Saturn Solstice: Cassini Gets ‘Ringside Seat’ to Dramatic Seasonal Changes

The Cassini spacecraft to Saturn oversees the solstice of planet ring yesterday (May 24), fulfilling the main objective of its second extended mission. A solstice occurs on Saturn almost every 15 years on Earth as its changing seasons.

Cassini arrived at Saturn in 2004, the spacecraft completed its main mission to study the planet, its rings and its moons of 2008. Its first extended mission, that lasted until 2010, was to observe the system during the equinox of the planet when it sounds the strike Of the sun and the days have the same duration in the north and south poles. The purpose of the second extended mission – a seven-year plan called the Solstice Mission – was to observe the entire summer solstice at the North Pole (when the days are longer at the north pole of Saturn and the shorter at the south pole of the planet) And the study of the seasonal changes of the system.

“During the Cassini Solstice mission, we witnessed – for the first time – a full season of Saturn,” said Linda Spilker, a Cassini science project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California in a statement. “The Saturn system is experiencing dramatic transitions from winter to summer, and with Cassini, who had a seat in the ring.”

During the Solstice Mission, the researchers observed a huge storm surrounding the planet and dispersed more than seven months. They observed that the hexagonal jet surrounding the north pole of Saturn changed blue-yellow (except center) during spring in the northern hemisphere.

Cassini data suggest that increased sunlight interacts with compounds in the upper atmosphere to form particles called photochemical aerosols, which accumulate in a yellowish haze. The center may remain blue for one of two reasons, researchers noted in a caption photo has not been exposed to sunlight, as long as the areas around it, because it is the upper part of the globe, or the circulation in the Vortex vortex draws the compounds down.

Cassini has seen seasonal changes on the planet come suddenly depending on latitude, rather gradually, according to researchers.

“Finally, a whole hemisphere undergoes changes, but sometimes these jumps to specific latitude groups at different times of the season,” said Robert West, a member of Cassini’s imaging team at JPL in a statement.

On Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, methane storm clouds moved south toward the moon’s equator from 2004 to 2010. Its northward shift, while the solstice neared was surprisingly slow; According to the statement, cloud patterns expected the activity to happen years ago.

However, some actions have been sudden: in 2013, the misty hydrocarbons and vestiges previously found only in the north were suddenly built in southern Titan, indicating that their atmospheric circulation changed direction due to exposure to change sun, According to the statement.

“Observations on how business places in the cloud and change the duration of these changes give us important information about how the atmosphere and surface of Titan, as the patterns of rain and wind change with seasons as well.” Elizabeth Turtle, Cassini scientist at the Laboratory of Physics Imaging team applied to Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, said in the statement.

And on Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, which houses an ocean-bound materials and geysers of breath through its feathers, the main seasonal change was the transition from the southern hemisphere to the winter darkness. This change allows Cassini to monitor the temperature of the moon easier to investigate the intriguing moon.