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Thread: Cassini flies by Saturn's moon

  1. #1 Cassini flies by Saturn's moon 
    2112
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    http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/space/1...eut/index.html

    LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- NASA's Cassini orbiter had its closest encounter with Saturn's smog-shrouded moon, Titan, Tuesday, but scientists must wait to see their first glimpse of its icy surface.

    The historic flight past Titan occurred at 9:45 a.m. PDT Tuesday, but the spacecraft cannot collect and send data simultaneously. Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, must wait until 9:30 p.m. ET for the spacecraft to start transmitting its data from the moon's surface.

    Larger than the planets Pluto and Mercury, Titan is the only known moon with an atmosphere. It is believed to have oceans of liquid methane and ethane on its frozen surface and a nitrogen-rich atmosphere that may hold clues to how Earth's atmosphere evolved.

    The flyby of Titan was expected to go smoothly in space, but bad weather on Earth could affect Cassini's transmissions to the Deep Space Network, scientists said.

    Cassini has only one chance to send data back to Earth before it is overwritten with data from its next set of observations, scientists said.

    The orbiter is carrying 12 scientific instruments, including spectrometers, infrared cameras and radar designed to pierce the moon's dense atmosphere and "reveal a whole new world," Jet Propulsion Laboratory Director Charles Elachi said.

    The spacecraft is also carrying a European Space Agency probe called Huygens that will parachute to Titan's surface at year's end to collect data from the mysterious moon.

    Tuesday's flyby is one of 45 planned for Cassini's four-year mission to explore Saturn and its moons.
    I saw this on TV this morning. They said they would be gathering more photos of the moon tonight which will be shown tomorrow.


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  3. #2  
    Forum Isotope (In)Sanity's Avatar
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    I just love this stuff, the mars rovers caught my attention for a long time. I wish they would spend more money on space and less on other BS that doesn't do much for mankind.


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  4. #3  
    2112
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    I just love in focus high resolution pictures of anything in space. Sometimes it's so clear you feel like you could almost reach out and touch the surface of another planet.
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    Forum Sophomore DEChengst's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2112
    I just love in focus high resolution pictures of anything in space. Sometimes it's so clear you feel like you could almost reach out and touch the surface of another planet.
    You shouldn't expect clear pictures of Titan's surface any time soon. Titan has a thick smog filled atmosphere that hides the surface at visible wavelengths.

    The imaging subsystem has filters that can see the surface on some special wavelengths, but those pictures will only show albedo information.

    The VIMS instrument can also see through the smog and will give information about what the surface is made of.

    The radar instrument has several modes it can operate in and those will give us information about surface features, elevation and surface roughness.

    To get a picture as we would see if we would fly over the surface of Titan at a few kilometers altitude NASA will have to take stereo images, VIMS and radar data and combine them with a computer. This will take several flybys and a lot of time to collect and process the data.

    If all goes well on January the 14th the Huygens probe will descent through the atmosphere and snap some close up pictures of the surface in visible wavelengths. So in a few months time we should at least have some high resolution pictures of a very small part of Titan. My guess is that those pictures will also be used to correctly texture the computer generated images of the rest of Titan we'll see in a year or so.

    I would also like to note that pronouncing Huygens as hoy-guns or high-guns isn't right. This MP3 will teach you the correct way to pronounce Huygens:

    http://frank.harvard.edu/~paulh/misc...huygens_96.mp3

    The other guy they are talking about is Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, one of the earliest microbiologists.
    PDP, VAX and Alpha fanatic ; HP-Compaq is the Satan! ; Let us pray daily while facing Maynard! ; Life starts at 150 km/h ;
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  6. #5  
    2112
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    Quote Originally Posted by DEChengst
    Quote Originally Posted by 2112
    I just love in focus high resolution pictures of anything in space. Sometimes it's so clear you feel like you could almost reach out and touch the surface of another planet.
    You shouldn't expect clear pictures of Titan's surface any time soon. Titan has a thick smog filled atmosphere that hides the surface at visible wavelengths.
    This is what I hear on the news. That it's hard if not impossible to take clear pictures of this moon.

    New in the news:
    http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/space/1....ap/index.html

    Cassini finds evidence Titan may be geologically alive
    Thursday, October 28, 2004 Posted: 10:19 PM EDT (0219 GMT)

    PASADENA, California (AP) -- The Cassini spacecraft is sending back evidence that Saturn's planet-size moon Titan is geologically alive, possibly with liquids moving on its surface, scientists said Thursday.

    Images made from radar beams bounced off Titan during Cassini's close flyby this week revealed such surface details as a round basin, narrow miles-long linear "streaks," and a cat-shaped region of what could be the moon's theorized lakes of liquid methane and ethane.

    Scientists had been reluctant to draw conclusions about surface features from pictures taken through Titan's hazy atmosphere. But they sounded more confident after radar data arrived late Wednesday and was processed into images depicting terrain in shades of black and white.

    "We are seeing much higher resolution here ... and we are seeing detailed features," said Charles Elachi, JPL's director and team leader for Cassini's radar instrument, which imaged a swath of Titan about 75 miles wide and 1,240 miles long.

    Elachi said there was "high confidence" in the evidence of geologic activity, noting the long linear features as an example.

    The possible region of lakes was depicted as very dark, which in radar data is a characteristic of a signal bouncing off a very smooth surface like a liquid. The region was named "Si-Si the Cat," after a scientist's young daughter who noticed it resembled a "Halloween cat," Elachi said.

    Cassini reached Saturn this summer on a $3.3 billion international mission to study the planet's system for four years.

    Unlike the airless moons and space rocks that NASA can photograph with startling clarity, Titan, hundreds of millions of miles from Earth, has long stymied scientists because its surface is shrouded by a thick atmosphere of nitrogen and methane.

    That has forced scientists to create theories about the surface from observations of the hydrocarbon-laced atmosphere. Scientists believe seas or lakes of methane could form as organic compounds fall out of the atmosphere and collect on the surface.

    Imaging team member Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona presented information from optical pictures taken during Cassini's dash past Titan showing streaks in the atmosphere over the north polar region and east-to-west streaks on the surface.

    The surface streaks are believed to be from movement of material, and given their consistency over a large scale, wind is believed to be the primary cause, McEwen said.

    "What Cassini has shown us this week ... (is that) Titan is an extremely dynamic and active place, not simply in its atmosphere but on its surface as well," said Jonathan Lunine, an interdisciplinary scientist.
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