NASA Releases New Cassini, Spitzer Photos For the Holidays


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Just in time for the holidays, NASA has released two new space photos filled with festive greens and reds.

The photo seen above (a larger version of which can be seen here) was taken using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. the infrared image depicts the giant star Zeta Ophiuchi as it hurtles through space, causing a wave in the dust in its path.

Astronomers believe Zeta Ophiuchi, which is 20 times more massive than our sun, was once a companion star to an even larger star. When the larger star's life ended, Zeta Ophiuchi was explosively ejected from its system.

Saturn backlit

The above image of Saturn was taken by NASA's Cassini probe. A larger version can be seen by clicking the photo. It shows a backlit view of the planet Saturn and its rings taken during Cassini's 174th orbit of the giant planet. The two small objects in the bottom-left of the photo are Saturn's moons Enceladus and Tethys.

Cassini, which has been studying Saturn and its numerous moons since 2004, was intentionally positioned within Saturn's shadow for the pic. It's a perspective Cassini hasn't had since 2006 when it took the "In Saturn's Shadow" photo - one of the most popular Cassini images to date, according to NASA.

"Of all the many glorious images we have received from Saturn, none are more strikingly unusual than those taken from Saturn's shadow," said Carolyn Porco, Cassini's imaging team lead at the Space Science Institute.

The Cassini spacecraft recently celebrated its 15th birthday since its launch back in 1997. In its time in orbit, the probe has launched the Huygens probe to the surface of Titan, where hydrocarbon lakes have also been discovered.

(Images courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)