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Saturn’s past and present moons
11-04-2016 12:01 PM CEST

europeanspaceagency posted a photo:

Saturn's past and present moons

Space Science Image of the Week:

Saturn’s beautiful rings form a striking feature, cutting across this image of two of the planet’s most intriguing moons.

The rings have been a source of mystery since their discovery in 1610 by Galileo Galilei. There is not full agreement on how they formed, but among the possibilities are that they may have formed along with Saturn, or that they are debris of a former moon that strayed too close to the planet and was ripped apart.

The rings are now shepherded by the gravity of some of the planet’s surviving moons. Of more than 60 known natural satellites, two of the most fascinating are also pictured in this image: Titan and Enceladus.

At 5150 km across, Titan is 10 times larger than Enceladus, which measures just 505 km in diameter. Titan is seen as a disc because light from the distant Sun is being refracted through the moon’s dense atmosphere.

Somewhere on Titan’s surface rests the Huygens probe. On 25 December 2004, Huygens detached from the Cassini mothership and, a few weeks later, parachuted through the dense atmosphere to return the first pictures of Titan’s rugged landscape of icy mountains.

Although Enceladus is a smaller moon, it has as much character. The restless interior means that water constantly jets through cracks in the icy surface. In some images, these geysers can be glimpsed at the south pole.

The image was taken on 10 June 2006 in red light with the Cassini spacecraft’s narrow-angle camera, and is orientated with north facing up. The spacecraft was some 3.9 million km from Enceladus and 5.3 million km from Titan.

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

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A case of suspended animation?
11-04-2016 10:47 AM CEST

europeanspaceagency posted a photo:

A case of suspended animation?

At first glance this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image seems to show an array of different cosmic objects, but the speckling of stars shown here actually forms a single body — a nearby dwarf galaxy known as Leo A. Its few million stars are so sparsely distributed that some distant background galaxies are visible through it. Leo A itself is at a distance of about 2.5 million light-years from Earth and a member of the Local Group of galaxies; a group that includes the Milky Way and the well-known Andromeda galaxy.

Astronomers study dwarf galaxies because they are very numerous and are simpler in structure than their giant cousins. However, their small size makes them difficult to study at great distances. As a result, the dwarf galaxies of the Local Group are of particular interest, as they are close enough to study in detail.

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA
Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt (Geckzilla)

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