Spacecraft offers new views of Saturn

July 10, 2012 at 4:53 PM
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PASADENA, Calif., July 10 (UPI) -- A change in the angle at which the Cassini spacecraft orbits Saturn is providing astronomers with new views of the planet's rings and moons, NASA says.

It's been nearly two years since Cassini has been able to provide such dramatic views of Saturn's rings, and the new steeply inclined orbit is also giving researchers better views of the planet's poles, its atmosphere and the atmosphere of some of its moons, a release from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said Monday.

With new images coming from Cassini, a research team has been able to resume its study of propeller-shaped gaps in Saturn's rings cleared out by objects smaller than known moons but larger than typical ring particles.

Cassini scientists haven't seen the "propellers" in two years, JPL said.

Because some of the propellers are still exactly where models predicted they would be, Cassini imaging team associate Matt Tiscarena of Cornell University and his colleagues say they believe they are seeing some old friends again.

Cassini regularly passes above and below Saturn's equatorial plane, offering astronomers different views as it does so, JPL said.

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