March 12, 2012 - Southern Lights on Saturn

Southern Lights on Saturn Earth is not the only planet that experiences auroral displays (see week of February 13). This false-color composite image, constructed from sixty-five individual observations obtained by the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer on NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, shows the glow of auroras streaking out about 600 miles from the cloud tops of Saturn’s south polar region. The colors seen here are mapped to different levels of near-infrared radiation: reflected sunlight appears blue, thermal emissions from within Saturn appear red, and the light from hydrogen ions—at the location of the aurora—is represented by green. The dark spots and banded features on Saturn are clouds and small storms that are illuminated from underneath by Saturn’s thermal emission, and thus appear in silhouette.

Image credit: NASA / JPL / ASI / University of Arizona / University of Leicester

Weekly Calendar

March 12-18, 2012

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History

Moon phase Monday 12

1835: Simon Newcomb born
1981: Victor Savinykh becomes 100th person to travel in space, Soyuz T-4 mission

Moon phase Tuesday 13

1781: William Herschel discovers Uranus
1855: Percival Lowell born
1989: STS-29 Discovery launched

Moon phase Wednesday 14

Last Quarter Moon 9:25 PM ET

1835: Giovanni Schiaparelli born
1879: Albert Einstein born
1934: Gene Cernan born
1986: Giotto flies by Halley’s Comet
1995: Soyuz TM-21 launched, first Russian mission with American on board

Moon phase Thursday 15

Venus 3° north of Jupiter

1713: Nicolas de Lacaille born
1932: Alan Bean born
1975: Helios 1 launched
2009: STS-119 Discovery launched

Moon phase Friday 16

1750: Caroline Herschel born
1926: Robert Goddard launches first liquid fuel rocket
1966: Gemini VIII launched
1975: Mariner 10’s 3rd Mercury flyby

Moon phase Saturday 17

St. Patrick’s Day

1930: Jim Irwin born
1958: Vanguard 1 launched, first solar-powered satellite
1972: NASA issues request for proposals for Space Shuttle
2011: MESSENGER becomes first spacecraft to orbit Mercury

Moon phase Sunday 18

1965: Voskhod 2 launched, Alexei Leonov takes world’s first spacewalk
1980: Soviet rocket explosion kills 50 workers at Plesetsk launch pad

Suggestions for new history dates or better links? Corrections for errors on this page? Please e-mail me.