by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (JPL) Mar 28, 2012
NASA's Cassini spacecraft is preparing to make its lowest pass yet over the south polar region of Saturn's moon Enceladus, where icy particles and water vapor spray out in glittering jets. The closest approach, at an altitude of about 46 miles (74 kilometers), will occur around 11:30 a.m. PDT (2:30 p.m. EDT) on March 27.
This flyby is primarily designed for Cassini's ion and neutral mass spectrometer, which will attempt to "taste" particles from the jets. Scientists using this spectrometer will utilize the data to learn more about the composition, density and variability of the plume.
The Cassini plasma spectrometer, which team members worked to return to service so it could gather high-priority measurements during this flyby, will also be analyzing Saturn's magnetic and plasma environment near Enceladus and sampling the plume material near closest approach.
In addition, the composite infrared spectrometer will also be looking for hot spots on Enceladus, and the imaging cameras will be snapping pictures.
A flyby in October 2015 will bring Cassini about 16 miles (25 kilometers) closer to the Enceladus surface near the south pole. Cassini's closest approach to any part of Enceladus occurred on Oct. 9, 2008, when it flew within about 16 miles (25 kilometers) of the surface at the equator.
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Cassini Sees Saturn Stressing out Enceladus
Pasakdena CA (JPL) Mar 21, 2012
Images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft have, for the first time, enabled scientists to correlate the spraying of jets of water vapor from fissures on Saturn's moon Enceladus with the way Saturn's gravity stretches and stresses the fissures. The result was among various Cassini findings presented at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference at The Woodlands, Texas. "This new work gives scie ... read more
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