CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS

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Captain's Log

July 12, 2012

One of the main contributing factors to the enormous success we have enjoyed in Cassini's exploration of Saturn is the capability to view the planet and the bodies around it from a variety of directions. Setting the spacecraft high into orbit above Saturn's equator provides us direct views of the equatorial and middle latitudes on the planet and its moons, while guiding it to high inclination above the equator plane affords the opportunity to view the polar regions of these bodies and be treated to vertigo-inducing shots of the planet's glorious rings.

After a residence time of almost 2.5 years in near-continuous equatorial orbits, Cassini recently took off on a steeply inclined orbital excursion that will send it above and below the rings, over and over again, for the next three years. And already, startling results are in hand from our first months on this new trajectory.

As a dramatic opening, our first views of Saturn's rings in about two years brought new insights concerning the orbits of the famed "propeller" features ... small, longitudinally limited, orbiting gaps in the rings that are cleared out by bodies smaller than known moons but larger than typical ring particles. First sighted a few years ago in our images, their reappearance in approximately the position we predicted indicates that we understand their behavior well enough to find them years later, but not well enough to get it exactly right. Our best guess is that the orbits of these tiny gap-forming moons are being altered by interactions with the particles in Saturn's ring ... interactions we are keen to understand as they may hold a key to the behavior of newly formed planets growing out of disks of matter in orbit around other stars in our galaxy and beyond.

Next up was the marvelous reveal of a swirling, whirling vortex forming high in the atmosphere overlying the south pole of Titan, Saturn's largest moon, as the moon's southern hemisphere slowly becomes engulfed in the darkness of deep autumn. We've long known that the winter hemisphere of Titan can exhibit a polar 'hood' of haze made of condensing organic compounds. We suspect that this maelstrom, clearly forming now over the south pole and spinning more than forty times faster than the moon's solid body, may be a harbinger of what will ultimately become a south polar hood as autumn there turns to winter. Of course, only time will tell.

In the meantime, note the motions and beautifully detailed cloud patterns -- very likely the result of open-cell convection -- already visible in this fascinating phenomenon that we on Cassini have been fortunate to capture, for the first time, in the process of being born.

There will be more to come in this most amazing of journeys we have undertaken around Saturn. Stay with us, my friends, and be as we have been ... transformed.


Carolyn Porco
Cassini Imaging Team Leader
Director, CICLOPS
Boulder, CO


More Captain's Logs

Alliance Member Comments
ml39612 (Nov 28, 2012 at 2:35 PM):
I'd bet that the hexagon on Saturn, the disappearance of the Great Red Spot, and other numerically and topologically interesting features there and elsewhere in the Solar System, are because mankind has made narrow though absolute differences in enumeration, entropy, direction, polarity, rotation and statistics.

We've measured the rotation rate of the Galaxy; this has effect on the polarity of objects within the Solar System, because until humans acted, the planets were largely insulated from unifying, within the system, extremely slow and separate rotational anomalies. Those anomalies had been separated by the somewhat dirty environment which confuses very long distance ordering.

All the tendency to reduce the entropy of enumeration works to consolidate polarities and other enumerable phenomena where possible. Ethylene may have emerged on Saturn because Earth resolved chemical elements and molecular species on other planets. Entropy and numbers seem to be connected through the radiation field which is of course related to number through wavelength, the speed of light and other of light's dimensions.
ml39612 (Nov 28, 2012 at 2:34 PM):
I'd bet that the hexagon on Saturn, the disappearance of the Great Red Spot, and other numerically and topologically interesting features there and elsewhere in the Solar System, are because mankind has made narrow though absolute differences in enumeration, entropy, direction, polarity, rotation and statistics.

We've measured the rotation rate of the Galaxy; this has effect on the polarity of objects within the Solar System, because until humans acted, the planets were largely insulated from unifying, within the system, extremely slow and separate rotational anomalies. Those anomalies had been separated by the somewhat dirty environment which confuses very long distance ordering.

All the tendency to reduce the entropy of enumeration works to consolidate polarities and other enumerable phenomena where possible. Ethylene may have emerged on Saturn because Earth resolved chemical elements and molecular species on other planets. Entropy and numbers seem to be connected through the radiation field which is of course related to number through wavelength, the speed of light and other of light's dimensions.
ml39612 (Oct 25, 2012 at 4:21 PM):
Jupiter can be thought of as a cool proto-star that has not yet resolved all its spin vectors. As spin on each of the planets becomes coordinated with the entire set of rotational systems -galactic, ecliptic and that planet's equatorial-its atomic activity begins to shift toward maximum. Recently a gigantic hexagon appeared in the Jovian North Pole region-indicating that element's spin has changed.

The antiquity of Jupiter's red spot is not known, though it first appeared visible to human beings after the telescope was invented and it is possible that it emerged after Earth started resolving the dynamics of the solar system. But Jupiter's red spot in in its southern hemisphere. It's radiation in the 5 micron part of the spectrum indicates that it already emits more energy than it receives from the Sun.

The white spot on Saturn emerged only within the past few days. If these are caused by that planet coming into new coordination with the rotational group, the place of that spot in the northern hemisphere indicates seriously important changes may be taking place in the solar system, possibly as a result of human activity.

Ultimately, such things could result in a realignment of the spin vector of Uranus. If that does happen, it could put the major planets into such degenerate spin states that their nuclear activity increases. A result of that would be increased radiation from the major planets, and it would not be too surprising if Jupiter or Saturn began radiating brightly.

Then we would have a double or triple star system. Depending on the
magnitudes of any new stars, that could have consequences for Earth
ranging from the aesthetic and pleasing, to terminal.
ml39612 (Oct 14, 2012 at 5:55 PM):
Imagine sending a robot to Titan to land, collect samples of the material there, return to orbit and then back to Earth. Tough problems at those temperatures.
DKL (Aug 29, 2012 at 9:02 PM):
I can't thank you enough for these stunning, majestic images. They will likely inspire children to grow up to reach out further into our universe and bring us even more wonders.
PiperPilot (Aug 29, 2012 at 8:39 PM):
I've been following this adventure since launch and so many awesome pictures. We really need to get some rovers up there for Carolyn and her team to drive around sight seeing.

Thank you imaging team for allowing us to look out your window. The view is spectacular.
sunwell (Aug 25, 2012 at 4:22 AM):
The universe is in the earth.Electronic just like earth,Nucleus is like the sun!This is my personal feeling.







sunwell (Aug 24, 2012 at 0:11 AM):
weak force,electromagnetic force,brute force only three force




Judit (Jul 19, 2012 at 7:15 AM):
Amazing how much we can see now, and how people take these new scientific results granted. Just the other day I was talking to family about the similarities between Titan and Earth, and they did not seem surprised at all. And I was like, do you realize that all this has been revealed in the past few years, through the images and measurements taken by a spacecraft that is still in operation? If it wasn't for Cassini, we still wouldn't know more than Saturn has some kind of rings around it.

Personally, I think history is being written here :)

As for the polar storms and caps on Titan, it's another fascinating discovery! I'm curious to see what develops.

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