Saturnian movie marathon
June 21, 2006 at 11:20 PM ET
The science team behind the Cassini mission to Saturn have put together a silent-film festival you can enjoy from the comfort of your computer screen. The mostly black-and-white featurettes show the graceful movements of Saturnian moons against the background of the planet and its rings.
Although the show may not be as action-packed as "Superman Returns," I'd still give it a five-star rating.
NASA / SSI
|Rhea passes across Saturn's disk in silhouette.|
The easiest way to catch the quintuple-feature is to click on over to the Cassini Web site's latest videos
and graze through the views.
- One movie shows Pan, a walnut-shaped shepherd moon, skimming around the edges of Saturn's rings. Pan measures a mere 16 miles (or 26 kilometers) across.
- Another features a minuet involving three moons: Dione and its much smaller sibling satellites, Janus and Epimetheus.
- A third movie captures the movement of a silhouetted Rhea across Saturn's shadowed, butterscotch disk, with a dark ring crossing through the geometric scene.
- An "orbital ballet" shows Mimas and Enceladus seemingly slipping just above and below Rhea - although in actuality, the moons are hundreds of thousands of miles apart.
- My favorite of the bunch focuses on Epimetheus as it passes in front of Titan and Dione, with Saturn's nearly edge-on rings slashing through the frame.
As a bonus, the Cassini team has also posted a fresh snapshot of Saturn's most newsworthy moons, Enceladus and Titan.
As Cassini nears the halfway point of its four-year primary mission at Saturn, the imagery and orbital positions of the moons help navigators at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory keep the bus-sized spacecraft on track. For more views from Cassini, check out NASA's Web site, the imaging team's home page at the Space Science Institute, or our own gallery of greatest hits from space.