Cassini Mission Update

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Cassini Mission Update

Cassini Mission Update

Mission Pages

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/main/index.html

                                     

NASA Cassini Images May Reveal Birth of New Saturn Moon

Saturn's rings
The disturbance visible at the outer edge of Saturn's A ring in this image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft could be caused by an object replaying the birth process of icy moons.
Image Credit: 
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has documented the formation of a small icy object within the rings of Saturn that may be a new moon, and may also provide clues to the formation of the planet's known moons.

 

Images taken with Cassini's narrow angle camera on April 15, 2013 show disturbances at the very edge of Saturn's A ring -- the outermost of the planet's large, bright rings. One of these disturbances is an arc about 20 percent brighter than its surroundings, 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) long and 6 miles (10 kilometers) wide. Scientists also found unusual protuberances in the usually smooth profile at the ring's edge. Scientists believe the arc and protuberances are caused by the gravitational effects of a nearby object. Details of the observations were published online today (April 14, 2014) by the journal Icarus.  

http://www.nasa.gov/press/2014/april/nasa-cassini-images-may-reveal-birth-of-new-saturn-moon/

  Multimedia Gallery

Artistic view of the Cassini spaceraft surrounded by images it has provided.
The Saturn System: A Feast for the Eyes
In its five-year tour of the Saturn system, Cassini has sent home a bounty of fruitful images showing delectable scenes that fill the mind with wonder and awe.

Cassini image poll
NASA's Cassini: Image Poll -- Best of 2008
Join us as Saturn approaches equinox, and help us decide which of the Cassini spacecraft's many spectacular views from the last year stands out the most. The most popular photo will be announced in late February 2009.

jets on Enceladus
Blog With Cassini to Enceladus
Follow along as Cassini team members update our blog about the flyby of Saturn's moon Enceladus, which occurs on Wednesday, Mar. 12. Add your comments.
 Go to October 2008 flyby blog  →
› Go to August 2008 flyby blog  →
› Go to March 2008 flyby blog  →

A new study tracks the "rain" of charged water particles into the atmosphere of Saturn and finds there is more of it and it falls across larger areas of the planet than previously thought. The study, whose observations were funded by NASA and whose analysis was led by the University of Leicester, England, reveals that the rain influences the composition and temperature structure of parts of Saturn's upper atmosphere. The paper appears in this week's issue of the journal Nature.  

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/main/index.html

Cassini Sheds Light on Cosmic Particle Accelerators

During a chance encounter with what appears to be an unusually strong blast of solar wind at Saturn, NASA's Cassini spacecraft detected particles being accelerated to ultra-high energies. This is similar to the acceleration that takes place around distant supernovas.

Since we can't travel out to the far-off stellar explosions right now, the shockwave that forms from the flow of solar wind around Saturn's magnetic field provides a rare laboratory for scientists with the Cassini mission -- a partnership involving NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency -- to observe this phenomenon up-close. The findings, published this week in the journal Nature Physics, confirm that certain kinds of shocks can become considerably more effective electron accelerators than previously thought.

According to the new paper, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Titan's trademark reddish-brown smog appears to begin with solar radiation on molecules of nitrogen and methane in the ionosphere, which creates a soup of negative and positive ions. Collisions among the organic molecules and the ions help the molecules grow into bigger and more complex aerosols. Lower down in the atmosphere, these aerosols bump into each other and coagulate, and at the same time interact with other, neutral particles. Eventually, they form the heart of the physical processes that rain hydrocarbons on Titan's surface and form lakes, channels and dunes.

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/main/index.html

Call it a Saturnian version of the Ouroboros, the mythical serpent that bites its own tail. In a new paper that provides the most detail yet about the life and death of a monstrous thunder-and-lightning storm on Saturn, scientists from NASA's Cassini mission describe how the massive storm churned around the planet until it encountered its own tail and sputtered out. It is the first time scientists have observed a storm consume itself in this way anywhere in the solar system.

"This Saturn storm behaved like a terrestrial hurricane - but with a twist unique to Saturn," said Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini imaging team member based at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, who is a co-author on the new paper in the journal Icarus. "Even the giant storms at Jupiter don't consume themselves like this, which goes to show that nature can play many awe-inspiring variations on a theme and surprise us again and again."

With input from more than 2,000 members of the public, team members on NASA's Cassini mission to Saturn have chosen a name for the final phase of the mission: the Cassini Grand Finale.

 

Starting in late 2016, the Cassini spacecraft will begin a daring set of orbits that is, in some ways, like a whole new mission. The spacecraft will repeatedly climb high above Saturn's north pole, flying just outside its narrow F ring. Cassini will probe the water-rich plume of the active geysers on the planet's intriguing moon Enceladus, and then will hop the rings and dive between the planet and innermost ring 22 times.

Because the spacecraft will be in close proximity to Saturn, the team had been calling this phase "the proximal orbits," but they felt the public could help decide on a more exciting moniker. In early April, the Cassini mission invited the public to vote on a list of alternative names provided by team members or to suggest ideas of their own.

"We chose a name for this mission phase that would reflect the exciting journey ahead while acknowledging that it's a big finish for what has been a truly great show," said Earl Maize, Cassini project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
For more information about the name contest, visit:

http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/name

For a visualization of the Grand Finale, visit:

http://eyes.nasa.gov and click on "Cassini's Tour"

Preston Dyches
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-354-7013
preston.dyches@jpl.nasa.gov

Vortex and Rings

The Cassini spacecraft captures three magnificent sights at once: Saturn's north polar vortex and hexagon along with its expansive rings.

The hexagon, which is wider than two Earths, owes its appearance to the jet stream that forms its perimeter. The jet stream forms a six-lobed, stationary wave which wraps around the north polar regions at a latitude of roughly 77 degrees North.

This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 37 degrees above the ringplane. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on April 2, 2014 using a spectral filter which preferentially admits wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 752 nanometers.

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 1.4 million miles (2.2 million kilometers) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 43 degrees. Image scale is 81 miles (131 kilometers) per pixel.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov . The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org .

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Above:

Highlighting Plumes
At least four distinct plumes of water ice spew out from the south polar region of Saturn's moon Enceladus
in this dramatically illuminated image. Light reflected off Saturn is illuminating the surface of the moon
while the sun, almost directly behind Enceladus, is backlighting the plumes. See PIA11688 to learn more
about Enceladus and its plumes. This view looks toward the Saturn-facing side of Enceladus
(504 kilometers, or 313 miles across). North is up. The image was taken in visible light with the
Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Dec. 25, 2009. The view was obtained at a distance of
approximately 617,000 kilometers (383,000 miles) from Enceladus and at a Sun-Enceladus-spacecraft,
or phase, angle of 174 degrees. Image The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA,
the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of
the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission
Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed
and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.
For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit
http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/. T
he Cassini imaging team homepage is at
http://ciclops.org.

NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Above:

Gored of the Rings

Prometheus is caught in the act of creating gores and streamers in the F ring. Scientists believe that Prometheus and its partner-moon Pandora are responsible for much of the structure in the F ring.

The orbit of Prometheus (53 miles, or 86 kilometers across) regularly brings it into the F ring. When this happens, it creates gores, or channels, in the ring where it entered.  Prometheus then draws ring material with it as it exits the ring, leaving streamers in its wake.  This process creates the pattern of structures seen in this image. This process is described in detail, along with a movie of Prometheus creating one of the streamer/channel features, in PIA08397.

This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 8.6 degrees  above the ringplane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Feb. 11, 2014.

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 1.3 million miles (2.1 million kilometers) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 147 degrees. Image scale is 8 miles (13 kilometers) per pixel.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov . The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org .

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Me and My Shadow

Saturn's rings cast shadows on the planet, but the shadows appear to be inside out! The edge of Saturn's outermost A ring can be seen at the top left corner of the image.  Moving towards the bottom of the page, one can see the faint Cassini Division, the opaque B ring and the innermost C ring, which contains several ringlets that appear dark against Saturn in this geometry.  The bottom half of the image features the shadows of these rings in reverse order superposed against the disk of the planet: the C ring, the B ring, the Cassini Division and the inner half of the A ring.

This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 28 degrees below the ringplane. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Dec. 2, 2013, using a spectral filter which preferentially admits wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 752 nanometers.

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 750,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 57 degrees. Image scale is 45 miles (72 kilometers) per pixel.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission, visit http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov. The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

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