This time next year, ESA’s Huygens spaceprobe will be descending through the atmosphere of Saturn’s largest moon, becoming the first spacecraft to land on a body in the outer Solar System.
Infrared view of Saturn
Credits: Erich Karkoschka (University of Arizona), and NASA
Earlier this month, the giant ringed planet Saturn was closer to Earth than it will be for the next thirty years. All the planets orbit the Sun as if on a giant racetrack, travelling in the same direction but in different lanes.
Those in the outer lanes have further to travel than those on the inside lanes. So, Earth regularly ‘laps’ the further planets. On New Year’s Eve 2003, Earth overtook Saturn, drawing closer than at any time in the next three decades.
Franco Bonacina | ESA
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