Skip to comments.Cassini Sees Saturn's Rough and Tumble Rings
Posted on 03/20/2010 7:07:43 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
The rings of Saturn are the most intricate planetary decorations in our solar system, but are also cosmic gems festooned with unknown red material and some tricky dynamic forces that shape them.
The Cassini probe has been studying the gas giant Saturn since its arrival at the gas giant in June 2004. Over that time, Cassini has studied not only Saturn's awe-inspiring rings, but also its atmosphere, moons and the magnetic shield that surrounds it.
The discoveries that Cassini has made in its six years of close Saturn inspection, as well as the many mysteries of the planet left to solve, are detailed by mission scientists in two papers in the March 19 issue of the journal Science.
Saturn's red rings
Viewed from Earth, Saturn's rings look like a flat, stable and pristine halo around the planet, but Cassini's observations showed that this was anything but the case.
With Cassini the rings "went from like a very beautiful cardboard cutout ... to a real 3D structure," said Jeff Cuzzi, Cassini's interdisciplinary scientist for rings and dust based at NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. And that 3D structure was "one that is also very fluid, very variable, you know, changing as we watch it," he added.
One aspect of the rings that Cassini has shed light on is their color and composition. Scientists had long known that around 90 percent of the material in the rings was water ice, but until Cassini, "it really wasn't that appreciated, I think, that how colored they are," Cuzzi told SPACE.com.
Water ice is, of course, white in color, but Saturn's rings when viewed by Cassini are red the hue caused by some unknown contaminant. ..
(Excerpt) Read more at space.com ...
This mosaic of the Saturn system, taken by Cassini,
glows with scattered light from tiny dust grains. The
sun is obscured by the planet in this unusual geometry.
My dad was on the Cassini team at Lockheed Martin. This is his favorite baby.
Anyone remember the hysteria the environuts suffered when Cassini swung around the sun and passed by the Earth on it’s way to Saturn? I heard these idiots actually say out loud that Cassini was going to reenter the atmosphere and kill all life on the planet.
It certainly killed all intelligent life in DC.
Great job by the Lockheed Martin team and your Dad!
6 years already.. wow..
lots of images over at the space.com photo gallery
The Rings and Moons of Saturn
A Tectonic Feast
The Cassini spacecraft has been studying Saturn and its moons since it entered orbit in 2004. These 15 snapshots were some of its most popular as Cassini began an extended mission that now stretches to 2017. .. NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Is that what happened to them???
He worked a lot of overtime on integrating the packages and so forth, but he really enjoyed it.
Tell your Dad “Thank You”!!
I remember the controversy over the launch of Cassini well; the far left was screaming about the risks if the plutonium power source reentered the atmosphere. It was always minimal at best, and it proved that some people will complain if you hang them with a new rope...
Frankly the science of Cassini has been worth whatever risk there may have been, and the pictures are just astounding!
People don’t widely know that Cassini was timed to get to Saturn at the time when the sun passed the plane of the orbit of the rings, which only happens every 75 years or so, and that has been one of the main reasons that Cassini has made so many startling discoveries.
Cassini is another amazing value for the money spent to design, build and launch that spacecraft, and our Country owes an enormous debt of gratitude to your Dad and everyone else at Lockheed Martin and NASA who continues to work this amazing spacecraft.
I asked my dad about the plutonium claims at that time. He said the way it was constructed, the bird would have to reenter the atmosphere at a perfect 90-degree angle to even scorch the outside of the container! I don’t recall the actual composition but it was like a couple inches of lead, then stainless steel, then ceramics, and on and on.
He’s a full engineer now, but in 1999 he was an electromechanical technician. Basically, he put all the pieces together on the frame of the satellite. IIRC, it took two years to build that one.
He has a wall full of flight patches, he’s worked on literally dozens of satellites, the first being the one that penetrated Venus’ atmosphere (sorry, can’t remember the name! Ugh!) He really loves it. And even now, though an engineer, you’re likely to find him crawling around a bird in the cleanroom rather than on the computer.
I’ll forward your thanks.
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IIRC, the environmentalists were exorcised about the fact that Cassini had a nuclear reactor on board, to keep it going in deep space. They were upset about the possibility of it blowing up when it launched, and contaminating the earth with all that nasty nuke stuff.
I didn’t hear a lot about the launch, but loads about the second pass, but that’s just me.
I remember thinking, when Daddy told me how the unit was constructed, that they really went with the overkill approach.