Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Los Alamos instrument yields new knowledge of Saturn’s rings

14.10.2004


University of California scientists working at Los Alamos National Laboratory have begun to analyze data from an instrument aboard the joint U.S.-European spacecraft Cassini. Although Cassini has only been orbiting the planet Saturn since July 1, data from the Cassini Plasma Spectrometer (CAPS) has already begun to provide new information about the curious nature of Saturn’s space environment.



CAPS had been detecting advance readings for several days before Cassini finally crossed the bow shock that exists in the solar wind ahead of the magnetosphere, a huge magnetic field bubble produced in the solar wind by Saturn’s strong magnetic field. On June 28, the spacecraft entered into the magnetosphere itself and began taking data. From this very preliminary set of measurements, it is apparent that the outer reaches of Saturn’s magnetosphere are probably populated by plasma captured from the solar wind, but closer to the planet the plasma comes primarily from the rings and/or the inner icy satellites.

According to Michelle Thomsen, the current Los Alamos CAPS project leader, "After many years of design, development and testing, and then the seven-year journey across the solar system, CAPS is finally doing the job it was built to do. We are quickly learning much, but I think we have only begun to understand what CAPS can teach us about Saturn and its space environment over the next few years."


CAPS consists of three separate analyzers designed to measure the electrically charged particles trapped within Saturn’s magnetosphere. Los Alamos played a major role in the design and construction of two of them: an ion mass spectrometer (IMS), which incorporates a novel design developed at Los Alamos to identify the different atomic species in Saturn’s magnetospheric plasma, and an ion beam spectrometer (IBS), which is based on a design used by Los Alamos scientists on several previous solar wind research missions.

During Cassini’s first brief pass over Saturn’s rings, CAPS identified a previously unknown low-energy plasma trapped on the magnetic field lines threading the Cassini Division, the name given to the gap between the main A and B rings. With the four-year mission just beginning, including more than 70 orbits of the planet, CAPS is poised to provide scientists with a new level of understanding about Saturn’s space environment, as well as clues about some of the space physics processes that operate more universally in the solar system.

The CAPS team involves scientists and engineers from 14 institutions and six countries, including Dave Young, the Principal CAPS Investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. At Los Alamos, the CAPS effort was made possible by the work of numerous members of International, Space and Response Division and its predecessor organizations. The IMS was designed by Los Alamos staff member Beth Nordholt and former staff member Dave McComas. In addition to Thomsen, current members of the team include Bruce Barraclough (lead investigator for the IBS), Dot Delapp, Jack Gosling, Dan Reisenfeld, John Steinberg, Bob Tokar and summer student Brian Fish.

Los Alamos National Laboratory is operated by the University of California for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) of the U.S. Department of Energy and works in partnership with NNSA’s Sandia and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories to support NNSA in its mission.

Los Alamos enhances global security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear deterrent, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to defense, energy, environment, infrastructure, health and national security concerns.

Todd Hanson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.lanl.gov

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht The moon is front and center during a total solar eclipse
24.07.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Superluminous supernova marks the death of a star at cosmic high noon
24.07.2017 | Royal Astronomical Society

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: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Ultrathin device harvests electricity from human motion

24.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Scientists announce the quest for high-index materials

24.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

ADIR Project: Lasers Recover Valuable Materials

24.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>