NASA Teleconference to Preview Historic Flyby of Icy Saturn Moon

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Dramatic jets of ice, H2O fog and organic compounds mist from a south stick of Saturn's moon Enceladus in this picture prisoner by NASA's Cassini booster in Nov 2009. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Dramatic jets of ice, H2O fog and organic compounds mist from a south stick of Saturn’s moon Enceladus in this picture prisoner by NASA’s Cassini booster in Nov 2009.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

NASA’s Cassini booster will representation an supernatural sea on Wednesday, Oct. 28, when it flies directly by a plume of icy mist entrance from Saturn’s moon Enceladus. The group will reason a news teleconference during 2 p.m. EDT on Monday, Oct. 26, to plead skeleton for and approaching scholarship formula from a ancestral flyby.

NASA's Cassini booster prisoner this perspective of Enceladus' active south frigid segment in Oct 2008. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

NASA’s Cassini booster prisoner this perspective of Enceladus’ active south frigid segment in Oct 2008.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The teleconference participants are:

  • Curt Niebur, Cassini module scientist during NASA Headquarters in Washington
  • Earl Maize, Cassini plan manager during NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California
  • Linda Spilker, Cassini plan scientist during JPL

To attend in a briefing, media contingency hit Laurie Cantillo during 202-358-1077 or laura.l.cantillo@nasa.gov no after than noon on Oct. 26. Questions also can be submitted during a lecture around amicable media regulating a hashtag #askNASA.

Audio of a eventuality will tide live on a NASA website, where visitors also can find concomitant visuals. Event audio also will tide live online, with visuals, on Ustream.

The booster will make a closest proceed to Enceladus during 11:22 a.m. Wednesday during an altitude of 30 miles (49 kilometers) above a moon’s south frigid region. The confront will be Cassini’s deepest-ever dive by a Enceladus plume, and is approaching to yield profitable information about activity in a tellurian sea stirring underneath a moon’s solidified surface.

Cassini scientists are carefree a flyby will yield insights into how most hydrothermal activity is occurring within Enceladus, and how this hot-water chemistry competence impact a ocean’s intensity habitability for elementary forms of life. If a spacecraft’s ion and neutral mass spectrometer instrument (INMS) detects molecular hydrogen as it travels by a plume, scientists might get a measurements they need to answers these questions.

“Confirmation of molecular hydrogen in a plume would be an eccentric line of justification that hydrothermal activity is holding place in a Enceladus ocean, on a seafloor,” pronounced Hunter Waite, INMS group lead during Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “The volume of hydrogen would exhibit how most hydrothermal activity is going on.”

Using Cassini’s vast dirt analyzer (CDA) instrument, scientists design a flyby will lead to a improved bargain of a chemistry of a plume. The low altitude of a confront is, in part, dictated to boost a spacecraft’s entrance to heavier, some-more large molecules — including organics — than a booster has celebrated during previous, aloft altitude passes by a plume. The CDA instrument, that is able of detecting adult to 10,000 particles per second from a plume, also is approaching to exhibit how most element a plume is spraying from a moon’s sea into a space around Saturn.

“There’s unequivocally no room for ambiguity,” pronounced Sascha Kempf, a CDA group co-investigator during a University of Colorado during Boulder. “The information will possibly compare what a models are revelation us about a rate during that a plume is producing material, or a judgment of how a plume works needs additional thought.”

Scientists also wish a flyby will assistance solve a poser of either a plume is comprised of column-like, particular jets, or sinuous, icy screen eruptions — or a multiple of both.

Given a critical astrobiology implications of these observations, a scientists counsel that it will be several months before they are prepared to benefaction their minute findings.

Cassini will acquire images of Enceladus both before and after a encounter. For a time of closest approach, a cameras’ fields of perspective will drag opposite a surface. These observations are approaching to constraint some of a highest-resolution views ever of a icy south frigid terrain, illuminated by reflected light from Saturn. Post-flyby estimate will be used to mislay blurring caused by a spacecraft’s transformation during exposure.

“Cassini truly has been a find appurtenance for some-more than a decade,” pronounced Curt Niebur, Cassini module scientist during NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This implausible thrust by a Enceladus plume is an extraordinary event for NASA and a general partners on a Cassini goal to ask, ‘Can an icy sea universe horde a mixture for life?’”

The final of Cassini’s 3 final tighten flybys of this icy moon, targeted during an altitude of 3,106 miles (4,999 kilometers) on Dec. 19, will inspect how most feverishness is entrance from a moon’s interior. The closest-ever Enceladus flyby took place in Oct 2008 during an altitude of 16 miles (25 kilometers). Cassini flew closer to a moon’s icy aspect during that encounter, though upheld by a plume during a most aloft altitude than it will during a Oct. 28 flyby.

The Cassini-Huygens goal is a mild plan of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and a Italian Space Agency. JPL manages a goal for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Source: NASA