The Grand Finale – Farewell to Cassini

On September 15, 2017, Cassini will enter Saturn’s atmosphere and break into very small pieces before burning up entirely.  For the past 7 years, the satellite’s exploration of Saturn and its moons has resulted in valuable data and glorious images.  Now as it runs out of fuel it will begin it’s final mission—a deep dive into Saturn’s atmosphere sending data back to Earth for as long as it can.

Personally, I find it difficult to avoid anthropomorphizing these space vehicles, especially one I have observed closely for so long, and watching this final mission continues to be quite moving to me. The remarkable images of Saturn’s rings were my desktop background and I closely watched the craft travel to the moons. I followed Cassini’s Twitter feed (CassiniSaturn) and saw the images and data come in daily.  Now this week I watch it end, and as NASA said in one of their animations, Cassini will become part of Saturn itself.  (To see details and to watch the amazing animation, see NASA’s “Grand Finale Toolkit.”)

Here at Annual Reviews, our authors have been using the data from Cassini’s exploration of Saturn for many years, and we are highlighting some of those articles during the culmination of Cassini’s mission.

Thank you, Cassini.

spencer-cassiniEnceladus: An Active Ice World in the Saturn System” by John R. Spencer and Francis Nimmo.  Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Volume 41

Planetary Reorientation” by Isamu Matsuyama, Fancis Nimmo, and Jerry X. Mitrovica.  Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Volume 42

mitchell-cassiniThe Climate of Titan” by Jonathan L. Mitchell and Juan M. Lora Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Volume 44

Shape, Internal Structure, Zonal Winds, and Gravitational Field of Rapidly Rotating Jupiter-Like Planets” by Keke Zhang, Dali Kong, and Gerald Schubert.  Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Volume 45


The Lakes and Seas of Titan” by Alexander G. Hayes Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Volume 44




Suzanne K. Moses is Annual Reviews’ Senior Electronic Content Coordinator. For 15+ years, she has played a central role in the publication of Annual Reviews’ online articles. Not a single page is posted online without first being proofed and quality checked by Suzanne.

The Edifying Beauty of Geysers

Old Faithful Geyser erupts on a clear winter day in Yellowstone National Park (Credit: Jacob W. Frank, National Park Service. Public domain.)

Geysers are a rare occurrence. There are only about 1,000 of them in the world, half of which are located in the United States’ Yellowstone National Park. They also take different forms, with varying frequencies, sizes, or lengths of eruption. Despite over 200 years of study, they are still poorly understood, but scientists persist in their exploration: geyser processes provide a scale model for the processes of volcanic eruptions, and they could give us clues on how to predict and prepare for such events.

In the 2017 Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Shaul Hurwitz, of the U.S. Geological Survey, and Michael Manga, of the University of California, Berkeley, discuss the current state of the science on geysers. They also delineate the questions that must yet be answered. The article, titled “The Fascinating and Complex Dynamics of Geyser Eruptions,” was highlighted by the U.S. Geological Survey.

They examine the geography and geology of geysers, their chemistry, the dynamics of their eruption. They ask why some erupt continuously and others only from time to time, why some erupt at great heights and others don’t, why some erupt regularly and other unpredictably.

Annual Reviews is a nonprofit publisher dedicated to synthesizing and integrating knowledge for the progress of science and the benefit of society. To find out how we create our highly cited reviews and stimulate discussion about science, please watch this short video. Journalists and bloggers who require journal access, please visit our Press Center.