Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cool New Images of Jupiter and Saturn

With Saturn high in the sky nowadays and Jupiter finally starting to rise out of the muck in the morning sky here on Earth, some great astrophotography is being taken of these two planets. The big news of day was the release of a series of images acquired last month by the Hubble Space Telescope of a quadruple moon transit at Saturn. In the image at right, Enceladus, Dione, Titan, and Mimas (from left to right) can be seen cross the disk of Saturn. What is great about this shot is that it makes it clear just how large Titan is compared to these other moons of Saturn and just how much Saturn dwarfs Titan. Other images taken in this series show the shadow of Titan on the cloudtops of Saturn. Finally, the Hubble team released a video of these images put together. Very sweet stuff.

Saturn isn't the only large planet being looked at. Jupiter, as reported yesterday, is still pretty low in the sky in the morning, but that isn't stopping Christopher Go and Tomio Akutsu, both in the Philippines, from imaging it. From images taken on March 16, there are hints that the reddish coloration of Oval BA, nicknamed the Red Spot Jr., maybe fading, perhaps reverting back to its whitish appearance it had before 2006. Both observations seem to suggest that Jupiter seems less stormy at the moment. Mike Salway and Anthony Wesley also captured a few nice views of Jupiter on March 17.

In other news, the presentations from last week's OPAG meeting are still not online. Brian, the fruit bat who decided to take a nap on the space shuttle Discovery's external tank, didn't make it. Let us have a moment of silence for the little guy. Though wait, if he is in the big orange grove in the sky, what is he doing still tweeting? Finally, the San Diego Union-Tribune has an article on Europa and Titan and their chances for life.

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