High hopes for Cassini's Titan flyby

Discussion in 'New Science' started by Black River Falls, Jun 29, 2004.

  1. hunck

    hunck Justified and Ancient

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    Some fantastic pictures in those links. I'd not realised Cassini has been orbiting the Saturn system for 11 years.
     
  2. ramonmercado

    ramonmercado CyberPunk

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    The Cassini spacecraft will make one last close flyby of Saturn's pockmarked moon Dione today (Aug. 17), in search of direct evidence that the moon is geologically alive and active.

    Cassini, a collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency, has been studying the Saturn system since 2004, and its grand mission will come to a close in 2017, after the spacecraft makes a series of dives through the space between the planet and its rings. On Monday, Cassini will make its fifth close flyby of Dione, coming to within 295 miles (474 kilometers) of the moon's surface, at approximately 2:33 p.m. EDT (6:33 GMT).

    "Dione has been an enigma, giving hints of active geologic processes, including a transient atmosphere and evidence of ice volcanoes — but we've never found the smoking gun," Bonnie Buratti, a Cassini science team member at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, said in a statement from NASA. "The fifth flyby of Dione will be our last chance." [Saturn Quiz: Do You Really Know the Ringed Planet?]

    http://www.space.com/30264-cassini-final-flyby-saturn-moon-dione.html?cmpid=514648
     
  3. ramonmercado

    ramonmercado CyberPunk

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    Scientists are about to get their best look ever at the ocean that sloshes beneath the surface of Saturn's icy moon Enceladus.

    On Wednesday (Oct. 28), NASA's Cassini spacecraft will zoom just 30 miles (50 kilometers) above Enceladus, flying through and sampling the plume of material that erupts from the satellite's south polar region.

    This plume is thought to originate from Enceladus' underground liquid-water ocean, so Cassini's onboard sample analysis should shed light on the moon's potential to host life, mission team members said. [Watch how Cassini will sail through Enceladus' icy plumes]

    "On Wednesday, we will plunge deeper into the magnificent plume coming from the south pole than we ever have before, and we will collect the best samples ever from an ocean beyond Earth," Curt Niebur, Cassini program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., said during a news conference today (Oct. 26).

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/nasa-probe-to-dive-through-saturn-moon-s-icy-plume/
     
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  4. Mythopoeika

    Mythopoeika I am a meat popsicle

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    Inside a starship, watching puny humans from afar
    Only 30 miles should get them amazing photos.
     
  5. ramonmercado

    ramonmercado CyberPunk

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    The Cassini spacecraft took a daring plunge into the icy geysers of Saturn's moon Enceladus this week in search of telltale signs of a habitable environment.

    The plume continuously jets thousands of miles into space from tiger stripe fissures in the moon's south pole, carrying particles from the vast salty ocean sloshing just beneath the icy surface.

    Cassini's sweep though the icy fountain completes its second of three Enceladus flyby missions this year and is NASA's best shot at determining whether this small moon has the right ingredients to harborlife.

    The encounter with the mysterious plume lasted only tens of seconds as Cassini hurtled past at a speed of about 19,000 miles per hour, yet in these critical moments up to 10,000 particles per second were sampled and identified using the probe's cosmic dust analyzer. Analysis of this data over the coming weeks could provide the most promising signs of habitability yet in the decade since Cassini's initial flyby of the moon in 2005.

    "Cassini's instruments do not have the capability to detect life itself," Cassini project scientist Linda Spilker, told Astrobiology Magazine. "Those instruments can, however, make powerful measurements about the ocean and its potential habitability."

    Earl Maize, Cassini's deputy program manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, further clarified the probe's abilities.

    [​IMG]
    “llustration of the interior of Saturn’s moon Enceladus showing a global liquid water ocean between its rocky core and icy crust. Thickness of layers shown here is not to scale.” Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
    "Cassini has instruments that are capable of detecting complex organic molecules which could possibly be fragments of even larger molecules," he told Astrobiology Magazine, "However, the instruments are not capable of determining whether the processes are biological or geological."

    NASA confirmed the existence of a global ocean sandwiched beneath Enceladus' icy crust and rocky core this year when scientists measured a slight gravitational wobble between the north and south pole, an unsteady movement that could only be accounted for by a hidden liquid layer. But what is keeping the underground water liquid and what is the driving force of these plumes? Today's flyby took us one step closer to that answer.

    "There's some heat source that has caused a lot of that water-ice to melt and form liquid water," Curt Niebur, program scientist for the Cassini mission, told Astrobiology Magazine. "Our best guess and the most likely culprit is tidal heating from the interaction of Enceladus and the nearby moons and Saturn."

    http://phys.org/print365409620.html
     
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  6. ramonmercado

    ramonmercado CyberPunk

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    New observations made near the south pole of Titan by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft add to the evidence that winter comes in like a lion on this moon of Saturn.

    Scientists have detected a monstrous new cloud of frozen compounds in the moon’s low- to mid-stratosphere – a stable atmospheric region above the troposphere, or active weather layer.

    Cassini’s camera had already imaged an impressive cloud hovering over Titan’s south pole at an altitude of about 186 miles (300 kilometers). However, that cloud, first seen in 2012, turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg. A much more massive ice cloud system has now been found lower in the stratosphere, peaking at an altitude of about 124 miles (200 kilometers).

    This 2012 close-up offers an early snapshot of the changes taking place at Titan’s south pole. Cassini’s camera spotted this impressive cloud hovering at an altitude of about 186 miles (300 kilometers). Now, Cassini’s thermal infrared instrument has now detected a massive ice cloud below it. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

    The new cloud was detected by Cassini’s infrared instrument – the Composite Infrared Spectrometer, or CIRS – which obtains profiles of the atmosphere at invisible thermal wavelengths. The cloud has a low density, similar to Earth’s fog but likely flat on top.

    For the past few years, Cassini has been catching glimpses of the transition from fall to winter at Titan’s south pole – the first time any spacecraft has seen the onset of a Titan winter. Because each Titan season lasts about 7-1/2 years on Earth’s calendar, the south pole will still be enveloped in winter when the Cassini mission ends in 2017.


    Read more at http://www.deepstuff.org/nasas-cass...itans-south-polar-region/#5vLv2I5lKiv8omkp.99
     
  7. ramonmercado

    ramonmercado CyberPunk

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    Surfing onTitan would be best in summer

    Space is mostly vast and empty. So whenever we notice something like ripples on a lake, on the frozen moon of a gas giant, we take notice.

    At a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco this week, it was reported that Cassini images of Saturn's moon Titan showed light being reflected from the Ligeia Mare, a frigid sea of hydrocarbons on that moon. Subsequent images showed the same phenomenon on two other seas of Titan, as well. These are thought to be waves, the first waves detected anywhere other than Earth, and suggest that Titan has more geophysical activity than previously thought.

    Surfers on Earth, known for seeking out remote and secretive locations, shouldn't get too excited. According to mathematical modelling and radar imagery, these waves are only 1.5 cm (0.6 inches) tall, and they're moving only 0.7 metres (2.3 feet) per second. Plus, they're on a sea of liquid hydrocarbons—mostly methane—that is a frigid -180 degrees Celsius (-292 F.)

    Planetary scientists are taking note, though, because these waves show that Titan has an active environment, rather than just being a moon frozen in time. It's thought that the change in seasons on Titan is responsible for these waves, as Titan begins its 7 year summer. Processes related to the changing seasons on Titan have created winds, which have cause these ripples.



    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-03-surfing-ontitan-summer.html#jCp
     
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  8. OneWingedBird

    OneWingedBird Justified and Ancient

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    Attice of blinkey lights
    Was having a look around the London Science Museum this morning, they have a lieft size model of the Huygens probe on display.

    Can't say that I'd ever given much thought about the size of it before, it's surprisingly dinky, a disk shape perhaps 4 foot diameter and a couple of feet high.
     
  9. ramonmercado

    ramonmercado CyberPunk

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    Sirens of Titan: Flying Aerobot Drone Could Soar Over Saturn Moon

    As the long-running Cassini mission enters its last year at Saturn, NASA is moving forward with an early-stage technology study to send a drone to its moon Titan.

    The agency awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 contract for Global Aerospace Corp. and Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems to create a vehicle known as the Titan Winged Aerobot built to explore Saturn's largest moon and prepare a prototype for testing on Earth. SBIR Phase 1 contracts last six months and are worth up to $125,000,according to NASA.

    "Titan is a cold, harsh environment that poses many technical challenges for any lighter-than-air exploration platform," said Benjamin Goldman, principal investigator of the Phase I effort, in a statement from Global. [How Humans Could Live on Titan (Infographic)]

    The new Titan robot will include several design elements to let it cope with that environment, he added in the statement. This would include excellent "lift" generation (the ability to soar using Titan's dense atmosphere), maneuverability and the ability to withstand Titan's atmospheric pressure.

    Titan is the only known solar system moon to have a substantial atmosphere and a liquid cycle (including hydrocarbon lakes on its surface), which has led some scientists to compare it to an early Earth. It also could host methane-based life despite its harsh temperatures (minus 300 Fahrenheit, or minus 184 Celsius, at the surface) and lack of water, which earthly creatures require. ...

    http://www.space.com/33412-nasa-aer...aign=socialtwitterspc&cmpid=social_spc_514648
     
  10. ramonmercado

    ramonmercado CyberPunk

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    Delicate space nets. Probes landing with the force of a bomb. Ice-burrowing tunnellers. These are a few of the robots poised to grab the baton from NASA’s Cassini orbiter in the search for alien life on Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus.

    As Cassini prepares for a death dive into Saturn next year, planetary scientists met in Boulder, Colorado, last week to discuss its possible successors.

    Enceladus has a massive global ocean under its frozen surface, and cracks in its exterior spew plumes of water into space. The plumes continually add icy material to one of Saturn’s rings, and offer a tantalising taste of the water within. But Cassini can’t test them. Its instruments aren’t detailed enough to analyse the water, because when it was built, no one knew the plumes were there.

    “That is a very fine example of why it’s so hard to design space missions,” says Alexis Bouquet, a PhD student at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. “By definition, we are going to an object that we don’t know much about. So we always get surprises.”

    As Cassini flew through Enceladus’s plumes a handful of times in the past 11 years, its instruments were flooded with hydrogen molecules, which are a possible smoking gun for hydrothermal vents in the oceans. If confirmed, those vents would have major implications for life beneath the ice.

    But it’s unclear whether the hydrogen molecules came from Enceladus or from Cassini itself. That’s because when ice grains in the plumes smack into Cassini’s instruments they break apart, like insects on a car windshield. “They are smashing so fast that they can actually chip the windshield and form tiny craters,” says Bouquet. This releases titanium into Cassini’s instruments, which steals oxygen from the icy water to release hydrogen molecules.

    At the meeting in Boulder, Bouquet presented computer simulations he is using to figure out how much water is really there and how much is the instrument’s confusion – although he hasn’t come to a conclusion yet.

    To improve matters, a future Enceladus plume sampler could use gold sensors, which wouldn’t react in the same way as the titanium ones. Or it could use a soft, spongy net, similar to the capture devices developed for the Stardust mission, which grabbed a few specks of cosmic dust from interstellar space in 2006.

    A net about 12 square centimetres in area would be big enough to capture a few micrograms of plume spray, saysRichard Mathies, a chemist at the University of California at Berkeley. While that’s not a lot, the proposed lab-on-a-chip Enceladus Organic Analyzer — new details of which Mathies’s collaborators presented in Boulder — can sniff out one organic molecule in a billion others, Mathies says.

    Landers and drills would be able to get an even closer look at the subsurface sea. But to enter they would have to crash with immense force or melt the ice, disturbing anything living there even as they tried to detect it. Tests on the EOA’s instruments suggest it could still do its job after an impact with an energy 50,000 times greater than Earth’s gravitational pull, which is a greater g-force than that felt by an artillery shell.

    At the meeting, Amanda Stockton at the Georgia Institute of Technology presented design concepts with optical instruments in the centre of a lander, which would make them more likely to survive impact.

    One other robot concept could break more than just ice grains. A proposed Enceladus Explorer mission could set up a robotic base station near the moon’s southern pole, where the plumes are thought to originate. A robot drill called the IceMole would both melt ice and ram through it, reaching down about 100 to 200 metres to the ocean below the surface. ...

    https://www.newscientist.com/articl...ts-could-hunt-for-life-on-icy-moon-enceladus/
     
  11. ramonmercado

    ramonmercado CyberPunk

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    NASA's Cassini spacecraft has survived its first plunge through the narrow gap between Saturn's cloud tops and the giant planet's innermost rings, a region that no probe had ever explored before.

    The space agency's Deep Space Network Goldstone Complex in California picked up Cassini's signal at 11:56 p.m. PDT yesterday (April 26; 2:56 a.m. EDT and 0656 GMT today, April 27) — nearly a full day after the historic dive took place. Data began coming in from the probe 5 minutes after contact was established, NASA officials said.

    "In the grandest tradition of exploration, NASA's Cassini spacecraft has once again blazed a trail, showing us new wonders and demonstrating where our curiosity can take us if we dare," Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., said in a statement. [Cassini's 'Grand Finale' Saturn Orbits Explained (Video)] ...

    http://www.space.com/36630-cassini-..._medium=social&utm_campaign=2016twitterdlvrit
     
  12. ramonmercado

    ramonmercado CyberPunk

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    Cassini probe finds vast void between Saturn's rings
    May 6, 2017 in Astronomy & Space / Space Exploration

    The unmanned Cassini spacecraft, after completing two passes in the vast, unexplored area between Saturn's rings has discovered not much else there, researchers at NASA said.

    Scientists have been surprised to find that not all that much—not even space dust—lies between Saturn's iconic rings.

    "The region between the rings and Saturn is 'the big empty,' apparently," said Cassini Project Manager Earl Maize of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, after the probe's first pass.

    The rings themselves are made of fast-moving particles of ice and space debris.

    The 22-foot-tall (6.7 meter) Cassini spacecraft launched in 1997 and began orbiting Saturn in 2004.

    Cassini made a first pass to explore what lies between the rings in late April and a second one on May 2, at a speed of about 77,000 miles per hour relative to the planet.

    The gap between the rings and the top of Saturn's atmosphere is about 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers).

    Cassini is expected to make a total of 22 dives between the rings and the planet before making a death plunge into the gas giant in September.

    Cassini is a 20-year-old joint mission of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency.

    © 2017 AFP

    "Cassini probe finds vast void between Saturn's rings" May 6, 2017 https://phys.org/news/2017-05-cassini-probe-vast-void-saturn.html
     
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  13. rynner2

    rynner2 Justified and Ancient

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    The gaps in the rings are due to gravitational perturbations by Saturn's many moons. It's a resonance effect - if an object orbiting in a particular gap has a period that's a whole number fraction of the period of the controlling moon then it will get regular 'kicks' that will move it away from that gap.

    There are similar gaps in the asteroid belts, caused by the gravitational effects of Jupiter, and, to a lesser extent, Saturn.
     
  14. ramonmercado

    ramonmercado CyberPunk

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    Planetary Protection: Contamination Debate Still Simmers
    By Nola Taylor Redd, Space.com Contributor | May 8, 2017 07:00am ET

    On Sept. 15, 2017, NASA's Cassini spacecraft will take a suicide plunge into Saturn to avoid contaminating the ringed planet's potentially habitable moons, Titan and Enceladus.

    Cassini's fate is tied to the issue of planetary protection, which refers to the measures scientists and engineers take to minimize that chances that life-forms from Earth make it to other worlds. And with NASA's Mars 2020 rover planning to cache samples to one day return to Earth's labs, planetary protection also means making sure that our own world is safe from contamination by possible alien life.

    Planetary protection was the first item on the agenda at the Astrobiology Science Conference, which was held last week in Mesa, Arizona. Chemists, biologists, planetary scientists, astronomers and other researchers all vigorously discussed the issue at the meeting's first session on Monday morning (April 24). [5 Bold Claims of Alien Life] ...

    http://www.space.com/36708-planetar...ons.html?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social
     
  15. ramonmercado

    ramonmercado CyberPunk

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    The evolution of the hydrocarbon-rich surface on Saturn's largest moon, Titan, may have more in common with the history of Mars' dusty landscape than with Earth's dynamic geology, scientists said in the surfaces of Titan, Mars and Earth, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that Titan's topography (surface elevations) more resemble the Red Planet Hydrocarbon Rivers Flow in Titan's Deep Canyons | Video]

    http://www.space.com/36904-titan-ev..._medium=social&utm_campaign=2016twitterdlvrit
     
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