Expired News - As NASA celebrates 10 years of Cassini at Saturn, here's a Top-Ten list of the spacecraft's amazing discoveries and incredible images - The Weather Network
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6. Saturn storm catches its own tail


Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

In December 2010, a powerful storm spun up in Saturn's northern hemisphere and over the next several months, it tracked all the way around the planet. The whirls and vortices left behind in the wake of the storm were so strong that they were still there when the primary storm made its full circuit of the hemisphere. This image, snapped in early February 2011, shows the storm actually catching its own tail! False colour images from the same time (click here) reveal the intricate patterns of clouds inside the storm.

7. The striking details of Enceladus' icy surface


Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Scientists may be keenly interested in what lies beneath icy surface of Saturn's moon, Enceladus, but the surface itself is an incredible mosaic of cracks, fissures, impact craters and subtle shading that can captivate for hours. The above image doesn't even do it justice. Click here to see the full 50-million-pixel version, so you can zoom in and pan around to see all the amazing detail Cassini captured.

8. The subtle beauty of Saturn's rings in radio waves


Credit: NASA/JPL

If you were able to see in radio waves, specifically three different wavelengths (0.94, 3.6, and 13 centimeters: the Ka-, X-, and S-bands, respectively), this is what Saturn's rings would look like to you. NASA beamed these three wavelengths at Cassini while the rings were between Earth and the spacecraft. The particles that make up the rings scattered the radio waves, and Cassini gathered the results to produce a view that showed the team the distribution of particle sizes throughout the entire ring system. The full version can be seen on NASA's website (click here), but the above image uses a special colour scheme to really show off the subtle differences throughout the rings.

9. Almost the best image of Saturn, ever


Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Taken in 2009, this image of Saturn was captured by Cassini just as the planet was in spring equinox - the point where the Sun was illuminating both hemispheres equally, and the sunlight was catching the rings edge-on. Without being directly illuminated, the ring system turned to dusky shades, showing off their structure beautifully.

10. Probably the best view of Saturn ever taken, and we're in it too!


Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

In July of 2013, Cassini dipped behind Saturn, letting the planet eclipse it and scoring an absolutely spectacular view of the rings with sunlight streaming through them. This is yet another picture where the small image here is nice, but it simply doesn't do the original justice. Click here to see it in its full splendor. Another very cool part of this is that we're in the picture too! Can't see us? Click here for some assistance in picking us out (along with Mars and Venus too). Another version is fully annotated, pointing out all the other features and objects that can be seen in the picture. Click here to check it out. Cassini will be hard-pressed to outdo this one, but I look forward to the attempts.

Although Cassini is currently on its third four-year mission, it will only be given one more renewal in 2016. This final mission, newly named Cassini's 'Grand Finale', will put the spacecraft into a highly-elliptical orbit that will fly it over the planet's poles, far out to swing past the F ring and icy Enceladus, and then diving between the inner edge of Saturn's rings and the planet itself. These 22 orbits will return even more science for the spacecraft's team here on Earth (and undoubtedly more incredible images for us to pore over).


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