TITUSVILLE, FL – The most beautiful planet in our solar system never fails to inspire. Saturn shines in a gorgeous new just released portrait taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.
And in the post Cassini era, Hubble will continue to provide the best views of splendid Saturn for years to come!
“Saturn is so beautiful that astronomers cannot resist using the Hubble Space Telescope to take yearly snapshots of the ringed world when it is at its closest distance to Earth, NASA said in a press release today, Sept. 12.
The new portrait of the Gas Giant – see lead image above – was snapped by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 instrument while observing Saturn on June 20, 2019, as the planet made its closest approach to Earth, at about 845 million miles away.
You can also easily get glorious glimpses of gorgeous Saturn in backyard telescopes with its rings wide open and the giant moon Titan orbiting nearby – as I did last night at the American Space Museum in Titusville, FL near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
“These images, however, are more than just beauty shots. They reveal a planet with a turbulent, dynamic atmosphere. This year’s Hubble offering, for example, shows that a large storm visible in the2018 Hubble image in the north polar region has vanished. Smaller storms pop into view like popcorn kernels popping in a microwave oven before disappearing just as quickly. Even the planet’s banded structure reveals subtle changes in color,” said NASA researchers.
“But the latest image shows plenty that hasn’t changed. The mysterious six-sided pattern, called the “hexagon,” still exists on the north pole. Caused by a high-speed jet stream, the hexagon was first discovered in 1981 by NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft.”
Video Caption: This new Hubble Space Telescope view of Saturn, taken in late June of 2019, reveals the giant planet’s iconic rings. Saturn’s amber colors come from summer smog-like hazes, produced in photochemical reactions driven by solar ultraviolet radiation. Below the haze lie clouds of ammonia ice crystals, as well as deeper, unseen lower-level clouds of ammonium hydrosulfide and water. The planet’s banded structure is caused by winds and clouds at different altitudes. Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 observed Saturn on June 20, 2019, as the planet made its closest approach to Earth, at about 845 million miles away.Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
Watch this new time lapse movie compilation of several of Saturn’s icy moons circling the gas giant:
Video Caption: This Hubble time-lapse movie shows the orbits of some of Saturn’s icy moons as they circle the planet over an 18-hour period. The video is composed of 33 Hubble snapshots of the planet, taken June 19 to 20, 2019, by the Wide Field Camera 3. The closer the moon is to Saturn, the faster it orbits, according to the laws of gravity. Credits: NASA, ESA, A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center), M.H. Wong (University of California, Berkeley), the OPAL Team and J. DePasquale (STScI)
Ken’s upcoming outreach events:
Sep 21, 1 PM: American Space Museum, 308 Pine Street, Titusville, Florida.
“Exploring Mars and the Search for life – 3D” – Learn all about NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover illustrated with Ken’s custom created Mars rover panoramas from Curiosity, Spirit and Opportunity and up close clean room and launch pad views. Free and open to public. Ken’s Space/Rocket/Mars imagery for sale to support his outreach
Oct 15: AIAA, Columbia, SC. Details upcoming “Exploring Mars and the Search for life – 3D” – Learn all about NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover illustrated with Ken’s custom created Mars rover panoramas from Curiosity, Spirit and Opportunity and up close clean room and launch pad views.
Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.