One of the places that many scientists believe could harbor life in our solar system is on the surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. Titan has a gaseous atmosphere and scientists believe beneath that atmosphere is a sea of liquid methane known as Kraken Mare. Astronomers at Cornell have now estimated the sea of liquid methane is at least 1000 … Continue reading
NASA has delayed its upcoming mission to Saturn's moon, Titan, which could support life, citing budgetary concerns put on the agency by the coronavirus pandemic.
Enceladus, Saturn's mysterious moon that could support life, may be more geologically active than previously thought, according to a new study.
The European Space Agency (ESA) has created a global infrared mosaic of the surface of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. The mosaic was created using a complete dataset from the Casini spacecraft that orbited Saturn and its moons between 2004 and 2017. Cassini’s mission ended after the spacecraft was intentionally sent into the atmosphere of the planet. Despite the mission ending three … Continue reading
A new map of Enceladus using both visible light and infrared shows regions of geological activity which have deposited fresh ice onto the moon's surface.
Or maybe a spleen? Stomach? Snot bubble? You decide Pic  Not only does the good ol’ Sun provide us with light and warmth, its solar wind casts around the planetary system a protective magnetic bubble that’s probably shaped like a... deflated croissant.…
Scientists have discovered nitrogen- and oxygen- containing organic molecules in ice grains blown out by Saturn’s moon Enceladus, according to a new study.One such moon is Saturn’s Enceladus, an icy orb thought to contain a very deep subsurface water ocean beneath a thick icy crust.Finding organic molecules on Enceladus is exciting, since water plus energy plus organic molecules might be the ingredients for life.The Cassini mission flew through these plumes in 2004 and 2008, gathering data on the material with two of its instruments, the Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) and the Cosmic Dust Analyser (CDA).For the new study, researchers based in Germany and the United States took a deeper look at the CDA’s data and found new organic compounds, according to the paper published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.The molecules included amines, which are nitrogen- and oxygen-containing organic molecules similar to those on Earth that turn into amino acids.
Hydrothermal vents on Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons, are blasting out organic compounds that could provide the right ingredients to make amino acids, the building blocks of life as we know it.Amino acids, considered an essential for life, are used to form proteins in all known living organisms.They contain carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen - these elements have all been found in the compounds detected on Enceladus, according to a paper published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society on Wednesday.Data from the Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer onboard NASA’s now-defunct Cassini spacecraft found “low-mass organic compounds in the Enceladean ice grains: nitrogen-bearing, oxygen-bearing, and aromatic.” The ice grains were spewed from the hydrothermal vents on the Moon’s ocean floor.The plumes of water vapour and ice burst through the cracks of its icy surface and fly off into space, allowing spacecraft like Cassini to sniff out their chemical composition.On Earth, hydrothermal vents provide heat and energy to kickstart chemical reactions to produce amino acids.
NASA's Cassini probe plunged into Saturn's atmosphere in Sept. 2017, but astronomers are still poring over the data it sent back to Earth before its demise.New research shows Cassini picked up "new kinds of organic compounds", the precursors to amino acids, when it passed through a plume of ice ejected by Saturn's moon Enceladus.The nitrogen- and oxygen-containing compounds are exciting because they suggest the subsurface ocean of the icy moon has, at the very least, the precursors for life to begin.The study, published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society on Oct. 2, details the hunt for these compounds with the Cassini spacecraft.The Cassini-Huygens mission, launched in 1997, spent approximately 13 years orbiting Saturn and studying the great ringed planet.It has provided Earthlings with some impeccable views of the planet and its moons -- and it has also provided a ton of new science to sift through.
Water on Saturn's moon Enceladus contains organic compounds — the building blocks of amino acids that make up DNA and formed the foundations of life on Earth.Data from NASA's Cassini mission revealed that these nitrogen and oxygen compounds are present in plumes of liquid water that shoot into space from the salty ocean below Enceladus's surface.These compounds, which carry nitrogen and oxygen, play a key role in producing amino acids — complex molecules that serve as the building blocks of proteins.Without proteins, life as we know it on Earth couldn't exist.These findings were published Wednesday in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.The plumes blew the compounds into space, where NASA's Cassini spacecraft sensed them as it flew nearby.
Finally, the future that children of the ’80s want to see is on its way.NASA is working on its very own Transformer — a bot called Shapeshifter, made up of smaller robots which can combine into different configurations to roll, swim, fly, and float.Before it ended its mission by burning up in Saturn’s rings, the Cassini probe flew by Titan more than one hundred times, observing the moon which is surprisingly similar to Earth.On Earth, these are gases, but in the freezing temperatures of Titan, they are liquid.Cassini collected mapping data of the surface, and scientists have been keen to discover more since then.“We have very limited information about the composition of the surface [of Titan],” Ali Agha, Principal Investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said in a statement.
Launched in 1997, NASA's Cassini mission was designed to orbit Saturn, studying the planet's rings, icy moons, and general composition.During its 13 years of circling, it also discovered bizarre storms at the planet's north pole, mini-moons orbiting between the rings, and plumes of water ice spewing from its moon Enceladus.Oh, and its largest moon, Titan, turned out to be dotted with lakes of methane and covered in a thick orange haze—yet might nevertheless be habitable.Named for the Italian astronomer Giovanni Cassini, who discovered four of the moons and the gaps in Saturn’s rings, the craft vaporized in Saturn's atmosphere on September 15, 2017.Before it died, it sent back nearly half a million photos of many earthlings' favorite member of the solar system.Let's take a look at some of these images.
NASA has announced that it has confirmed the next phase of the Europa Clipper mission is going to happen.The decision allows the mission to progress to completion of a final design.After the final design is completed, the construction and testing phase of the mission will commence.That phase will build and test the spacecraft and the science payload for the craft.NASA notes that it is exciting to move the Europa Clipper mission one step closer to unlocking the mysteries of the ocean world of Europa.The team says that the Europa Clipper mission is building on the scientific insights received from the flagship Galileo and Cassini spacecraft.
The possibility that Saturn's moon Enceladus could support life has strengthened after researchers determined its ocean is likely 1 billion years old, placing it in the sweet spot.Speaking at the 2019 Astrobiology Science Conference last month, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center scientist Marc Neveu said that the time frame is long enough for life to have emerged on Enceladus."In the scenario that best matches the real moons, the ocean of Enceladus is about a billion years old," Neveu wrote in an abstract, discussing the research."That's good news for life: it should have had enough time to arise and there should still be some energy to power it."Speaking with Live Science, Neveu said he was surprised when the Cassini spacecraft had discovered an ocean on Enceladus, given its size."It's a very tiny moon and, in general, you expect tiny things to not be very active [but rather] like a dead block of rock and ice," he told the news outlet.
Space boffins at NASA have been pondering where to send the robots next as part of its New Frontiers programme, with ambitious sample return missions also on the cards.The winning mission, from Johns Hopkins APL, however, will see the dual-quadcopter Dragonfly spend two years hopping around Titan.From the Voyager fly-by to the 13 years' worth of data collected by Cassini, the agency has accumulated a wealth of information on the Saturn moon.International astronomical bedfellow, ESA, was responsible for the considerably shorter-lived Huygens probe deposited on the surface by Cassini.The gang expects to launch in 2026 (two years after astronauts plant a fresh stars-and-stripes on the Earth's moon, if NASA is to be believed) and arrive at Titan in 2034.The dense, calm atmosphere (four times denser than that of Earth) of Titan and the low gravity of the moon will make for ideal flying conditions.
Just because we are not able to look directly at the sun doesn’t mean that NASA can’t.The Solar Dynamics Observatory stares constantly to better understand how our star works.This week we will safely approach some spicy solar flares that point to the evolution of our habitable planet and the desolation of others.The sun sure has flare, but Saturn and its rings have elegance and class.The Cassini spacecraft may have signed off and dove into Saturn’s atmosphere in 2017, but scientists are still poring over its treasure trove of data.The rings around this planet are much like the rings in a very old tree: They tell stories about how long they’ve been there, how the environment changed, and even can hint at how the entire solar system came together.
NASA has revealed its next point of solar system obsession, planning to set the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope on Saturn to help pick apart its secrets.The ringed planet is unarguably the most distinctive of our celestial neighbors, but there’s a surprising reason for our lack of knowledge about some of its core details.The planet was the subject of 13 years of study by the Cassini spacecraft, between 2004 and 2017, unlocking many of the more unusual details about the gas giant.However Cassini’s mission ended when it plunged into Saturn’s atmosphere, cutting off astronomer’s closest source of data.13 years is a long time, but it still leaves uncertainties in our Saturn observations.The planet’s seasons are much longer than ours, because its year is 30 Earth-equivalent years in length.
New analysis of data from the Cassini mission shows that Saturn’s rings are not smooth, but rather are grainy in texture.Scientists believe that tiny moons within the rings cause materials to cluster and form clumps and straw-like patterns, revealing rings which are more complex and dynamic than we realized.Scientists recently discovered that Saturn’s moons were influenced by its rings, as the rings deposited material onto the moons and changed their shape.Now it seems that the process works the other way round as well, with the moons interacting with the particles in the rings to cause these variations in texture.This information is important because it tells us more about how Saturn’s rings formed and about the formation of planets in general.The scientists found a set of streaks around the outer edge of the rings which are all the same length and orientation, which suggests they were formed by material hitting the rings at the same time.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft arrived at Saturn back in 2004 to help researchers better understand the planet and its rings.The mission ended in 2017, but the data remains and scientists are still publishing new studies on it.The latest among those studies reveals a little more about Saturn’s rings, in this case its strange and unique features.According to a study published on June 13, four instruments on the Cassini spacecraft took the closest ever observations of Saturn’s main rings.The results from a study of those observations are detailed in the newly published paper, according to NASA, including findings related to ‘sculpted’ features in the rings resulting from embedded masses.NASA refers to the sculpting as ‘fine details,’ one featuring different textures and patterns ranging from ‘strawlike’ to ‘clumpy.’ These structures became more apparent the closer Cassini got to the rings, ultimately revealing that what appears to be flat sheets from a distance are actually ridged and filled with gaps and other interesting features.
Fusion-powered spacecraft may not be just a sci-fi dream for much longer.The Direct Fusion Drive (DFD) engine could take flight for the first time in 2028 or so, if all goes according to plan, the concept's developers said.(10,000 kilograms) robotic spacecraft to Saturn in just two years, or all the way out to Pluto within five years of launch, project team members said.(For perspective: NASA's Cassini mission made it to Saturn in 6.75 years, and it took the agency's New Horizons probe 9.5 years to get to Pluto.)Related: Superfast Spacecraft Propulsion Concepts (Images)And the engine doubles as a potent power source, meaning the technology could have a broad range of off-Earth applications.