photgraphy

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Saturn’s Moons – A Few Great Places to Visit

This image of Saturn and four of its moons was taken by the author on April 12, 2012 from EPA’s Edison, New Jersey facility. The moons are (from left to right): Titan, Dione, Tethys and Rhea.

By Jim Haklar

As an EPA employee, I’m reminded every day how fragile our environment is.  But when I take my telescope outside on a clear, calm night and point it skyward, I can see a place that may have environments that are just as special as our own.  And this place is Saturn.  You’ve heard of Saturn – the planet with the rings.  While most people think the rings are what makes Saturn unique (and they really are unique, being less than 1 mile thick but up to 175,000 miles across), to me it’s Saturn’s moons that make it a really special place.

Saturn has over 60 moons, 53 of which have names.  The names typically come from Greek mythology, and most of the moons are named after Saturn’s brothers, the Titans, and Saturn’s sisters, the Titanesses.  In mythology, these were giants who ruled before being conquered by Jupiter.

A while back I took a picture of Saturn with four of its moons: Titan, Dione, Tethys, and Rhea.

Titan is considered to be the most Earth-like world that has been discovered (it’s actually a frozen version of how Earth looked like billions of years ago).  Titan is the second largest moon in the solar system and has rivers and lakes made up of chemicals like ethane and methane.   Imagine being stuck in a “rain” storm on Titan!

Dione has a lot of craters (just like on our Moon) but it also has bright walls of ice that form canyons.   A very fine powder of ice from one of Saturn’s rings constantly rains down on Dione.

Rhea is a small (about 950 miles in diameter) , cold moon with no atmosphere that is similar to Dione. It has been described as a frozen dirty snowball!

Tethys is also small (less than 700 miles in diameter) and it is closer to Saturn than our Moon is to the Earth.  It is made up of mostly water ice with a little bit of rock.  It has two huge features; a giant crater called Odysseus and a valley called Ithaca Chasma.

Right now Saturn is visible, for most of the night, in the constellation of Virgo.  Take a few minutes and look up at the night sky, and think about all the strange environments that are waiting to be explored.

About the Author: Jim is an Environmental Engineer out of EPA’s Edison, New Jersey facility, where he manages PCB cleanups.  On clear nights he can frequently be seen with his telescope spying on our planetary neighbors.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Greening the Apple’s First Reader Submitted Photo Contest

A Greener Apple Photo Contest—Call for Submissions

You are invited to participate in Greening the Apple’s first photography contest. The topic is, “What does sustainability look like in New York City?” Pick your best work, submit your photos easily online, and have a chance at some exposure and recognition on our blog. Photography is story-telling. Share your stories with the rest of us.  Your deadline is midnight, August 12, 2011 (EST).

You might ask, “What is sustainability?” For our purposes here, sustainability incorporates strategies, events, and procedures that meet society’s present needs without compromising the needs for future generations. Sustainable development can be facilitated by policies that integrate environmental, economic, and social values in decision making. This topic is meant to be broad—a way to link your life and what you see to your own definition of sustainability. In other words, how do you see New York City’s connection to the environment?

Who is eligible to enter?

Any citizen from any country, as long as you are 18. If you’re under 18, have a parent or guardian submit your work for you. EPA employees who are not on the contest selection committee are encouraged to submit photo entries.  Please read photo submission guidelines for theme requirements listed below. More

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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