Running rings around a gas giant: Leicester Academic presents stunning new images of Saturn

Posted by mjs76 at Sep 27, 2010 12:15 PM |
One of our astronomers, working on data from the Cassini mission, has presented some amazing new images of Saturn’s aurora at an international conference.

Dr Tom Stallard, who is RCUK Academic Fellow in Planetary Science in our Department of Physics and Astronomy, was at the European Planetary Science Congress in Rome last week to present preliminary results – including still images and video – from an international collaboration combining data from two instruments on NASA’s Cassini mission.

The VIMS-MAG team are working with two instruments aboard Cassini, the NASA probe which has been in orbit around Saturn since July 2004. VIMS is the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer, part of the Optical Remote Sensing package, while MAG refers to the spacecraft’s Dual Technique Magnetometer, one of several instruments designed to detect and measure fields, waves and particles.

By combining data from both instruments, the team have produced extraordinary false-colour images of the planet, its rings and its aurorae, some of which can be viewed on NASA’s Cassini website. By coincidence, Dr Stallard’s talk in Rome on Friday coincided with the latest Cassini achievement – a close fly-past of Titan.

The new Saturn images have stirred up a lot of interest and even made it into a noted journal of astronomical record which takes its name from the largest object in the Solar System.