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X-rays of Saturn.


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X-rays.
Saturn X-rays.

Is This a Lake on Titan?

Planetary scientists have speculated that there could be lakes of liquid hydrocarbons on the surface of Titan, Saturn's largest moon, and now they've found an intriguing dark patch on the moon's surface that could be an open body of liquid. This photograph is a view of Titan's southern pole, a region that often has storm clouds, so it's an ideal candidate for an open lake. If it isn't a lake, the region could be a large hole that filled with solid, dark hydrocarbon "snow". The red cross in this image marks Titan's south pole.

Spotty moon Janus.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft took this photograph of Janus, one of Saturn's many moons. The 181 km (113 mile) Moon is covered with craters and patches of dark material exposed by numerous impacts. Astronomers think that Janus may be a porous object, largely composed of water ice. This image was taken when Cassini was approximately 357,000 km (222,000 miles) away from Janus.

X-Rays Sparkle in Saturn's Rings.

Even in X-rays, Saturn is beautiful. The latest image taken by NASA's Chandra X-ray observatory shows how the rings sparkle in this wavelength. These X-rays are created by solar X-rays striking the ice particles in Saturn's rings, and being refracted towards the Earth. Astronomers aren't exactly sure why these flashes are happening, but one theory is that they're caused by micrometeorites striking through Saturn's rings and causing a brief puff of ice particles which can cause a more irregular scattering of X-rays from the Sun.

Spacecraft Wakes Up for Comet Collision.

The Submillimeter Wave astronomy satellite (SWAS) has been asleep for the past 11 months, but now it's being woken up for a very important task: to watch the collision between Deep Impact and Comet Tempel 1. SWAS completed 5.5 years of service to the astronomical community, and it was put into hibernation for just something like this. The spacecraft is especially good at measuring the abundance of water molecules in ice and dust, so it should be able to help analyze the ejected material when the spacecraft slams into the Comet on July 4.

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