Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Cassini Flyby of Saturn Moon Offers Insight Into Solar System History

08.10.2008
NASA's Cassini spacecraft is scheduled to fly within 16 miles of Saturn's moon Enceladus on Oct. 9 and measure molecules in its space environment that could give insight into the history of the solar system.

"This encounter will potentially have far-reaching implications for understanding how the solar system was formed and how it evolved," said professor Tamas Gombosi, chair of the University of Michigan Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences.

Gombosi is the interdisciplinary scientist for magnetosphere and plasma science on the Cassini mission. His role is to coordinate studies that involve multiple plasma instruments on the spacecraft.

Enceladus is Saturn's sixth-largest moon, orbiting within the planet's outermost ring. It is approximately 313 miles in diameter.

In this flyby, Cassini will be close enough to Enceladus to identify individual molecules in the moon's space environment, including ions and isotopes. An ion is a charged particle, or a version of an element that has lost or gained negatively charged electrons. An isotope is a version of an element that has in its nucleus the typical protons for that element, but a different number of neutrons, thus exhibiting a different atomic weight.

The atoms around Enceladus are expected to hold clues to the past because they come from interior regions that have changed little since the moon was formed. Geysers near the moon's south pole spew water and other molecules from the satellite's interior. Because of Enceladus' weak gravity and low atmospheric pressure, the water and gas molecules waft off to space.

The encounter will contribute to scientists' understanding of how particles become charged and energized in Saturn's magnetosphere. Also, when Cassini identifies the different isotopes in the space around the moon, it will help scientists discern the temperatures at various stages in Enceladus' formation eons ago.

Cassini discovered the geysers on Enceladus in 2005. Scientists believe that there could be a liquid ocean beneath the moon's surface. They also detected organic molecules at the moon in March. Organic molecules have carbon-hydrogen bonds, and are found in living organisms, and in comets.

"The mission as a whole is expected to bring central pieces of the solar system evolution puzzle into place," Gombosi said. "This encounter is expected to provide some of those puzzle pieces."

This will be Cassini's fifth encounter with Enceladus. A sixth encounter, during which it will approach within 122 miles of the moon, is scheduled for Oct. 31. Four more flybys are planned in the next two years of Cassini's extended mission, the Cassini Equinox Mission.

The Cassini-Huygens spacecraft was launched in 1997 and reached Saturn to study the planet and its moons in 2004. It is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), 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 was designed, developed and assembled at JPL.

Gombosi is also the Rollin M. Gerstacker Professor of Engineering, and a professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering.

For more information:

Tamas Gombosi: http://www.ns.umich.edu/htdocs/public/experts/ExpDisplay.php?ExpID=302

Cassini mission: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.cfm

Michigan Engineering:
The University of Michigan College of Engineering is ranked among the top engineering schools in the country. At more than $130 million annually, its engineering research budget is one of largest of any public university. Michigan Engineering is home to 11 academic departments and a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center. The college plays a leading role in the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute and hosts the world class Lurie Nanofabrication Facility. Michigan Engineering's premier scholarship, international scale and multidisciplinary scope combine to create The Michigan Difference.

Nicole Casal Moore | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.engin.umich.edu
http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.cfm
http://www.ns.umich.edu/htdocs/public/experts/ExpDisplay.php?ExpID=302

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Enhancing the quantum sensing capabilities of diamond
23.11.2017 | The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

nachricht Quantum optics allows us to abandon expensive lasers in spectroscopy
22.11.2017 | Lomonosov Moscow State University

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Frictional Heat Powers Hydrothermal Activity on Enceladus

Computer simulation shows how the icy moon heats water in a porous rock core

Heat from the friction of rocks caused by tidal forces could be the “engine” for the hydrothermal activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus. This presupposes that...

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Underwater acoustic localization of marine mammals and vehicles

23.11.2017 | Information Technology

Enhancing the quantum sensing capabilities of diamond

23.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Meadows beat out shrubs when it comes to storing carbon

23.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>