Saturn’s Mysterious Moons, as well as other phenomenal data about our gas giants and what’s in their orbits, all gathered from Voyager 1, Voyager 2 and Cassini. This video is eighteen-plus minutes of seriously fascinating information.
The two Voyagers sent back tens of thousands of images… of planetary realms more diverse than anyone had imagined. These long-distance marathon flyers - both now headed out towards interstellar space - made discoveries about the planetary chemistry that make these gas giants appear to us as gigantic works of abstract art.
The Voyagers disclosed new details about their magnetic fields, atmospheres, ring systems, and even the nature of their inner cores. Voyager turned up some surprising new mysteries too: a huge dark spot — a storm in fact - on Neptune. They found that Uranus is tipped 90 degrees to one side. That Saturn is less dense than water; if you had a bathtub big enough, Saturn would float!
And that you’d need the mass of three Saturns to make just one Jupiter! But what really knocked the scientists’ socks off were the moons that orbit these gas giants. All of them have been pummeled over the millennia by wayward asteroids and comets.
But a few appear to also be sculpted by forces below their icy surfaces…
This raw movie footage was taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft as it raced towards Jupiter in February 1979. Clearly visible is the constantly changing attitude of Voyager’s scan platform, which houses the narrow angle camera that took this particular sequence.
In total, 3531 frames were aligned to produce this film.
This 33 year old moving image has an old quality, and yet it still feels like the future. A few facts to narrate over this silent film:
Jupiter is the fourth brightest object in the sky (after the Sun, the Moon and Venus)… in 1610 when Galileo first pointed a telescope at the sky he discovered upiter’s four large moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto (now known as the Galilean moons)…
Jupiter was first visited by Pioneer 10 in 1973 and later by Pioneer 11, Voyager 1, Voyager 2 and Ulysses. The spacecraft Galileo orbited Jupiter for eight years. It is still regularly observed by the Hubble Space Telescope.
The gas planets do not have solid surfaces, their gaseous material simply gets denser with depth… What we see when looking at these planets is the tops of clouds high in their atmospheres…
Jupiter is about 90% hydrogen and 10% helium… with traces of methane, water, ammonia and “rock”. This is very close to the composition of the primordial Solar Nebula from which the entire solar system was formed. Saturn has a similar composition, but Uranus and Neptune have much less hydrogen and helium.