Saturn and its Mysteries

Two kinds of dramatic shadows play across the face of Saturn in this view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraftfrom Dec. 6, 2007. The planet’s rings cast dark bands across the cloud tops in the northern hemisphere. Near the pole, an elongated shadow can be seen from Saturn’s moon Tethys, which appears as a bright sphere left of center. Other icy moons make an appearance as well, including Dione (front right) and Enceladus (back right). A bright storm can be seen in Saturn’s southern hemisphere at lower right. Credit: NASA

Our friends at the Science Channel have posted a new video on the mysteries of Saturn.

There have been four missions to Saturn, the last was Cassini. The next mission NASA has approved is the Dragonfly mission which explore Saturn’s moon Titan using a unique drone rotorcraft.

NASA describes Saturn as follows:

Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second largest planet in our solar system. Adorned with a dazzling system of icy rings, Saturn is unique among the planets. It is not the only planet to have rings, but none are as spectacular or as complex as Saturn’s. Like fellow gas giant Jupiter, Saturn is a massive ball made mostly of hydrogen and helium.

Surrounded by more than 60 known moons, Saturn is home to some of the most fascinating landscapes in our solar system. From the jets of water that spray from Enceladus to the methane lakes on smoggy Titan, the Saturn system is a rich source of scientific discovery and still holds many mysteries.

The farthest planet from Earth discovered by the unaided human eye, Saturn has been known since ancient times. The planet is named for the Roman god of agriculture and wealth, who was also the father of Jupiter.

Watch this Science Channel short episode on the fascinating mysteries of Saturn

All about NASA’s Dragonfly mission

Professor Catherine Neish of Western University is a co-investigator, the lone Canadian on the mission to date.

NASA’s newest mission to explore the solar system delivers an 8-bladed rotorcraft to visit Saturn’s largest and richly organic moon, Titan. Slated for launch in 2026 and arrival in 2034, Dragonfly will sample and examine dozens of promising sites around Saturn’s icy moon and advance our search for the building blocks of life.

During its 2.7-year (32-month) baseline mission, Dragonfly will explore Titan’s diverse environments and take advantage of its dense nitrogen-based atmosphere – four times denser than Earth’s – to fly like a drone. The mission marks the first time NASA will fly a multi-rotor vehicle for science on another planet, as well as the first vehicle ever to fly its entire science payload to new places for repeatable and targeted access to surface materials.

Since the basic building blocks of life on Titan are expected to be similar to those on Earth before life arose, Dragonfly’s instruments will help advance astrobiology and study how far pre-life chemistry may have progressed. Additionally, its instruments will investigate the moon’s atmospheric and surface properties, subsurface ocean, liquid reservoirs, and areas where water and complex organic materials key to life once existed together for possibly tens of thousands of years.

Titan is larger than the planet Mercury and is the second largest moon in our solar system. It has a subsurface ocean of liquid water, methane lakes and rivers on the surface, and even clouds and rain of methane. Other more complex organics are formed in the atmosphere and fall like light snow. As it orbits Saturn, Titan is about 886 million miles (1.4 billion km) away from the Sun, about 10 times farther than Earth. Because it is so far from the Sun, its surface temperature is around -290 degrees Fahrenheit (-179 Celsius). Its surface pressure is also 50 percent higher than Earth’s.

NASA’s Dragonfly mission

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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