News and commentary about the Great Frontiers

ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) --- This view of Earth's horizon as the sunsets over the Pacific Ocean was taken by an Expedition 7 crewmember onboard the International Space Station (ISS). Anvil tops of thunderclouds are also visible. Credit: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Image Credit: ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) – Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

A Tour of the Moons of Saturn



The moons of Saturn, now numbering 47 (when Cassini-Huygens launched from the Earth in 1997 there were only 18 known moons orbiting Saturn,) have changed planetary scientists’ view of our solar system yet again. Titan, the largest and long hidden beneath a thick opaque atmosphere, has been revealed by Cassini-Huygens to be a very Earth-like world that remains very alien in the details. Enceladus, once thought to be a cold, dead and perhaps even boring small moon, has instead turned out to be an active world of internal heating driving surface changes as young as anything occurring on the Earth.

With each new image of a previously poorly viewed world comes a host of breathtaking vistas and shocking mysteries. Why do so many of these ice worlds in the cold reaches of our solar system display such intense tectonic and atmospheric activity? What is the relationship between these moons and the rings of Saturn? Have hardy lifeforms found ecological niches on Titan, perhaps explaining anomalous science data from the moon’s surface? Why do the structures of craters vary so greatly from moon to moon, and what explains the mysterious staining of many of the moons’ surfaces.

After several months of exploration by Cassini-Huygens and the return of one spectacular image after another, made available by NASA to the public soon after their arrival on the Earth, The Frontier Channel is pleased to offer a tour of Saturn’s moons, from distal oddities that may have been foreign objects captured by the planet’s gravity to the proximal active worlds that have turned the theories of outer planetary science on their heads.

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