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Space Science

Cassini Captures Saturn's Northern Lights 33

Posted by Soulskill
from the cassini-rules dept.
al0ha writes "In the first video showing the auroras above the northern latitudes of Saturn, Cassini has spotted the tallest known 'northern lights' in the solar system, flickering in shape and brightness high above the ringed planet. The new video reveals changes in Saturn's aurora every few minutes, in high resolution, with three dimensions. The images show a previously unseen vertical profile to the auroras, which ripple in the video like tall curtains. These curtains reach more than 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) above the edge of the planet's northern hemisphere."
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Cassini Captures Saturn's Northern Lights

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  • by v1 (525388)

    it's full of stars...

  • Sounds interesting. I'm going to have to check it out. Thanks for sharing.
  • by tommy_teardrop (228273) on Friday November 27, 2009 @08:56PM (#30251388)

    ISS videos of the visible aurora have been doing the rounds internally at Cassini for a few months now, and they really are spectacular, but a height of 1200km is hardly a surprise new value, given that it falls in the exact range expected when compared with observations of the UV aurora made by the Hubble Space Telescope:

    Altitude of Saturn's aurora and its implications for the characteristic energy of precipitated electrons [harvard.edu]

    • Altitude of Saturn's aurora and its implications for the characteristic energy of precipitated electrons

      That’s the first time I looked at the title of something and went: tl;dr. ^^

  • In the movie, Saturn and stars are shown in black-and-white, but the aurora is shown in just orange. This is odd. My speculation is that one filter (frequency) was used for Saturn and the stars and a second filter (displayed as orange) was used for the aurora. There appears to be no overlap between the light collected among the filters. This is also odd. Usually at least some sources show up across the spectrum, and would thus appear in both filters (colors). If the alignment was off, there would be no visu

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Mt theory is that you didn't RTFA. It states in quite clearly that the movie has been processed to remove noise (cosmic rays, lens flares etc.) and the aurora has been colored to differentiate it from the background. It also states that the true color of the aurora is not known.
      • by Tablizer (95088)

        TFA: "The images were captured in black and white, but the aurora in this movie is shown in a false orange color to distinguish it from background noise in the images...These images were taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft's narrow-angle camera..."

        That doesn't necessarily mean they manually painted it orange. I don't see anything that rules out 2 filters. Both filters could still be in the "visible light" range. Saying "captured in black-and-white" tends to support your viewpoint, but doesn't

      • by Tablizer (95088)

        (Continued) Another thing that bugs me is why they would tint it if it's not based on a 2nd filter. It shows up plenty fine by itself in the movie. I can see tinting it for the stills, but in the movie it stands out enough. Maybe they thought some would get confused by the moving star field. It may be "safer" to use fading arrows to point out the aurora rather than tint. Tinting risks the accusation that they are "playing with colors", which has popped up on other missions. Arrows avoid that accusation all-

  • by c6gunner (950153) on Friday November 27, 2009 @10:13PM (#30251826)

    Amazing. Maybe I only find it so emotional because I've recently watched the posthumous autotune of Carl Sagan's Cosmos. Check it here [youtube.com] if you haven't seen it. And here's the relevant quote:

    "How lucky we are to live in this time. The first moment in human history. When we are, in fact visiting other worlds."

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "How lucky we are to live in this time. The first moment in human history. When we are, in fact visiting other worlds."

      Well, at least our cameras are.

      "We" are still stuck on Earth (no, ISS doesn't count).

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      Carl Sagan's Cosmos..."How lucky we are to live in this time. The first moment in human history. When we are, in fact visiting other worlds."

      He conveniently didn't mention the "Yankee Go Home" signs [myspaceantics.com].

  • I'm not going to install quicktime just to watch the video. So here's the youtube link: linky [youtube.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Cassini just did another flyby of Enceladus a week ago and got some amazing pictures of the ice plumes/geysers [nasa.gov] found there.

  • This shows that Saturn has a magnetic field and magnetic poles. I think this directly implies that the gas giant has a solid or molten iron core.

    Time to shoot some radar off that beast and find out where the surface is.

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