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Solar System: Things to Know This Week

Solar System: Things to Know This Week

Has Cassini inspired you? Learn more about dwarf planet Ceres, get the latest images from the Keck Observatory and more!

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1. Has Cassini Inspired You?

During nearly two decades in space, Cassini has been a source of inspiration to many. Has Cassini inspired you? Upload your artwork, photos, poems or songs to the social media platform of your choice, such as Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or others. Tag it #CassiniInspires. Or, send it directly to: cassinimission@jpl.nasa.gov. We’ll highlight some of the creations on this page. See examples and details at: saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/cassiniinspires/

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2. Dawn’s Shines a Light on Ceres

Our Dawn mission has found evidence for organic material on Ceres, a dwarf planet and the largest body in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Learn more: solarsystem.nasa.gov/news/2017/02/17/dawn-discovers-evidence-for-organic-material-on-ceres

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3. Into the Vortex

A new device called the vortex coronagraph was recently installed

inside NIRC2 (Near Infrared Camera 2) at the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii and has delivered its first images, showing a ring of planet-forming dust around a star, and separately, a cool, star-like body, called a brown dwarf, lying near its companion star.

4. Enceladus: Cassini Cracks the Code of the Icy Moon

A puzzling sensor reading transformed our Cassini Saturn mission and created a new target in the search for habitable worlds beyond Earth, when on Feb. 17, 2005, Cassini made the first-ever close pass over Saturn’s moon. Since our two Voyager spacecraft made their distant flybys of Enceladus about 20 years prior, scientists had anticipated the little moon would be an interesting place to visit. Enceladus is bright white – the most reflective object in the solar system, in fact – and it orbits in the middle of a faint ring of dust-sized ice particles known as Saturn’s E ring. Scientists speculated ice dust was being kicked off its surface somehow. But they presumed it would be, essentially, a dead, airless ball of ice.

What Cassini saw didn’t look like a frozen, airless body. Instead, it looked something like a comet that was actively emitting gas. The magnetometer detected that Saturn’s magnetic field, which envelops Enceladus, was perturbed above the moon’s south pole in a way that didn’t make sense for an inactive world. Could it be that the moon was actively replenishing gases it was breathing into space? Watch the video.

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5. Descent Into a Frozen Underworld

Our planet’s southernmost active volcano reaches 12,448 feet (3,794 meters) above Ross Island in Antarctica. It’s a good stand-in for a frozen alien world, the kind we want to send robots to someday. Learn more: solarsystem.nasa.gov/news/2017/02/13/descent-into-a-frozen-underworld

Discover the full list of 10 things to know about our solar system this week HERE.

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