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FW: Cassini Provides New Views of Titan, Saturn's Largest Moon



More cool Saturn news.... K



>From: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory <info@jpl.nasa.gov>
>Reply-To: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory <info@jpl.nasa.gov>
>To: n4zq@hotmail.com
>Subject: Cassini Provides New Views of Titan, Saturn's Largest Moon
>Date: Sat, 3 Jul 2004 14:58:16 -0500
>
>MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
>JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
>CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
>NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
>PASADENA, CALIFORNIA 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
>http://jpl.convio.net/site/R?i=mVryeX1k179O-3BCLCXxIg..
>
>Carolina Martinez (818) 354-5011
>Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
>
>Donald Savage (202) 358-1727
>NASA Headquarters, Washington
>
>NEWS RELEASE: 2004-171		July 3, 2004
>
>CASSINI PROVIDES NEW VIEWS OF TITAN, SATURN'S LARGEST MOON
>
>The Cassini spacecraft has revealed surface details of Saturn's moon Titan 
>and imaged a huge cloud of gas surrounding the planet-sized moon.
>
>Cassini gathered data before and during a distant flyby of the orange moon 
>yesterday. Titan's dense atmosphere is opaque at most wavelengths, but the 
>spacecraft captured some surface details, including a possible crater, 
>through wavelengths in which the atmosphere is clear.
>
>"Although the initial images appear bland and hard to interpret, we're 
>happy to report that, with a combination of instruments, we have indeed 
>seen Titan's surface with unprecedented clarity. We also look forward to 
>future, much closer flybys and use of radar for much greater levels of 
>surface detail," said Dr. Dennis Matson of NASA's Jet Propulsion 
>Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., project scientist for the international 
>Cassini-Huygens mission.
>
>Cassini's visible and infrared mapping spectrometer pierced the smog that 
>enshrouds Titan. This instrument, capable of mapping mineral and chemical 
>features of the moon, reveals an exotic surface bearing a variety of 
>materials in the south and a circular feature that may be a crater in the 
>north.  Near-infrared colors, some three times redder than the human eye 
>can see, reveal the surface with unusual clarity.
>
>"At some wavelengths, we see dark regions of relatively pure water ice and 
>brighter regions with a much higher amount of non-ice materials, such as 
>simple hydrocarbons. This is different from what we expected. It's 
>preliminary, but it may change the way we interpret light and dark areas on 
>Titan," said JPL's Dr. Kevin Baines, Cassini science-team member. "A 
>methane cloud is visible near the south pole. It's made of unusually large 
>particles compared to the typical haze particles surrounding the moon, 
>suggesting a dynamically active atmosphere there."
>
>This is the first time scientists are able to map the mineralogy of Titan. 
>Using hundreds of wavelengths, many of which have never been used in Titan 
>imaging before, they are creating a global map showing distributions of 
>hydrocarbon-rich regions and areas of icy material.
>
>Cassini's camera also sees through the haze in some wavelengths. "We're 
>seeing a totally alien surface," said Dr. Elizabeth Turtle of the 
>University of Arizona, Tucson. "There are linear features, circular 
>features, curvilinear features. These suggest geologic activity on Titan, 
>but we really don't know how to interpret them yet. We've got some exciting 
>work cut out for us."
>
>Since entering orbit, Cassini has also provided the first view of a vast 
>swarm of hydrogen molecules surrounding Titan well beyond the top of 
>Titan's atmosphere. Cassini's magnetospheric imaging instrument, first of 
>its kind on any interplanetary mission, provided images of the huge cloud 
>sweeping along with Titan in orbit around Saturn. The cloud is so big that 
>Saturn and its rings would fit within it. "The top of Titan's atmosphere is 
>being bombarded by highly energetic particles in Saturn's radiation belts, 
>and that is knocking away this neutral gas," said Dr. Stamatios Krimigis of 
>Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md., principal 
>investigator for the magnetospheric imager. "In effect, Titan is gradually 
>losing material from the top of its atmosphere, and that material is being 
>dragged around Saturn."
>
>The study of Titan, Saturn's largest moon, is one of the major goals of the 
>Cassini-Huygens mission. Titan may preserve in deep-freeze many chemical 
>compounds that preceded life on Earth. Friday's flyby at a closest distance 
>of 339,000 kilometers (210,600 miles) provided Cassini's best look at Titan 
>so far, but over the next four years, the orbiter will execute 45 Titan 
>flybys as close as approximately 950 kilometers (590 miles). This will 
>permit high-resolution mapping of the moon's surface with an imaging radar 
>instrument, which can see through the opaque haze of Titan's upper 
>atmosphere. In January 2005, the Huygens probe that is now attached to 
>Cassini will descend through Titan's atmosphere to the surface.
>
>During the ring plane crossing, the radio and plasma wave science 
>instrument on Cassini measured little puffs of plasma produced by dust 
>impacts. While crossing the plane of Saturn's rings, the instrument 
>detected up to 680 dust hits per second. "The particles are comparable in 
>size to particles in cigarette smoke," said Dr. Don Gurnett of the 
>University of Iowa, Iowa City, principal investigator for the instrument. 
>"When we crossed the ring plane, we had roughly 100,000 total dust hits to 
>the spacecraft in less than five minutes. We converted these into audible 
>sounds that resemble hail hitting a tin roof."
>
>The spacecraft reported no unusual activity due to the hits and performed 
>flawlessly, successfully going into orbit around Saturn on June 30. The 
>engine burn for entering orbit went so well that mission managers have 
>decided to forgo an orbital-adjustment maneuver scheduled for today.
>
>The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European 
>Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a 
>division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the 
>Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, 
>D.C.  JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter.
>
>For the latest images and more information about the Cassini-Huygens 
>mission, visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and http://www.nasa.gov/cassini .
>
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