Saturn as seen by Voyager 2 as it approached the planet in July 1981. The moons Rhea and Dione, respectively, appear to the south and southeast of Saturn (small dots). Voyager 2, launched from Florida in 1977, made its closest approach to Saturn on August 25, 1981. (Courtesy NASA/JPL).
Saturn and two moons, Tethys (upper) and Dione as seen by Voyager 1 in November 1980. Note the shadow cast by the rings on the cloud tops of Saturn. (Courtesy NASA/JPL).
(A) Artist's conception of Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn. At the lower left, the probe Huygens is sent down to the surface of Titan. Huygens is being built by the European Space Agency. Cassini is being built by NASA/JPL for a launch in October 1997. It is expected to reach Saturn in June 2004.
(B) Artist conception of Huygens probe descending into the atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan.
(C) Huygens will drop into Titan's atmosphere and descend to the surface in 2004. It will sample the gasses in Titan's air and take pictures as it drops toward the surface.
(D) The Huygens probe is expected to survive its landing on Titan, whereupon it will be able to take pictures of the landscape. Scientists are still not sure what Titan's surface will look like. It is a cloud-covered world. Some have suggested there may be seas or oceans on Titan. Radar images taken from distant observatories on Earth suggest that at least some of the surface is solid. We will find out in 2004.
Artist renderings courtesy NASA, JPL, and the European Space Agency.
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Saturn's moon Enceladus has a scarred, icy surface. It may have experienced volcanic eruptions of water in the past. This picture was obtained by Voyager 2 in August 1981. (Courtesy NASA/JPL).