Die Cassini-Sonde hat neue Bilder vom sechseckigen Arschloch des Saturn auf die Erde gebeamt und man hat zum ersten mal den Farbwechsel des Anus from Space aus der Nähe fotografiert, wenn das ganze Ethan und Propan und Acetylen zur Sonnenwende durchdreht und dem Hexagon-Pol ganz neue Farben verpasst. Im Winter ist der Arsch bläulich, im Sommer eher rot-braun. Passt. (Die Farben habe ich für mein GIF hier ein bisschen hochgejazzt, um das neue Kleid vom Space-Ass ein wenig hervorzuheben.)
Saturn's solstice -- that is, the longest day of summer in the northern hemisphere and the shortest day of winter in the southern hemisphere -- arrives today for the planet and its moons. The Saturnian solstice occurs about every 15 Earth years as the planet and its entourage slowly orbit the sun, with the north and south hemispheres alternating their roles as the summer and winter poles.
Reaching the solstice, and observing seasonal changes in the Saturn system along the way, was a primary goal of Cassini's Solstice Mission -- the name of Cassini's second extended mission.
Cassini arrived at Saturn in 2004 for its four-year primary mission to study Saturn and its rings and moons. Cassini's first extended mission, from 2008 to 2010, was known as the Equinox Mission. During that phase of the mission, Cassini watched as sunlight struck Saturn's rings edge-on, casting shadows that revealed dramatic new ring structures. NASA chose to grant the spacecraft an additional seven-year tour, the Solstice Mission, which began in 2010.
"During Cassini's Solstice Mission, we have witnessed -- up close for the first time -- an entire season at Saturn," said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. "The Saturn system undergoes dramatic transitions from winter to summer, and thanks to Cassini, we had a ringside seat."
During its Solstice Mission, Cassini watched a giant storm erupt and encircle the planet. The spacecraft also saw the disappearance of bluer hues that had lingered in the far north as springtime hazes began to form there. The hazes are part of the reason why features in Saturn's atmosphere are more muted in their appearance than those on Jupiter.
Data from the mission showed how the formation of Saturn's hazes is related to the seasonally changing temperatures and chemical composition of Saturn's upper atmosphere. Cassini researchers have found that some of the trace hydrocarbon compounds there -- gases like ethane, propane and acetylene -- react more quickly than others to the changing amount of sunlight over the course of Saturn's year.
Researchers were also surprised that the changes Cassini observed on Saturn didn't occur gradually. They saw changes occur suddenly, at specific latitudes in Saturn's banded atmosphere. "Eventually a whole hemisphere undergoes change, but it gets there by these jumps at specific latitude bands at different times in the season," said Robert West, a Cassini imaging team member at JPL.