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New Saturn Images For the Holidays Thanks to NASA's Cassini Spacecraft (PHOTOS)


For Christmas this year, NASA was treated to a new set of images taken by the Cassini spacecraft including Saturn and its moons Enceladus and Titan, according to a press release.

Cassini has been flying by Saturn for years now, capturing the planet at almost every angle imaginable. The newest is from above, looking over the top of the planet, which is decorated with an ornamental ring.

"During this, our tenth holiday season at Saturn, we hope that these images from Cassini remind everyone the world over of the significance of our discoveries in exploring such a remote and beautiful planetary system," Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team leader, based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo., said in the release. "Happy holidays from all of us on Cassini."

One image of Enceladus shows the icy moon half-lit. The moon was recently the subject of a discovery that nearly 100 geysers are spread out on its surface, spouting water into the air. It most likely comes down as snow, but some breaks out of the moon's gravity and joins more of its kind orbiting Saturn in its E ring. Enceladus is also shown as a grey glowing celestial body resembling our own moon.

Titan is Saturn's largest moon and Cassini's latest images also show it partially lit. The moon appears orange through the thick and hazy atmosphere of the gas giant planet. Titan is the only other place in the solar system with stable water on its surface, however, instead of water, those liquids are ethane and methane.

"Until Cassini arrived at Saturn, we didn't know about the hydrocarbon lakes of Titan, the active drama of Enceladus' jets, and the intricate patterns at Saturn's poles," Linda Spilker, the Cassini project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., said in the release. "Spectacular images like these highlight that Cassini has given us the gift of knowledge, which we have been so excited to share with everyone."

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