts a slender shadow onto the A ring

Enceladus – a moon full with fractures, folds, and ridges

Rhea emerges after being occulted by the larger moon Titan

 

For more images, go to the Cassini imaging team (CICLOPS) home page.  Also check out Saturn by Cassini at The Big Picture 1, 2, 3, 4.

All images credit to NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

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~ by thChieh on February 7, 2010.

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