Cassini spacecraft still has a few months to go before it completes its mission in September. But the Saturn explorer reaches a new breakthrough today.
Saturn’s solstice – 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. This event on Saturn 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.
During its Solstice Mission, Cassini watched a giant storm erupt and encircle the planet. The spacecraft also saw the disappearance of blue hues that had lingered in the far north as springtime haze began to form there.
Data showed how the formation of Saturn’s haze 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, react more quickly than others to the changing amount of sunlight over the course of Saturn’s year.