Thursday, December 31, 2009

Three Years at Saturn

Presently, the Cassini orbiter is still circling Saturn.  The Saturnian season is now nearly the same as it was in  when Voyager 1 flew through the Saturnian system.  In fact, the three spacecraft that flew by each other did so roughly once a year, one after the other.  Pioneer 11 flew by in September, 1979, just before a ring plane crossing (and looking at the unlit side of the rings).  Voyager 1 flew by in November 1980.  Voyager 2 flew by in August, 1981.  Thanks to the greater tilt of the rings relative to the sun, they appear noticeably brighter than they did for Voyager 1.  Here is a sequence, showing the planet as it appeared to each spacecraft on approach to the planet.

 Processed Images Copyright Ted Stryk, Pioneer Data Courtesy NASA/Ames, Raw Voyager Data Courtesy NASA/JPL

No comments: