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Raumfahrt - Im Focus von Cassini

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Bright Moons
The Cassini spacecraft observes three of Saturn's moons set against the darkened night side of the planet. 
Saturn is present on the left this image but is too dark to see. Rhea (1,528 kilometers, or 949 miles across) is closest to Cassini here and appears largest at the center of the image. Enceladus (504 kilometers, or 313 miles across) is to the right of Rhea. Dione (1,123 kilometers, or 698 miles across) is to the left of Rhea, partly obscured by Saturn. 
This view looks toward the northern, sunlit side of the rings from just above the ringplane. 
The image was taken in visible red light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on April 25, 2011. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 2.2 million kilometers (1.4 million miles) from Rhea and at a Sun-Rhea-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 67 degrees. Image scale is 13 kilometers (8 miles) per pixel on Rhea. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 3 million kilometers (1.9 million miles) from Enceladus and at a phase angle of 67 degrees. Image scale is 18 kilometers (11 miles) per pixel on Enceladus. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 3.1 million kilometers (1.9 million miles) from Dione and at a phase angle of 67 degrees. Image scale is 19 kilometers (12 miles) per pixel on Dione. 
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo. 
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute 
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A new analysis of data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft suggests that Saturn's moons and rings are gently worn vintage goods from around the time of our solar system's birth.
Though they are tinted on the surface from recent “pollution,” these bodies date back more than 4 billion years. They are from around the time that the planetary bodies in our neighborhood began to form out of the protoplanetary nebula, the cloud of material still orbiting the sun after its ignition as a star. The paper, led by Gianrico Filacchione, a Cassini participating scientist at Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics, Rome, has just been published online by the Astrophysical Journal.
"Studying the Saturnian system helps us understand the chemical and physical evolution of our entire solar system," said Filacchione. "We know now that understanding this evolution requires not just studying a single moon or ring, but piecing together the relationships intertwining these bodies."
Data from Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIMS) have revealed how water ice and also colors -- which are the signs of non-water and organic materials --are distributed throughout the Saturnian system. The spectrometer’s data in the visible part of the light spectrum show that coloring on the rings and moons generally is only skin-deep.
Using its infrared range, VIMS also detected abundant water ice – too much to have been deposited by comets or other recent means. So the authors deduce that the water ices must have formed around the time of the birth of the solar system, because Saturn orbits the sun beyond the so-called "snow line." Out beyond the snow line, in the outer solar system where Saturn resides, the environment is conducive to preserving water ice, like a deep freezer. Inside the solar system's "snow line," the environment is much closer to the sun's warm glow, and ices and other volatiles dissipate more easily.
The colored patina on the ring particles and moons roughly corresponds to their location in the Saturn system. For Saturn's inner ring particles and moons, water-ice spray from the geyser moon Enceladus has a whitewashing effect.
Farther out, the scientists found that the surfaces of Saturn's moons generally were redder the farther they orbited from Saturn. Phoebe, one of Saturn's outer moons and an object thought to originate in the far-off Kuiper Belt, seems to be shedding reddish dust that eventually rouges the surface of nearby moons, such as Hyperion and Iapetus.
A rain of meteoroids from outside the system appears to have turned some parts of the main ring system – notably the part of the main rings known as the B ring -- a subtle reddish hue. Scientists think the reddish color could be oxidized iron -- rust -- or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which could be progenitors of more complex organic molecules.
One of the big surprises from this research was the similar reddish coloring of the potato-shaped moon Prometheus and nearby ring particles. Other moons in the area were more whitish.
"The similar reddish tint suggests that Prometheus is constructed from material in Saturn's rings," said co-author Bonnie Buratti, a VIMS team member based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "Scientists had been wondering whether ring particles could have stuck together to form moons -- since the dominant theory was that the rings basically came from satellites being broken up. The coloring gives us some solid proof that it can work the other way around, too."
"Observing the rings and moons with Cassini gives us an amazing bird's-eye view of the intricate processes at work in the Saturn system, and perhaps in the evolution of planetary systems as well," said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist, based at JPL. "What an object looks like and how it evolves depends a lot on location, location, location."
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The visual and infrared mapping spectrometer team is based at the University of Arizona, Tucson.
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Global View of Iapetus' Dichotomy
These two global images of Iapetus show the extreme brightness dichotomy on the surface of this peculiar Saturnian moon. The left-hand panel shows the moon's leading hemisphere and the right-hand panel shows the moon's trailing side. While low and mid latitudes of the leading side exhibit a surface almost as dark as charcoal, broad tracts of the trailing side are almost as bright as snow. The dark terrain covers about 40 percent of the surface and is named Cassini Regio. The names of the bright terrain are Roncevaux Terra (north) and Saragossa Terra (south). 
On both hemispheres, the dominant landforms are impact craters. The largest known well-preserved basin on Iapetus, called Turgis, has a diameter of about 580 kilometers (360 miles). It lies at 17 degrees north latitude, 28 degrees west longitude at the eastern edge of the dark Cassini Regio and is visible on the right side of the left-hand panel. The prominent basin on the southern trailing side (at the lower left of the right-hand panel) is Engelier. Engelier is located at 41 degrees south latitude, 265 degrees west longitude, and has a diameter of about 504 kilometers (313 miles). Its formation destroyed about half of Gerin, another large basin on Iapetus. Gerin is located at 46 degrees south latitude, 233 degrees west longitude, and has a diameter of about 445 kilometers (276 miles). Tortelosa Montes, a part of the giant equatorial ridge that was discovered in Cassini images on December 25, 2004, is visible in the left panel as a thin line within Cassini Regio, and as a tall prominence at the western limb. It continues onto the trailing side (right side of right panel), where the bright western flanks of the Carcassone Montes appear as dominant bright spots within the western edge of Cassini Regio. 
The cause of the extreme brightness dichotomy on Iapetus is likely to be thermal segregation of water ice on a global scale. Thermal effects are usually expected to act latitudinally. That is, polar areas are colder than equatorial terrain in most cases due to the more oblique angle of the solar irradiation. Therefore, an additional process is required to explain the longitudinal difference as well. In one model, dark, reddish dust coming in from space and preferentially deposited on the leading side forms a small, but crucial difference between the leading and trailing hemispheres, which is sufficient to allow the thermal effect to evaporate the water ice on the leading side completely, but only marginally on the trailing side. See Color Dichotomy on Iapetus to learn more. Iapetus' extremely slow rotation rate (1,904 hours), its distance from the sun, its relatively small size and surface gravity, and its outer position within the regular satellite system of Saturn are also crucial contributing conditions for this mechanism to work as observed. 
North on Iapetus is approximately up in the images. Iapetus has a diameter of 1471 kilometers (914 miles). 
The right-hand panel, released previously as The Other Side of Iapetus, shows a mosaic of 60 different images, obtained on September 10, 2007. 
The left-hand panel is a color composite of three images obtained through infrared, green and ultraviolet spectral filters (centered at 752, 568 and 338 nanometers, respectively) by Cassini's narrow-angle camera on Dec. 27, 2004. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 717,000 kilometers (446,000 miles) from Iapetus and at a sun-Iapetus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 22 degrees. 
Scale in the original image on the left was about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) per pixel. For ease of comparison, the scales in both the left and right images were set to 1,400 meters (4,600 feet) per pixel. 
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo. 
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The effects of the small moon Prometheus loom large on two of Saturn's rings in this image taken a short time before Saturn's August 2009 equinox.
A long, thin shadow cast by the moon stretches across the A ring on the right. The gravity of potato-shaped Prometheus (86 kilometers, or 53 miles across) periodically creates streamer-channels in the F ring, and the moon's handiwork can seen be on the left of the image. 
The novel illumination geometry that accompanies equinox lowers the sun's angle to the ringplane, significantly darkens the rings, and causes out-of-plane structures to look anomalously bright and cast shadows across the rings. These scenes are possible only during the few months before and after Saturn's equinox, which occurs only once in about 15 Earth years. Before and after equinox, Cassini's cameras have spotted not only the predictable shadows of some of Saturn's moons, but also the shadows of newly revealed vertical structures in the rings themselves.
Prometheus is overexposed in this image. Bright specks in the image are background stars.
This view looks toward the northern, unilluminated side of the rings from about 28 degrees above the ringplane.
The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on July 30, 2009. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 1.8 million kilometers (1.1 million miles) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 97 degrees. Image scale is 10 kilometers (6 miles) per pixel.
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Quelle: NASA
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