Saturn is Home to the Most Extensive System of Haze Layers from the Solar System

Saturn is a truly remarkable and worth exploring cosmic object, and not only due to its iconic rings. With an orbital period of 29 years, being the second largest planet in the solar system after Jupiter, and many other thrilling features, Saturn is always there waiting for astronomers to explore it.

In 2015 the main camera of the Cassini spacecraft obtained high-resolution images of Saturn, and it captured the hazes located above the clouds that are shaping a hexagonal wave. The Hubble Space Telescope was used several days later for completing the study. The lead author Agustín Sánchez-Lavega, declared:

The Cassini images have enabled us to discover that, just as if a sandwich had been formed, the hexagon has a multi-layered system of at least seven mists that extend from the summit of its clouds to an altitude of more than 300 km above them,

Other cold worlds, such as Saturn’s satellite Titan or the dwarf planet Pluto, also have layers of hazes, but not in such numbers nor as regularly spaced out.

The extent of each haze layer is between approximately 7 and 18 km thick. The spectral analysis reveals that they contain minute particles with radii of the order of 1 micron. As for their chemical composition, we can mention hydrocarbon ice crystallites. More precisely, there are propane, diacetylene, acetylene, propyne, and butane.

The Cassini–Huygens space-research mission (commonly called Cassini), was a collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) for sending a probe to study Saturn and its system. Its notorious and iconic rings were targetted, but also its multiple natural satellites.

Cassini was launched aboard a Titan IVB/Centaur on October 15, 1997, and it was active in space for about 20 years. Cassini spent 13 years by orbiting Saturn and studying the gas giant and its system after entering orbit in 2004.

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