Tag Archives: Cassini spacecraft

The Little Ice Queen

Helene (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute photo)

On June 18, 2011, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft successfully completed its second-closest encounter with Saturn’s small moon, the icy Helene.

Saturn and its principal moons, the largest one being Titan.

With an average radius about 9 times larger than the Earth’s, Saturn is the 6th planet from the Sun and the second largest planet in the Solar System, after Jupiter. Saturn is named after the Roman god Saturn, equated to the Greek Cronus (the Titan father of Zeus), the Babylonian Ninurta and the Hindu Shani.

Saturn has 9 rings, consisting mostly of ice particles with a smaller amount of rocky debris and dust. 62 known moons orbit the planet, not counting hundreds of “moonlets” within the rings.

Helene is a small moon of Saturn, discovered in 1980 from ground-based observations at Pic du Midi Observatory. In 1988 it was officially named after Helen of Troy, who was the granddaughter of Cronus (Saturn) in Greek mythology.

Helene is tiny, with a mean radius of only 10.94 miles (17.6 km)!

H/t beloved fellow Igor.


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The Sound of Saturn

The Cassini–Huygens is a robotic spacecraft mission — a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency,and the Italian Space Agency to study the planet Saturn, the 6th planet from the Sun and the second largest planet in our Solar System.
Launched on October 15, 1997, Cassini-Huygens finally entered into orbit around Saturn on July 1, 2004, after a long interplanetary voyage.

Saturn during Equinox, as imaged by Cassini

On December 25, 2004, the Huygens probe was separated from the orbiter. The probe reached Saturn’s moon Titan on January 14, 2005, when it descended into Titan’s atmosphere, and downward to the surface, radioing scientific information back to the Earth. This was the first landing ever accomplished in the outer solar system.
Even before Cassini entered into orbit around Saturn, as the spacecraft passed over the rings of Saturn, 234 million miles from the planet, Cassini began detecting these eerie radio signals. Pay particular attention at around the 1:30 mark.
NASA says the radio waves are closely related to the auroras near the poles of Saturn. These auroras are similar to Earth’s northern and southern lights.
NASA’s explanation is compatible with the classic Christian notion of the harmony of the spheres. Go here to view and listen to a fascinating presentation on the Harmony. (H/t Fellowship’s writer, LTG!)
You can also hear an audio file of radio emissions from Saturn on the NASA website, here.
On April 18, 2008, NASA announced a two-year extension of the funding for ground operations of this mission, at which point it was renamed to Cassini Equinox Mission.This was again extended in February 2010 with the Cassini Solstice Mission continuing until 2017. Cassini is the fourth space probe to visit Saturn and the first to enter orbit.

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