No End to Saturn’s Mysteries in Cassini’s Closing Days

It competence as good be a goal motto: “Saturn continues to warn us.”

That’s what Earl Maize, plan manager for a Cassini goal during Saturn, pronounced during a news discussion currently (Aug. 29). He was referring to a fact that a middle ring complement where a Cassini examine is spending some of a final weeks doesn’t have as most dirt as scientists anticipated, and is therefore not as oppressive on a spacecraft’s instruments. If a goal could final longer — if a examine weren’t using out of fuel, that is — Maize pronounced he’d adore to have Cassini try that segment longer.

This trend of anticipating startling or astonishing earthy characteristics — of Saturn and a moons — has characterized Cassini’s whole 13-year army in a Saturnian system, a scientists said, and continues to infer loyal in a probe’s really final weeks. On Sept. 15, Cassini will finish a “Grand Finale” set of maneuvers and pile-up into Saturn’s atmosphere, transmitting information behind to Earth right adult until a booster breaks apart. [Cassini’s ‘Grand Finale’ during Saturn: NASA’s Plan in Pictures]

On a stream trajectory, Cassini has also taken a first-ever in-situ samples of Saturn’s atmosphere, and Linda Spilker, a Cassini plan scientist, pronounced those early formula advise that a chemical and energetic interactions between particles from a planet’s rings and a planet’s tip atmosphere are “more formidable … than we had both anticipated.”

That’s good news, she said, since “scientists adore mysteries, and a Grand Finale is providing mysteries for everyone.”

A final total of some important numbers from Cassinis prolonged mission.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


Cassin began a “Grand Finale” in April, and a initial fruits of new scholarship from that screen call are already sprouting, NASA scientists pronounced during today’s news briefing. 

For a final few months, Cassini has been looping by Saturn’s middle ring complement and sampling a tip of a planet’s atmosphere, that is “like dipping a toe in Saturn’s atmosphere, in credentials for a final plunge,” Spilker pronounced during a news briefing.

From those initial tastes of Saturn’s atmosphere, Cassini scientists are already anticipating “incredible, intriguing information” about how a element from Saturn’s ring complement mixes with a tip layers of a planet’s atmosphere. On Sept. 15, a examine will thrust to inlet of adult to 9,300 miles (15,000 kilometers).

This video shows Cassinis final dual Grand Finale orbits, followed by a apart flyby of Titan that pushes a booster into Saturn (final half orbit, in orange).
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


“By carrying in-situ sampling of a atmosphere, we can directly magnitude things like a hydrogen-to-helium ratio,” Spilker said. Both Jupiter and Saturn include mostly of hydrogen and helium, though a ratios of these dual elements can assistance scientists learn about how and when those planets formed, as good as a inlet of a solar complement during that time.

“We can directly magnitude combination of … voters during a very, really low turn in a atmosphere — things that would be most harder to see from a stretch with remote intuiting and spectroscopy,” she said.

Spilker pronounced scientists also wish that Cassini’s thrust will assistance them know a inlet of Saturn’s captivating margin source, a mass of a rings, and a accurate length of a day (the time it takes a world to spin once on a axis).

Getting that information behind to Earth before Cassini is broken has compulsory a change in a probe’s simple data-transmission system, a scientists said. Typically, Cassini stores a information on a tough expostulate and transmits a information behind to Earth most later, though during a final plummet, Cassini will incorporate adult information from a world and broadcast it behind to Earth roughly immediately. That approach delivery will start about 3 hours before Cassini hits Saturn’s atmosphere.

“A 2- to 3-second latency is all we’re expecting,” Maize said. “So, we will have repurposed Cassini into an windy probe, and we will have it broadcasting information behind down to a really final minute.” [Photos: Saturn’s Glorious Rings Up Close]

On Sept. 13 and 14, Cassini will control what a NASA group is job a “last design show,” Maize said, when a probe’s camera will take a final images of a Saturn system. The examine won’t have a delivery bandwidth to send behind images during a 3-hour duration only before reaching Saturn’s atmosphere on Sept. 15.

Cassini plan scientist Linda Spilker done this gathering of formerly expelled views of a targets of Cassinis final images.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI


“These final images are kind of like holding a final demeanour around your residence or unit only before we pierce out,” Spilker said. “You travel around a downstairs; as we go upstairs, we run your fingers along a bannister; we demeanour during your aged room as memories opposite a years come flooding back.

“In a same way, Cassini is holding a final demeanour around [the] Saturn system, Cassini’s home for final 13 years,” she said. “And with those cinema come heartwarming memories.”

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