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 Junior scientists at the University of Rostock invent a funnel for light
27.03.2020 | Universität Rostock

nachricht Ultrafast and broadband perovskite photodetectors for large-dynamic-range imaging
23.03.2020 | Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences

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: Junior scientists at the University of Rostock invent a funnel for light

Together with their colleagues from the University of Würzburg, physicists from the group of Professor Alexander Szameit at the University of Rostock have devised a “funnel” for photons. Their discovery was recently published in the renowned journal Science and holds great promise for novel ultra-sensitive detectors as well as innovative applications in telecommunications and information processing.

The quantum-optical properties of light and its interaction with matter has fascinated the Rostock professor Alexander Szameit since College.

Im Focus: Stem Cells and Nerves Interact in Tissue Regeneration and Cancer Progression

Researchers at the University of Zurich show that different stem cell populations are innervated in distinct ways. Innervation may therefore be crucial for proper tissue regeneration. They also demonstrate that cancer stem cells likewise establish contacts with nerves. Targeting tumour innervation could thus lead to new cancer therapies.

Stem cells can generate a variety of specific tissues and are increasingly used for clinical applications such as the replacement of bone or cartilage....

Im Focus: Artificial solid fog material creates pleasant laser light

An international research team led by Kiel University develops an extremely porous material made of "white graphene" for new laser light applications

With a porosity of 99.99 %, it consists practically only of air, making it one of the lightest materials in the world: Aerobornitride is the name of the...

Im Focus: Cross-technology communication in the Internet of Things significantly simplified

Researchers at Graz University of Technology have developed a framework by which wireless devices with different radio technologies will be able to communicate directly with each other.

Whether networked vehicles that warn of traffic jams in real time, household appliances that can be operated remotely, "wearables" that monitor physical...

Im Focus: Peppered with gold

Research team presents novel transmitter for terahertz waves

Terahertz waves are becoming ever more important in science and technology. They enable us to unravel the properties of future materials, test the quality of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“4th Hybrid Materials and Structures 2020” takes place over the internet

26.03.2020 | Event News

Most significant international Learning Analytics conference will take place – fully online

23.03.2020 | Event News

MOC2020: Fraunhofer IOF organises international micro-optics conference in Jena

03.03.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

3D printer sensors could make breath tests for diabetes possible

27.03.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

TU Bergakademie Freiberg researches virus inhibitors from the sea

27.03.2020 | Life Sciences

The Venus flytrap effect: new study shows progress in immune proteins research

27.03.2020 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>