On September 15, 2017, the amazing spacecraft, Cassini-Huygens made it’s last journey into Saturn’s atmosphere and scorched. Unfortunately, it did not have enough force to leave the Solar System. After studying Saturn for more than 19 years, it will always remain immortal in the scientific community. Among the many discoveries that it made, the most exciting one was that there could be extraterrestrial life in Enceladus.
First launched on October 15, 1997,the creation of Cassini-Huygens was an ambitious project that united many nations. NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian Space Agency (ASI), worked together to develop Cassini-Huygens. Cassini, an unmanned spacecraft, recorded and photographed astonishing sites from the planet Saturn. Scientific teams from 17 nations all made the Cassini-Huygens mission a success.
As a scientific mission of many countries, the Cassini-Huygnes probe was named after two renowned scientists. The mission ASI/NASA, Cassini orbiter, was named for the Italian astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini. The European Space Agency (ESA) developed the Huygens probe named for astronomer Christiaan Huygens.
Born on June 8, 1625, Giovanni Domenico Cassini was an Italian and naturalized French scientist. He became famous for discovering four satellites of Saturn: lapetus, Rhea, Tethys and Dione. In addition to finding four moons in Saturn, he also located the division of the rings of Saturn called, “the Cassini Division,” which are named after him. Cassini passed away on September 14, 1712, but his discoveries about Saturn still inspire scientists today.
Notable scientist Christiaan Huygens found Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. He also invented the pendulum clock and researched time. Born on April 14, 1629, Huygens was destined to change the world. Huygens used a 50 power telescope, that he created himself, to study Titan. On July 8, 1695, Huygens died, but the great scientific legacy that he left remains. Scientists are still study Titan today. They are making many new discoveries about Titan.
If Cassini and Huygens would have been alive today, they would have been impressed to see the innovative ways that scientists are studying Saturn. They also would have been honored to know that a spacecraft was named after them.
For more than 19 years, Cassini recorded important data about Saturn. Named after Saturnus, the Greek god of agriculture, Saturn is one of the most beautiful planets in our Solar System. What makes Saturn so striking are the glowing rings that surround it. Containing thousands of rings, Saturn is one of the most unique planets in our Solar System. The rings of Saturn stretch out from 6,630 km to 120,700 km outward from Saturn’s equator.
Have you ever wondered how the rings of Saturn developed? Still to this day, scientists do not have a definite answer. However, there are two theories explaining the origins of the rings of Saturn. One hypothesis is that the rings are the remains of a wrecked moon of Saturn. Another theory is that the rings are left over from the matter from which Saturn was created.
On the Earth, we only have one satellite. On the planet Saturn, there are 62 moons that orbit the planet. Scientists named 53 of these moons. Of all the moons on Saturn, Titan is the largest one in the Solar System. In fact, it is even bigger than the planet Mercury. The Cassini spacecraft made many discoveries about Titan. The radar images, coming from Cassini, showed large lakes, coastlines, islands and mountains on Titan. Besides the Earth, now scientists know that there are lakes on Titan. They also found seas on Titan. These seas were bigger than any of the Great Lakes in North America. Scientists also found seas that are about the size of the Caspian sea. Since Titan contains so many elements similar to the Earth, scientists believe that there could be extraterrestrial life on this moon.
In addition to other findings about Saturn, the Cassini spacecraft also helped scientists discover seven new moons on Saturn. These new satellites on Titan are Methone, Pallene, Polydueces, Daphnis, Anthe and Aege. This also includes the new moon, S/2009 S1, which has not yet been named.
Of all the discoveries of the Cassini probe, one of the most enthralling is that there could be aliens inhabiting Enceladus. Based on information from Cassini, scientists found an ocean with an energy source, nutrients and organic molecules. All of these components on Encelades, Saturn’s sixth largest moon, make it very likely that there could be extraterrestrial life on Saturn.
Looking at the night sky, mankind has always thought that perhaps we are not alone in the universe. In 1695, even notable scientist Christiaan Huygens wrote about the possibility of life on another planet in his report, Cosmot heoros. The report was published after his death in 1698. After the discoveries of the Cassini-Huygens aircraft, the likelihood of finding life on another planet is greater than ever before. Perhaps, the next unmanned spacecraft will return to Saturn again. Next time scientists may bring back the first pictures of extraterrestrial life on Enceladus.