Spaceflight Now +
Premium video content for our Spaceflight Now Plus subscribers.
Atlantis to hangar
After its safe landing to end mission STS-115, space shuttle Atlantis is towed from the Kennedy Space Center runway to hangar 1 of the Orbiter Processing Facility for post-flight deservicing and the start of preparations leading to its next mission, STS-117.
Space shuttle Atlantis glides to a smooth touchdown on Kennedy Space Center's Runway 33 at 6:21 a.m. to conclude the successful STS-115 mission that restarted construction of the space station.
Soyuz TMA-9 docking
The Russian Soyuz TMA-9 space capsule carrying the Expedition 14 resident crew and space tourist Anousheh Ansari safely docks to the International Space Station's Zvezda service module.
Expedition 14 launch
This extended duration movie follows the Soyuz rocket from the final countdown through arrival in orbit with the Expedition 14 crew. The video shows the three-stage rocket's ascent from Baikonur Cosmodrome and includes views of Mike Lopez-Alegria, Mikhail Tyurin and Anousheh Ansari from cameras inside the capsule.
Mission of Expedition 14
The voyage of Expedition 14 aboard the International Space Station is expected to see major construction activities for the outpost. Learn more about the mission in this narrated mission preview movie.
Become a subscriber
Scientists discover new ring of Saturn and more
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY NEWS RELEASE
Posted: September 24, 2006
Saturn sports a new ring in an image taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft last Sunday during a one-of-a-kind observation.
Other spectacular sights captured by Cassini's cameras include wispy fingers of icy material stretching out tens of thousands of kilometers from the active moon, Enceladus, and a cameo color appearance by planet Earth.
The images were obtained during the longest solar occultation of Cassini's
four-year mission. During a solar occultation, the sun passes directly
behind Saturn, and Cassini lies in the shadow of Saturn while the rings
are brilliantly backlit. Usually, an occultation lasts only about an hour,
but this time it was a 12-hour marathon.
A new diffuse ring, coincident with the orbits of Saturn's moon's Janus and Epimetheus, has been revealed in ultra-high phase angle views from Cassini. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Sunday's occultation allowed Cassini to map the presence of microscopic
particles that are not normally visible across the ring system. As a
result, Cassini saw the entire inner Saturnian system in a new light.
The new ring is a tenuous feature, visible outside the brighter main rings
of Saturn and inside the G and E rings, and coincides with the orbits of
Saturn's moons Janus and Epimetheus. Scientists expected that meteoroid
impacts on Janus and Epimetheus might kick particles off the moons'
surfaces and inject them into Saturn orbit, but they were surprised that a
well-defined ring structure exists at this location.
Saturn's extensive, diffuse E ring, the outermost ring, had previously
been imaged one small section at a time. The 12-hour marathon enabled
scientists to see the entire structure in one view. The moon Enceladus is
seen sweeping through the E ring, extending wispy, fingerlike projections
into the ring. These very likely consist of tiny ice particles being
ejected from Enceladus' south polar geysers, and entering the E-ring.
"Both the new ring and the unexpected structures in the E ring should
provide us with important insights into how moons can both release small
particles and sculpt their local environments," said Matt Hedman, a
research associate working with team member Joseph Burns, an expert in
diffuse rings, at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.
Wispy fingers of bright, icy material reach tens of thousands of kilometers outward from Saturn's moon Enceladus into the E ring, while the moon's active south polar jets continue to fire away. This astonishing, never-before-seen structure is made visible with the sun almost directly behind the Saturn system from Cassini's vantage point. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
In the latest observations, scientists once again see the bright
ghost-like spokes -- transient, dusty, radial structures -- streaking
across the middle of Saturn's main rings.
Capping off the new batch of observations, Cassini cast its powerful eyes
in our direction and captured Earth, a pale blue orb, and a faint
suggestion of our moon. Not since NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft saw Earth
as a pale blue dot from beyond the orbit of Neptune has Earth been imaged
in color from the outer solar system.
"Nothing has greater power to alter our perspective of ourselves and our
place in the cosmos than these images of Earth we collect from faraway
places like Saturn," said Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team leader at
the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo. Porco was one of the Voyager
imaging scientists involved in taking the Voyager `Pale Blue Dot' image.
"In the end, the ever-widening view of our own little planet against the
immensity of space is perhaps the greatest legacy of all our
Earth is captured here in a natural color portrait made possible by the passing of Saturn directly in front of the sun from Cassini's point of view. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
In the coming weeks, several science teams will analyze data collected by
Cassini's other instruments during this rare occultation event. The data
will help scientists better understand the relationship between the rings
and moons, and will give mission planners a clearer picture of ring
hazards to avoid during future ring crossings.
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 Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate,
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.