Planet Saturn, 20 new moons discovered


This 7 October 2019 video says about itself:

20 New Moons JUST Discovered Orbiting Saturn

A team led by Carnegie [Carnegie Institution for Science]’s Scott S. Sheppard has found 20 new moons orbiting Saturn. This brings the ringed planet’s total number of moons to 82, surpassing Jupiter, which has 79.

The discovery was announced Monday (Oct. 7th) by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center.

Music credit: YouTube Audio Library
Immortality – Aakash Gandhi

New moons of Saturn

This illustration is courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science. Saturn image is courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute. Starry background courtesy of Paolo Sartorio/Shutterstock.

From the Carnegie Institution for Science in the USA:

Help Name 20 Newly Discovered Moons of Saturn!

Carnegie’s Scott Sheppard has just announced the discovery of 20 new moons orbiting Saturn, bringing its total to 82 and moving it ahead of Jupiter, which has 79. All hail the new king of moons!

Earlier this year we held a contest to name five Jovian moons discovered by Sheppard last July. We loved the enthusiasm everyone showed for this contest so much that we’re doing it again. Please help us name all 20 Saturnian moons!

Contest Launch Date:

October 7, 2019

Contest End Date:

December 6, 2019

How to Submit:

Tweet your suggested moon name to @SaturnLunacy and tell us why you picked it. Photos, artwork, and videos are strongly encouraged. Don’t forget to include the hashtag #NameSaturnsMoons.

The General Rules:

We hope you know a lot about giants, because that’s the key to playing the name game for Saturnian moons.

  • Two of the newly discovered prograde moons fit into a group of outer moons with inclinations of about 46 degrees called the Inuit group. All name submissions for this group must be giants from Inuit mythology.
  • Seventeen of the newly discovered moons are retrograde moons in the Norse group. All name submissions for this group must be giants from Norse mythology.
  • One of the newly discovered moons orbits in the prograde direction and has an inclination near 36 degrees, which is similar to those in the Gallic group, although it is much farther away from Saturn than any other prograde moons. It must e named after a giant from Gallic mythology.

Learn More:

Further details about how the International Astronomical Union names astronomical objects can be found here.

Make Sure Your Proposed Name Is Not Already in Use:

Current names can be checked at the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center here or here.

Check out this video about the moon-naming process:

With 20 new moons, Saturn now has the most of any solar system planet. The discovery brings the planet’s total to 82. The previous record-holder, Jupiter, has 79: here.

Physics Nobel awarded for discoveries about the universe’s evolution and exoplanets. Three scientists win for revealing the cosmic makeup and finding a planet orbiting a sunlike star: here.

Saturn’s rings, younger than dinosaurs?


This March 2016 video says about itself:

Saturn’s Moons and Rings May Be Younger Than the Dinosaurs

Some of Saturn‘s icy moons may have been formed after many dinosaurs roamed the Earth. New computer modeling of the Saturnian system suggests the rings and moons may be no more than 100 million years old.

Saturn hosts 62 known moons. All of them are influenced not only by the gravity of the planet, but also by each other’s gravities. A new computer model suggests that the Saturnian moons Tethys, Dione and Rhea haven’t seen the kinds of changes in their orbital tilts that are typical for moons that have lived in the system and interacted with other moons over long periods of time. In other words, these appear to be very young moons.

“Moons are always changing their orbits. That’s inevitable,” Matija Cuk, principal investigator at the SETI Institute and one of the authors of the new research, said in a statement. “But that fact allows us to use computer simulations to tease out the history of Saturn’s inner moons. Doing so, we find that they were most likely born during the most recent 2 percent of the planet’s history.”

The age of Saturn’s rings has come under considerable debate since their discovery in the 1600s. In 2012, however, French astronomers suggested that some of the inner moons and the planet’s well-known rings may have recent origins. The researchers showed that tidal effects — which refer to “the gravitational interaction of the inner moons with fluids deep in Saturn’s interior,” according to the statement — should cause the moons to move to larger orbits in a very short time.

“Saturn has dozens of moons that are slowly increasing their orbital size due to tidal effects. In addition, pairs of moons may occasionally move into orbital resonances. This occurs when one moon’s orbital period becomes a simple fraction of another. For example, one moon could orbit twice as fast as another moon, or three times as fast. Once an orbital resonance takes place, the moons can affect each other’s gravity, even if they are very small. This will eventually elongate their orbits and tilt them from their original orbital plane. By looking at computer models that predict how extended a moon’s orbit should become over time, and comparing that with the actual position of the moon today, the researchers found that the orbits of Tethys, Dione and Rhea are “less dramatically altered than previously thought,” the statement said.

The moons don’t appear to have moved very far from where they were born. To get a more specific value for the ages of these moons, Cuk used ice geysers on Saturn’s moon Enceladus. The researchers assumed that the energy powering those geysers comes from tidal interactions with Saturn and that the level of geothermal activity on Enceladus has been constant, and from there, inferred the strength of the tidal forces from Saturn.

Using the computer simulations, the researchers concluded that Enceladus would have moved from its original orbital position to its current one in just 100 million years — meaning it likely formed during the Cretaceous period. The larger implication is that the inner moons of Saturn and its gorgeous rings are all relatively young. (The more distant moons Titan and Iapetus would not have been formed at the same time.)

“So the question arises — what caused the recent birth of the inner moons?” Cuk said in the statement. “Our best guess is that Saturn had a similar collection of moons before, but their orbits were disturbed by a special kind of orbital resonance involving Saturn’s motion around the sun. Eventually, the orbits of neighboring moons crossed, and these objects collided. From this rubble, the present set of moons and rings formed.” The research is being published in the Astrophysical Journal.

From Space.com:

Saturn’s Rings May Be Younger Than the Dinosaurs

By Charles Q. Choi, Space.com Contributor | January 17, 2019 02:01pm ET

Saturn has not always had rings — the planet’s haloes may date only to the age of dinosaurs, or after it, a new study finds.

The age of Saturn’s rings has long proven controversial. Some researchers had thought the iconic features formed along with the planet about 4.5 billion years ago from the icy rubble left in orbit around it after the formation of the solar system. Others suggested the rings are very young, perhaps originating after Saturn’s gravitational pull tore apart a comet or an icy moon.

One way to solve this mystery is to weigh Saturn’s rings. The rings were initially made of bright ice, but over time have become contaminated and darkened by debris from the outer reaches of the solar system. A few years back, NASA’s Saturn-orbiting Cassini mission determined that the rings are only about 1 percent impure. If scientists could weigh Saturn‘s rings, they could estimate the amount of time it would take for them to accumulate enough contaminants to get 1 percent impure and thus calculate their age, lead study author Luciano Iess, a planetary scientist at the Sapienza University of Rome, told Space.com. [Saturn’s Glorious Rings in Pictures]

Iess and his colleagues relied on more Cassini data. Before the spacecraft plunged to its death into Saturn’s atmosphere in September 2017, it coasted between the planet and its rings and let their gravitational pulls tug it around. The strength of a body’s gravity depends on its mass, and by analyzing how much Cassini was pulled one way or the other during the “grand finale” phase of its mission, the mission team could measure the gravity and mass of both Saturn and its rings.

During six of Cassini’s crossings between Saturn and its rings at altitudes about 1,615 miles to 2,425 miles (2,600 to 3,900 kilometers) above the planet’s clouds, scientists monitored the radio link between the spacecraft and Earth. Much as how an ambulance siren sounds higher pitched as the vehicle drives toward you and lower pitched as it moves away, the radio signals would lengthen in wavelength as their source moved away Earth and shorten as their source moved toward it — an effect called the Doppler shift.

“I’m astonished by the fact that we were able to measure the velocity of a distant spacecraft 1.3 billion kilometers [807 million miles] away from Earth with an accuracy that is a hundredth or a thousandth the speed of a snail — a few hundreds of millimeters per second,” Iess said.

Previous estimates based on data from the Voyager flybys of Saturn suggested the rings’ mass was about 28 million billion metric tons. The new data from Cassini now suggests the rings’ mass is only about 15.4 million billion metric tons. (The largest asteroid, Ceres, has a mass of about 939 million billion metric tons.)

All in all, the researchers suggest the rings formed between 10 million to 100 million years ago. In comparison, the age of dinosaurs ended about 66 million years ago.

Cassini’s grand finale also revealed key details about the internal structure of Saturn. For example, it found that jet streams seen around Saturn’s equator — the strongest measured in the solar system, with winds of up to 930 mph (1,500 km/h) — extend to a depth of at least 5,600 miles (9,000 km), rotating a colossal amount of mass around the planet about 4 percent faster than the layer below it.

“The discovery of deeply rotating layers is a surprising revelation about the internal structure of the planet,” Cassini project scientist Linda Spilker at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who did not participate in the study, said in a statement. “The question is, What causes the more rapidly rotating part of the atmosphere to go so deep, and what does that tell us about Saturn’s interior?”

The new findings also suggest that Saturn’s rocky core is about 15 to 18 times the mass of Earth, similar to prior estimates.

The scientists detailed their findings online Jan. 17 in the journal Science.

Cassini spacecraft’s suicide on Saturn


This video says about itself:

Cassini‘s Fatal Crash | Mission Saturn

13 September 2017

A three billion dollar spacecraft is hurtling towards destruction– but it’s no accident.

NASA’s biggest spacecraft plunges into Saturn in the final act of a 20-year mission showcasing the planet like never before.

IT’S BEEN A GOOD RUN “NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will end its groundbreaking 13-year mission to Saturn on Friday with a meteor-like plunge into the ringed planet’s atmosphere, transmitting data until the final fiery moment.” [Reuters]

These are Cassini’s parting shots of the Saturn system: here.

R.I.P. Cassini. After 20 years, nearly 300 orbits and pioneering discoveries, the spacecraft plunges to its death in Saturn’s atmosphere. By Lisa Grossman, 9:08am, September 15, 2017.

NASA REVEALS ODD SATURN PLASMA WAVES NASA said its Cassini spacecraft, which plunged into Saturn last year, picked up a series of plasma waves heading from the planet to its rings and into Enceladus, one of its moons. The agency described it as resembling an electrical circuit, with energy flowing back and forth. [HuffPost]

Saturn’s moons research


This video says about itself:

Exploring Saturn’s Moons | Mission Saturn

13 September 2017

On a flyby of Saturn‘s moon Enceladus, the Cassini spacecraft makes an unprecedented discovery that will push the mission to fly closer.

About Mission Saturn: NASA’s biggest spacecraft plunges into Saturn in the final act of a 20-year mission showcasing the planet like never before.

Final flyby puts Cassini on a collision course with Saturn, by Lisa Grossman. 4:00pm, September 11, 2017.

So long, Titan. Cassini snaps parting pics of Saturn’s largest moon, by Lisa Grossman, 4:05pm, September 13, 2017.

Saturn’s moon Titan sports phantom hydrocarbon lakes. Three features that were filled with liquid appear to have dried up. By Maria Temming, 11:00am, April 15, 2019.

NASA PLANS TO SEND DRONE TO SATURN NASA is sending a drone to explore Saturn’s largest moon. The space agency said the Dragonfly mission will fly over Titan, exploring different locations on the icy moon to study whether it can support microbial life. [AP]

Spacecraft Cassini’s Saturn dive video


This video from the USA says about itself:

NASA: Cassini‘s First Fantastic Dive Past Saturn

3 May 2017

As NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made its first-ever dive through the gap between Saturn and its rings on April 26, 2017, one of its imaging cameras took a series of rapid-fire images that were used to make this movie sequence. The video begins with a view of the vortex at Saturn’s north pole, then heads past the outer boundary of the planet’s hexagon-shaped jet stream and continues further southward.

A detailed caption describing these video clips, and the unedited clips themselves, are available here. For more information about Cassini‘s Grand Finale, visit here.

The first Cassini to explore Saturn was a person. Space probe preparing to crash into ringed planet was named for an astronomical pioneer, by Tom Siegfried, 7:00am, May 15, 2017: here.

50 years ago, an Earth-based telescope spotted Saturn’s fourth ring: here.

As Cassini’s tour of Saturn draws to a close, a look back at postcards from the probe. NASA’s veteran spacecraft has revealed a lot about Saturn in its more than 20 years in space. By Lisa Grossman, 3:45pm, August 23, 2017: here.

Planet Saturn, spectacular Cassini spacecraft photos


This video says about itself:

Closest Saturn Pics Yet Snapped During Daring Cassini Dive

27 April 2017

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft’s ’Grand Finale’ has begun with the first of 22 planned dives between Saturn‘s innermost rings and the planet itself. The probe came within about 1900 miles (3000 km) of the planet’s cloudtops and captured some amazing images.

Read more here.

From Science News:

Cassini’s ring dive offers first close-up of Saturn’s cloud tops

Spacecraft images reveal stunning views of planet’s hurricane and more

By Ashley Yeager

5:49pm, April 27, 2017

Cassini has beamed back stunning images from the spacecraft’s daring dive between Saturn and its rings.

The first closeup pictures of the planet’s atmosphere reveal peculiar threadlike clouds and puffy cumulus ones, plus the giant hurricane first spotted on Saturn in 2008 (SN: 11/8/08, p. 9). Released April 27, the images of Saturn’s cloud tops are a “big step forward” for understanding the planet’s atmosphere, says Cassini imaging team member Andy Ingersoll, an atmospheric scientist at Caltech.

“I was pretty struck by the prevalence of the filamentary type of clouds,” he says. “It’s as if the long threads of clouds refuse to mix with each other.” Studying the interactions of these clouds and the cumulus ones will reveal what’s going on in Saturn’s skies.

During its dive, Cassini swooped to within 3,000 kilometers of the planet’s atmosphere and 300 kilometers of the innermost edge of the rings at 124,000 kilometers per hour. Slamming into even tiny particles from the rings could have damaged the spacecraft. To protect Cassini, mission scientists used the spacecraft’s 4-meter-wide antenna as a shield, putting the spacecraft temporarily out of contact with NASA.

Cassini reestablished contact with mission control early on April 27 and started to send back data minutes later. Shots of the rings and other features will be available in the coming days, and more stunning views are expected when the spacecraft shoots through the gap between Saturn and its rings again on May 2. It will ultimately orbit 20 more times before plunging into the planet’s atmosphere on September 15 (SN Online: 4/21/17).

Cassini gallery of raw Saturn images: here.

Cassini spacecraft’s final planet Saturn research


This video from the USA says about itself:

Cassini‘s final orbits around Saturn | Science News

21 April 2017

In Cassini‘s last act, the spacecraft will whiz 22 times between Saturn and its rings. This animation illustrates the spacecraft’s final orbits. Read more here.

‘Saturn moon Mimas has no ocean’


This video says about itself:

23 October 2014

SciShow Space News takes you to the solar system’s own Death StarSaturn’s moon Mimas, where something mysterious is going on. Plus, we share a stunning new photo from the Hubble Space Telescope that holds a few surprises!

Hosted by: Caitlin Hofmeister.

From Science News:

Saturn’s ‘Death Star’ moon may not conceal an ocean after all

by Thomas Sumner

2:07pm, February 28, 2017

An ocean of liquid water probably doesn’t lurk beneath the icy surface of Mimas, Saturn’s smallest major moon, new calculations suggest. Scientists had proposed the ocean in 2014 to help explain an odd wobble in the moon’s orbit.

Other ocean-harboring moons, such as Jupiter’s Europa and Saturn’s Enceladus, are crisscrossed by fractures opened by strong tides that cause their oceans to bulge outward. Mimas, though freckled with craters, lacks any such cracks.

Planetary scientist Alyssa Rhoden of Arizona State University in Tempe and colleagues calculated whether Mimas’ icy shell could withstand the stress of a subsurface ocean pushing outward. Taking into account the moon’s elongated orbit, the researchers estimate that a subsurface ocean would produce tidal stresses larger than those on crack-riddled Europa. Mimas therefore probably doesn’t have an ocean, the researchers conclude February 24 in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.

In new Cassini portraits, Saturn’s moon Pan looks like pasta, by Helen Thompson, 5:30pm, March 10, 2017: here.

Satellite smashups could have given birth to Saturn’s odd moons. Weird moons orbiting the ringed planet might have been forged from head-on collisions. By Christopher Crockett, 11:00am, May 21, 2018.

Cassini spacecraft photographs Saturn


This video says about itself:

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft releases first close-up photos of Saturn

7 December 2016

At just 240,000 miles from Saturn‘s north pole, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft snapped some stunning photos. These are the first images of the spacecraft’s new mission, which is taking it closer to Saturn than it has been since it arrived at Saturn in 2004.

By Brandon Russell in the USA, December 10, 2016:

NASA’s Cassini takes breathtaking images of Saturn’s northern hemisphere

NASA’s Cassini has been soaring through the cosmos for nearly 20 years and to celebrate the latest phase of its journey, the intrepid spacecraft has sent scientists new images of Saturn’s northern hemisphere.

The purpose of Cassini’s newest mission phase, called Ring-Grazing Orbits, is to skim past the outer edges of the planet’s main rings, according to NASA. The pictures … which highlight the planet’s hexagon-shaped jet stream, were taken in early December.

“This is it, the beginning of the end of our historic exploration of Saturn,” said Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team lead at Space Science Institute. “Let these images—and those to come—remind you that we’d lived a bold and daring adventure around the solar system’s most magnificent planet.”

Cassini will continue its ring-grazing orbits until April 22 of next year, where it will then begin its descent toward the planet’s surface. By September of 2017, Cassini will no longer exist.

The beginning of the end

Cassini launched all the way back in 1997 and has continued to study the Saturn system since arriving in 2004.

Over the years, the orbiter has uncovered a potential ocean on a Saturn moon, and sent back an incredibly beautiful image of a hurricane on the planet, among many other accomplishments.

Saturn’s 10th moon was the first satellite discovered in the modern space age. Excerpt from the January 14, 1967, issue of Science News: here.

NASA found the “Death Star” — or at least a moon of Saturn that looks just like it: here.

Jupiter, Mars, Saturn space news


This video says about itself:

Juno Listens to Jupiter’s Auroras

2 September 2016

Thirteen hours of radio emissions from Jupiter’s intense auroras are presented here, both visually and in sound. The data was collected when the spacecraft made its first orbital pass of the gas giant on Aug 27, 2016, with all spacecraft instruments turned on. The frequency range of these signals is from 7 to 140 kilohertz. Radio astronomers call these “kilometric emissions” because their wavelengths are about a kilometer long.

The full story and more images from Juno‘s first pass of Jupiter with all instruments on is here.

From Science News:

Juno spacecraft goes into ‘safe mode’, continues to orbit Jupiter

by Christopher Crockett

6:57pm, October 19, 2016

PASADENA, Calif. — NASA’s Juno spacecraft, in orbit around Jupiter since July 4, is lying low after entering an unexpected “safe mode” early on October 19. A misbehaving valve in the fuel system, not necessarily related to the safe mode, has also led to a delay in a planned engine burn that would have shortened the probe’s orbit.

Juno turned off its science instruments and some other nonessential components this morning at 1:47 a.m. EDT after computers detected some unexpected situation, mission head Scott Bolton reported at an October 19 news conference. The spacecraft was hurtling toward its second close approach to the planet, soaring about 5,000 kilometers from the cloud tops. It has now passed that point and is moving back away from the planet with all science instruments switched off.

The rocket firing was intended to take Juno from a 53.5-day orbit to a 14-day orbit. Juno can stay in its current orbit indefinitely without any impact on the science goals, Bolton said. The goal of the mission — to peer deep beneath Jupiter’s clouds — depends on the close approaches that it makes with every orbit, not how quickly it loops around. “We changed to a 14-day orbit primarily because we wanted the science faster,” he said. “But there’s no requirement to do that.”

For now, mission scientists are trying to figure what happened with the fuel valve and what triggered the safe mode before proceeding with further instructions to the probe.

First peek under clouds reveals Jupiter’s surprising depths. Colorful bands stretch hundreds of kilometers inward, Juno spacecraft data show. By Christopher Crockett, 9:00am, October 21, 2016: here.

Also from Science News:

Mission scientists await signal from Mars lander

ExoMars probe went silent before touchdown

by Christopher Crockett

5:16pm, October 19, 2016

From the European Space Agency:

20 October 2016

Essential data from the ExoMars Schiaparelli lander sent to its mothership Trace Gas Orbiter during the module’s descent to the Red Planet’s surface yesterday has been downlinked to Earth and is currently being analysed by experts.

Early indications from both the radio signals captured by the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT), an experimental telescope array located near Pune, India, and from orbit by ESA’s Mars Express, suggested the module had successfully completed most steps of its 6-minute descent through the martian atmosphere. This included the deceleration through the atmosphere, and the parachute and heat shield deployment, for example.

But the signals recorded by both Pune and Mars Express stopped shortly before the module was expected to touchdown on the surface. Discrepancies between the two data sets are being analysed by experts at ESA’s space operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

ExoMars mission has both success and failure: here.

First signs of boron on Mars hint at past groundwater, habitability: here.

Red Planet’s interior may not churn much. Composition of 2.4-billion-year-old Martian meteorite matches that of younger ones. By Thomas Sumner
2:00pm, February 1, 2017: here.

Experts don’t agree on age of Saturn’s rings. Data from orbiting Cassini craft may help resolve debate. By Christopher Crockett, 8:53am, October 20, 2016: here.

Possibly cloudy forecast for parts of Pluto. Bright patches in New Horizons images hint at rare atmospheric formation. By Christopher Crockett, 3:05pm, October 19, 2016: here.

WE’RE STILL MOURNING PLUTO’S PLANET DEMOTION But there might just be another ninth planet out there. [NYT]