Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

University of Chicago instrument ready to begin four-year study of Saturn’s rings

17.06.2004


After a quiet, six-and-a-half-year, 2.2-billion-mile journey to Saturn aboard NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, the University of Chicago’s dust detector will soon begin its attempt to help unravel the mystery of the planet’s legendary rings one tiny particle at a time.



Cassini will become the first spacecraft ever to enter Saturn’s orbit at precisely 9:30 p.m. CDT June 30. NASA launched Cassini in October 1997. The University’s instrument, called the High Rate Detector, has quietly recorded sporadic dust impacts in interplanetary space during the mission. "We have seen some impacts, but only a few, maybe one a month. That’s about all you’d expect," said Anthony Tuzzolino, a Senior Scientist at the University of Chicago’s Enrico Fermi Institute.

But that could change on June 30, after Cassini passes through a gap between two of Saturn’s rings. The rings consist of billions of objects ranging in size from microscopic particles to car-sized boulders locked into orbit around the planet.


"The project chose a virtually void section to pass through the ring system so we didn’t get clobbered," Tuzzolino said. "After ring-plane crossing, then we start the measurements of the trapped dust in Saturn’s system."

The $3 billion Cassini-Huygens mission is the most complex that has ever flown, involving 260 scientists from the United States and 17 European nations. Cassini and its Huygens probe are equipped with a total of 18 instruments. Cassini will release Huygens for a descent to the surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, in December.

During the next four years, Cassini will orbit Saturn 76 times along different orbital planes and execute 52 close encounters with the planet’s 31 known moons. The University of Chicago detector will collect data the entire time as a component of a larger instrument, the German Cosmic Dust Analyzer. Together the two instruments will study the physical, chemical and dynamical properties of trapped Saturnian dust and its interactions with the planet’s rings, icy moons and magnetosphere.

The High Rate Detector instrument, which was built by Tuzzolino and tested with help from Thanasis Economou, Senior Scientist in the Enrico Fermi Institute, will measure particles ranging in size from twice the diameter of a human hair to particles 100 times smaller. The German instrument will measure even smaller particles.

The University of Chicago instrument is capable of detecting 100,000 particles per second as they collide with two small detectors mounted on the larger German instrument. "I wanted that capability, and it’s paid off many times," said Tuzzolino, who has contributed his expertise to dozens of NASA missions during the last four decades.

Last January, an instrument similar to the Cassini detector flew aboard the Stardust spacecraft during its encounter with Comet Wild 2. "On Stardust we had 2,000 counts in less than one second," Tuzzolino said. "You must have a high counting rate capability to make these kind of measurements."

And from 1999 to 2002, another Chicago dust detector flew aboard an Air Force satellite to study orbital debris. During that mission, the instrument detected a cloud of tiny debris particles that was scattered into space when the upper stage of a Chinese rocket unexpectedly exploded in orbit in 2000. The detection marked the first time that scientists had been able to link ultra-small particles to the break-up of a particular satellite.

Tuzzolino looks forward to more unexpected results from Saturn and its moons. "There’s a lot for us to learn," he said.

Steve Koppes | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www-news.uchicago.edu/

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Major discovery in controlling quantum states of single atoms
20.02.2018 | Institute for Basic Science

nachricht Observing and controlling ultrafast processes with attosecond resolution
20.02.2018 | Technische Universität München

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: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

'Lipid asymmetry' plays key role in activating immune cells

20.02.2018 | Life Sciences

MRI technique differentiates benign breast lesions from malignancies

20.02.2018 | Medical Engineering

Major discovery in controlling quantum states of single atoms

20.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>