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This is an image of Saturn showing its rings and the shadows of the rings below, but also of Titan and Prometheus. Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, looks small here, pictured to the right the giant Saturn in this Cassini spacecraft view. Can you find the moon Prometheus (only 53 miles across)? It appears as a tiny white speck above the rings in the far upper right of the image.

The dozens of icy moons orbiting Saturn vary drastically in shape, size, surface age and origin. Some of these worlds have hard, rough surfaces, while others are porous bodies coated in a fine blanket of icy particles. Some, like Dione and Tethys, show evidence of tectonic activity, where forces from within ripped apart their surfaces. Some appear to have formed billions of years ago, while others, like Janus and Epimetheus, might have originally been part of larger bodies. The study and comparison of these moons tells scientists about the history of the Saturn System and the solar system. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Jan. 5, 2012.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

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The themes that have defined the more than 30-year career of Thomas Ruff were born while the influential German photographer was studying under famed photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher at the Düsseldorf Art Academy from 1977 to 1985. Known for their typology work of water towers in which they photographed with a straightforward point of view, the Bechers believed that images which were photographed objectively were more truthful. Bernd Becher criticized Ruff’s student work, faulting his photographs for not being his own. They were simply clichés, Becher argued, mimicking fictionalized images in magazines. Ruff turned the criticism on its head—he began to make images that questioned the very methodology of image making.

“Most of the photos we come across today are not really authentic anymore,” Ruff once said. “They have the authenticity of a manipulated and prearranged reality. You have to know the conditions of a particular photograph in order to understand it properly.”

It’s easy to see these ideas in Ruff’s space work, the topic of a new exhibition and book called Stellar Landscapes, which premiered at the Frankfurt Book Fair last weekend. In his book, Ruff includes appropriated imagery of space that he has collected over the last 20 years. In some of the photographs, Ruff used images made from NASA satellites, which he downloaded for free online. Ruff often took images that seemed to be abstract renderings of the surface of a planet and used color to abstract them further. Other times, the photographer hand colored the NASA photographs to make abstract scenes more realistic. Ruff has always had a fascination with the dialogue between photography and context of a photograph. It seems only natural, then, that Ruff translated this idea into reworking existing NASA images of to present another—and equally important—view of space.

Stellar Landscapes is on view at the Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Münster through January 8. The book is available now through Kerher Verlag.

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The largest and most intense storm on Saturn observed by NASA’s Voyager or Cassini spacecraft has been captured in false color image from Cassini’s cameras (below). The storm, currently still active, encircles the giant planet, encompassing an area eight times the surface area of earth. The colors highlight clouds at different altitudes. Clouds that appear blue here are the highest, those that are yellow and bright are clouds at high altitudes, those shown green are intermediate clouds. Red and brown colors are clouds at low altitude, and the deep blue color is a thin haze with no clouds below. The base of the clouds, where lightning is generated, is probably in the water cloud layer of Saturn’s atmosphere. The image is a mosaic of 84 images taken with a narrow angle camera, over a period of about five hours, covering 33 miles per pixel.

This true-color picture (below), captured on Feb. 25, 2011, was taken about three months after the storm began. Already the clouds had formed a tail that encircled the planet. The storm’s tail, which appears as slightly blue clouds south and west (left) of the storm head, can be seen encountering the storm head in this view. Cassini’s wide angle camera looked toward the sunlit side of the rings from just above the ring plane for this image. Carolyn Porco, the Cassini Imaging Team Leader, bubbles over in her Captain’s Log on July 6th, 2011:

“One might think that after years in orbit around Saturn, we are now accustomed to great big happenings and fantastic spectacles. But far from it. It is the shock of the unexpected, the intense mind-grabbing, eye-popping, soul-stirring thrill of seeing the unseen that gets us every time. And, as all of you well know, that is what this glorious, history-making exploration of Saturn and its magnificent realm is all about.”

Scientists do not know why Saturn stores energy for decades and releases it all at once. For example, Jupiter and Earth have numerous storms going on at all times. The Cassini imaging team consists of scientists from the US, England, France, and Germany, with the imaging operations center based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado. For more information and photography from Cassini, click here. All photography courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

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CASSINI MISSION from cabbas on Vimeo.

Filmmaker Chris Abbas created the beautiful short film above, and explains:

I truly enjoy outer space. It's absolutely amazing that we now have the ability to send instruments out into the void of the universe to observe all sorts of interesting things. Asteroids! Moons! Planets! Dark matter! This is the perfect opportunity for a Carl Sagan quote: "Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known."

The footage in this little film was captured by the hardworking men and women at NASA with the Cassini Imaging Science System. If you're interested in learning more about Cassini and the on-going Cassini Solstice Mission, check it out at NASA's website.

(via Colin Peters)


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