Incredible Saturn Transit Images by Hubble Space Telescope

On February 24 2009, a rare quadruple transit was taking place at Saturn. Titan, Mimas, Dione and Enceladus were all transiting Saturn, along with shadows of 3 out of the 4 Moons!

Fortunately for us, the Hubble Space Telescope was on-hand to image this extraordinary event and these beautiful and fascinating images have just been released.

Hold your breath! These images are just amazing.

Quadruple Transit imaged by Hubble

Quadruple Transit imaged by Hubble

Please read on to see more stunning Titan Transit images from Hubble!

This image show the sequence including Titan’s shadow.

Image Sequence captured by HST

Image Sequence captured by HST

This amazing labelled image below show the very faint F ring, the encke division and the small moon Janus.

Labelled image with Saturn's rings and faint moons

Labelled image with Saturn's rings and faint moons

And you can’t go past this incredible animation. Click the image to see the lower-res 640×360 movie, or go Hubblesite Videos page for high-resolution download options.

Click the image to see the animation

Click the image to see the animation

Go to Hubblesite.org for more and to read the full media release.

The images were taken with Hubble’s WFPC2 (Wide Field Planetary Camera) on the 24th February, 2009. Hubble can achieve such extraordinary resolution and clarity thanks to its location – in space! Sitting above the Earth, the light being captured by Hubble has not been distorted and refracted as it comes through Earth’s atmosphere; something that us ground-based astrophotographers deal with on a nightly basis – we call it “bad seeing”.

Dione and Enceladus, and their shadows, make a remarkable straight line towards Titan in one of the images. The two smaller moons are locked in a 2:1 orbital period around Saturn, so they will transit together fairly often. Dr John Rogers, head of the BAA Jupiter section, says:

If the double transit happens once, there will be a series of them because of the almost-exact 2:1 ratio of orbital periods. And this resonance produces tidal effects which almost certainly cause the internal heating and fissuring in both moons. (For Dione, no excess heating has been observed, but the fissures are young.) The only problem is that the heating is several times more than the physicists predict.

All of the above is also true of Io and Europa [at Jupiter].

Thanks to the Hubble Space Telescope team for these amazing images. I’m not sure whether it makes me want to give up imaging, or inspires me to get out and do it more! 🙂

Thanks for reading.

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