ince it arrived at Saturn in mid-2004, the Cassini spacecraft has been studying the planet, its rings, and its entourage of more than 50 moons. It has discovered two new rings (the Janus/Epimetheus and the Pallene rings), lakes of liquid hydrocarbons on Titan, plumes of water ice erupting on Enceladus, plus a whole lot more. And its job is far from over. Later this year, Cassini will make its second close pass by Tethys, its second close pass by Rhea, and its initial close encounter with Iapetus. And that doesn't count a dozen or so flybys of Titan. As we wait for these significant events, sit back and enjoy these recent highlights from Saturn.
Cassini's Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer captured this view of Saturn's north pole. The most prominent features include a bright reddish hexagon, which represents a clearing in the clouds that allows us to see some 47 miles (75 km) below the bright clouds seen at visible wavelengths, and a bluish aurora created when charged particles trapped in Saturn's magnetic field excite high-altitude molecules.NASA/JPL/University of Arizona