Could the hexagon be shaped by the effects of a Reuleaux Polygon? I've seen an animation and a video of a Reuleaux Triangle outlining the shape of a square due to off-axis rotation. Apparently (meaning I haven't seen it) a Reuleaux polygon can outline the shape of a hexagon.
In three dimensions at Saturn's pole the increasing curvature of the atmosphere gradually meeting at the axis of rotation might have a similar effect.
Ah yes, the artistry of science and nature combined!
I find it fascinating that the compound methane can have such a noticeable, detectable affect and in such distinctive bands considering it represents less than two per cent of the composition of Saturn's atmosphere.
More information about the various light absorbtion and scattering characteristics of gases in Saturn's atmophere can be found in the Ciclops page "Four windows on Saturn" at http://www.ciclops.org/view.php?id=65 or by searching for the article title. There are many other pages with explanations and images that can be found by searching for methane or ammonia.
Images such as these have always been a particular favourite of mine. I call them "Kandinsky-esque" because they recall the balance and symmetry of that artist's work. Here Dione is the "point", the rings are the "line", and Saturn is the "plane". Beautiful!
By my estimate, the smallest features I can see in the NAC image on my computer are about only 6 metres across! As amazing as that level of detail is on its own, it's even more amazing to me that Cassini captured that image while zipping along at almost 30,000 km per hour. I wonder if that's a speed to resolution record for a spacecraft?
This is one of the most spookiest, beautiful and ethereal images of Saturn with a single moon I have seen. The dark, looming mass of Saturn, the dominant crescent of Dione dwarfed by its maternal planet, and the sharply clear line of the rings.
This is one of those "Kandinskiesque" images that Cassini has delivered so often. That wonderful balance of "point, line and plane" that epitomized that particular artist's work and is so dramatically created by nature and captured by human ingenuity in this image.
The wonders that I have been allowed to perceive with Cassini are one of the many reasons why I admire the science of space exploration.
This is a rare and stunning image of Thethys because we don't usually see so many of the large craters althogether in such luminous relief.
The top one must be Odysseus. The bottom one might be Melanthius but that crater seems too far North. And the fainter big crater in the middle looks like Penelope. Please correct me if I'm wrong about these craters.
I've checked the maps and can't figure out any other interpretation. But then this could be because of the Sun-Tethys angle and similar to our own Moon this Cassini image could be a unique angle that throws shallower craters into greater relief.
But still, this is a most interesting image of Tethys. It says something to me that seeing even a familiar moon from just a few illumination angles is not enough for me to know it.
Titan became a real place for me 2005. It was amazing to see images of a world like our own through diffused atmospheric sunlight. A place with a horizon. A place with mountains grooved apparently by erosion. A place with land and lakes and shorelines and scattered rocks. Sure, it is too cold to live there, but it is still a fluid place. Liquid chemicals still float in the atmosphere and on the surface. They still interact with the scant sunlight from our Sun.
Learning about Titan is learning about the Earth. It is similar to how scientists have learned about our own Sun by learning about other stars. How they have been made and how they develop. What is the same? What is different? What makes one world, or one star, unique when there are apparently similar chemical and physical properties that they share? That is what scientists have been finding out. They continue to do so because there is much more to find out.
There are two excellent books that describe what was known about Titan, how the Huygens Probe was developed, and what was initially learned from the probe's science experiments. Both were written by Ralph Lorenz and Jacqueline Mitton. Lorenz is a planetary scientist who worked on the Surface Science Package of the Huygens Probe.
The first book "Lifting Titan's Veil" was published in 2002 (before Cassini-Huygens reached Saturn) and provides a historical as well as scientific description of what was learned about Titan up to that time. The second book "Titan Unveiled" was published in 2008 and provides a backstory of the development of the Huygens Probe as well as the initial scientific discoveries that were made on Titan.
Both books are engaging reads. Both the science and the technology are presented in detail but in a manner that is understandable to a wide audience.
Although Titan was discovered 460 years ago by Christiaan Huygens (on 25 March to be precise) scientists have obviously learned vastly more about it in just the past 10 years. And it's not just because they have more data, but it is why that data was chosen to be collected. It is those why-questions that make science interesting, inspire people to continue to explore, and allow humanity to progress.
Michael Carroll's image of the B-ring gives me a new perspective on the dynamics of Saturn's ring system. And that is the marvelous advantage of space art. It illuminates perspectives, physical interactions and atmospheres that we know exist but that we can not image directly or imagine easily.
The Cassini-Huygens missions have provided us with an unparalleled wealth of the seen and the unseen -- startling images, penetrating radar, real particle collection, invisible magnetic fields, and atmospheric sensing. Each of these require scientific and technical interpretation to make sense to us. Space art is another kind of interpretation that can combine this information in ways that the separate instruments can not. Space art provides us with an instantaneous view of both what we can see and what we have learned.
A good source for space art is www.novapix.net/us. That site has a myriad of beautiful and intriguing space art that will give your imagination a thorough workout. This site has works by Michael Carroll, Don Dixon and many others.
I feel so fortunate living in the era of space exploration. The Cassini-Hugens missions have been a particular favourite of mine. They have given me so much -- fantastic images and inspiring explanations of how dynamic and alive our solar system really is.
This is both science and art combined. It never ever ceases to amaze me how brilliantly the Cassini Imaging Team continue to produce fascinating, mind-enriching, curiosity-engaging, and emotionally-gasping views.
It is profound to see a planet from the perspective of another planet. It adds a sense of familial closeness across the billion miles of space. This image (similar to the blue-dot one) adds to my understanding of what "system" means in the solar system.
I am curious about the blue colour of the E Ring. Is that the same kind of dust scattering effect as Raleigh scattering in Earth's atmosphere? And if so, why isn't the G Ring in this image also blue? Is that a result of the viewing geometry here? Or is more to do with the rings being a thin plane rather than an atmospheric sphere? And, if it is a result of plane geometry, then why aren't there colour fringes or gradations in the G Ring? -- I guess that's because the rings are too narrow to show that effect.
If the blue colour of the E Ring is indeed similar to the effect of Raleigh scattering, does this mean that this is the first ever image of the effect outside of a planet's or moon's atmosphere?
I think it's great that Cassini captured Pandora (on the left of Janus) coming into view just after a similar event with Prometheus (raw image #4). This makes for a delightful image pairing. For the level of detail, I think this is the best multi-moon view with Pandora ever. The most detailed images of Pandora by itself that I've found in the "imaging diary" are PIA07632 from 2005 and PIA12690 from 2010.
This is a rare image of Janus (left) and Prometheus together with Dione, because of their closeness together and the level of detail. From what I've seen in the "imaging diary" it's been 6 years since Janus and Prometheus appeared in such detail together (search for pia08192), though both of them were imaged separately in higher detail in 2009 and 2010.
I too feel like I'm there. And in a sense we are through Cassini which was only about 93,000 km from Dione at the time (less than 1/4 of the distance between the Earth and our Moon). By the way, the moon emerging from behind is Mimas (over 610,000 km away from Cassini). In raw image #3, Mimas is just going behind Dione. South is up.
This is a beautiful series of images showing many of the perspectives and details that make the Cassini Mission so fascinating to follow. Especially in color!! Wow!! The other day, in the pre-dawn sky, I saw the bright lights of Mercury, Saturn and Mars forming a line across the orbital plane. And it warmed my heart to know that our spacecraft are out there among them, and through their instruments scientists are right now exploring the mysteries and wonders of our solar system neighbourhood, and giving us in return such delights for the eyes and insights for the mind.
Another brilliantly coordinated and detailed image of the jets. I particularly like these images because they show how the jets follow the contours of the tiger stripes that we've seen in other images. These different views combined with earlier spectral and partical analyses of the plumes give me a wonderful sense of perspective and understanding.
The details of the jets are quite good even at this distance. This is one of the best images since the amazing one of November 2009 (PIA 11688). From the relative distribution of jet sources, I'm guessing that Damascus Sulcus is on the left (ref. Sulci map of October 2007, PIA 08385). I eagerly anticipate the details from the closer flyby on November 21st. I wonder if seasonal changes have any affect on the plumes? I imagine that the dynamics of the jets overide any effects from solar radiation.
The depth of detail of the impact grooves is spectacular! The formations are both striking and unusual. It never ceases to amaze me the skills of the imaging team, and those of the spacecraft's navigators.