Seven Key Facts About Cassini’s Oct. 28 ‘Plume Dive’

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This adventurous flyby will move a Cassini booster within 30 miles (48 kilometers) of Enceladus' south pole. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This adventurous flyby will move a Cassini booster within 30 miles (48 kilometers) of Enceladus’ south pole. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Cassini booster will representation a sea of Saturn’s moon Enceladus on Wednesday, Oct. 28, when it flies by a moon’s plume of icy spray.

Cassini launched in 1997 and entered circuit around Saturn in 2004. Since then, it has been study a outrageous planet, a rings and a captivating field. Here are some things to know about a mission’s arriving tighten flyby of Enceladus:

— Enceladus is an icy moon of Saturn. Early in a mission, Cassini detected Enceladus has conspicuous geologic activity, including a soaring plume of ice, H2O fog and organic molecules spraying from a south frigid region. Cassini after dynamic a moon has a tellurian sea and expected hydrothermal activity, definition it could have a mixture indispensable to support elementary life.

— The flyby will be Cassini’s deepest-ever dive by a Enceladus plume, that is suspicion to come from a sea below. The booster has flown closer to a aspect of Enceladus before, though never this low directly by a active plume.

— The flyby is not dictated to detect life, though it will yield absolute new insights about how habitable a sea sourroundings is within Enceladus.

— Cassini scientists are carefree a flyby will yield insights about how most hydrothermal activity — that is, chemistry involving stone and prohibited H2O — is occurring within Enceladus. This activity could have vicious implications for a intensity habitability of a sea for elementary forms of life. The vicious dimensions for these questions is a showing of molecular hydrogen by a spacecraft.

— Scientists also design to improved know a chemistry of a plume as a outcome of a flyby. The low altitude of a confront is, in part, dictated to means Cassini larger attraction to heavier, some-more large molecules, including organics, than a booster has celebrated during previous, higher-altitude passes by a plume.

— The flyby will assistance solve a poser of either a plume is stoical of column-like, particular jets, or sinuous, icy screen eruptions — or a multiple of both. The answer would make clearer how element is removing to a aspect from a sea below.

— Researchers are not certain how most icy element a plumes are indeed spraying into space. The volume of activity has vital implications for how prolonged Enceladus competence have been active.

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: JPL