The Ringed Planet

The Ringed Planet

Cassini's Voyage of Discovery at Saturn

Joshua Colwell
ISBN: 9781681744964 | PDF ISBN: 9781681744971
Copyright © 2017 | 142 Pages | Publication Date: April, 2017

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In September 2017, the Cassini spacecraft will point itself toward the atmosphere of Saturn and end its 13 year mission of solving many of the mysteries of the ringed planet's system with a crash. This book is a dramatic, beautifully illustrated journey of discovery through the Saturn system. Cassini's instruments have revealed never seen before details including the only extraterrestrial lakes known in the solar system and have provided unprecedented views of the rings.

Saturn is the jewel of the solar system. The Cassini spacecraft has been exploring the ringed planet and its moons and rings since 2004 and has helped us solve many of its mysteries while generating a wealth of new questions. Cassini has observed the bizarre mountains of Iapetus, the geysers of Enceladus, the lakes of Titan, and the dynamic and evolving rings. Along the way, this book explores and explains the fundamental processes that shape not just the Saturn system, but planets and moons in general.

Written for the general audience with an emphasis on the fundamental physics of planetary systems, The Ringed Planet is a fascinating exploration of the Saturn system that places Saturn in the context of the solar system as a whole. Cassini's instruments have revealed Enceladus and Titan to have subsurface oceans of liquid water. Its cameras have returned stunning images of rings in turmoil, a tumbling moon, the only extraterrestrial lakes known in the solar system, a hexagon of clouds, some of the highest mountains in the solar system and much more. Its final series of orbits before a planned crash into Saturn in September 2017 will reveal details of the interior structure of Saturn as well as provide unprecedented views of the rings. More than a journey of discovery at Saturn, The Ringed Planet is also an introduction to how planetary systems work.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Seeing Saturn
3. Why are there moons and rings?
4. A menagerie of moons
5. Dynamic rings
6. Titan: the planet moon
7. The Ringed Planet
8. Future exploration of the Saturn system

About the Author(s)

Joshua Colwell, University of Central Florida
Dr. Joshua Colwell is a Planetary Scientist and Professor of Physics at the University of Central Florida. His research interests are in the origin and evolution of the solar system, planet formation, planetary rings, asteroids and comets. He is a Co-Investigator on the Cassini mission with an emphasis on Saturn's rings. His experiments on planet formation, asteroids, and planetary rings have flown on the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station, suborbital rockets, and parabolic airplane flights. He produces and hosts the astronomy podcast "Walkabout the Galaxy."


"The Ringed Planet" takes the reader along Cassini's incredible voyage in the Saturnian system, as the author guides us through the history, mysteries, discoveries and current scientific theories surrounding Saturn, its fascinating moons, and its enticing rings. Throughout the tour, personal experiences provided by the author, a scientist with intimate knowledge of the mission, give the reader a sense of insight and connectedness with the Cassini mission that other non-fiction works struggle to capture. Stunning, real images acquired by the Cassini spacecraft inspire a close reading of the text to grasp the fascinating objects and phenomena. Slightly more complicated graphical displays of the data relay the critical revelations made by non-camera instruments, but all are well explained in the text. In fact, the book serves as a remarkable example of how complex astronomical concepts can be communicated effectively to anyone who is interested, including beginners to the field of astronomy. Even for experts, this collection of the mission highlights and their accompanying details is a refreshing reminder of the amazing capabilities of the Cassini spacecraft and the scientific achievements that have resulted from its mission. "The Ringed Planet" condenses years of exploration and scientific discovery into an accessible, enjoyable, and practical book without compromising accuracy or completeness. Through striking images and clear explanations, this book is a phenomenal way to uncover the legacy of the Cassini mission to Saturn.
Tracy Becker, Southwest Research Institute

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