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Thursday, 24 December 2009

Cassini Holiday Movies Showcase Dance of Saturn's Moons

Video advisory: 2009-204                        December 23, 2009

Cassini Holiday Movies Showcase Dance of Saturn's Moons

The full version of this story with accompanying images is at:

Like sugar plum fairies in "The Nutcracker," the moons of Saturn performed a celestial
ballet before the eyes of NASA's Cassini spacecraft. New movies frame the moons' silent
dance against the majestic sweep of the planet's rings and show as many as four moons
gliding around one another.

The new video can be found at ,
and .

To celebrate the holidays, the Cassini imaging team has created a video collection of
"mutual events," which occur when one moon passes in front of another, as seen from the
spacecraft. Imaging scientists use mutual event observations to refine their understanding
of the dynamics of Saturn's moons. Digital image processing has enabled scientists to turn
these routine observations into breathtaking displays of celestial motion. The original
images were captured between Aug. 27 and Nov. 8, 2009.

In one scene that synthesizes 12 images taken over the span of 19 minutes, Rhea skates in
front of Janus, as Mimas and Pandora slide across the screen in the opposite direction.
While the dance appears leisurely on screen, Rhea actually orbits Saturn at a speed of
about 8 kilometers per second (18,000 mph). The other moons are hurtling around the
planet even faster. Mimas averages about 14 kilometers per second (31,000 mph), and
Janus and Pandora travel at about 16 kilometers per second (36,000 mph).

"As yet another year in Saturn orbit draws to a close, these wondrous movies of an alien
place clear across the solar system remind us how fortunate we are to be engaged in this
magnificent exploratory expedition," said Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team leader at
the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space
Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the
California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science
Mission Directorate in Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were
designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team is based at the Space
Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.


Good Clear Skies
Colin James Watling
Real Astronomer and head of the Comet section for LYRA (Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth Regional Astronomers) also head of K.A.G (Kessingland Astronomy Group) and Navigator (Astrogator) of the Stars (Fieldwork)

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