Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Preparing for the end of the Cassini Mission

SETI Institute researcher Matt Tiscareno will continue to be on the front lines as the famed Cassini spacecraft embarks on its final mission. NASA has announced that Tiscareno will be a Participating Scientist as Cassini prepares to take the best images of Saturn's rings ever made.

Since 2011, the Cassini Project has selected Participating Scientists to enhance the scientific return of the Cassini mission by broadening the community of researchers taking part in the analysis and interpretation of data. Tiscareno began working with the Cassini mission as a postdoc in 2004, and was first selected as a Participating Scientist in 2012. He is one of four such researchers selected this year by NASA.

Already among the most successful spacecraft missions in history – one whose discoveries have ranged from the geysers of Enceladus to the storms of Saturn, the seas of Titan, and enigmatic features in the rings – Cassini will spend its last year performing a "Grand Finale." It will repeatedly dive close to the rings and the planet for nearly a year, before finally plunging into Saturn in September 2017.

In addition to close-range measurements of Saturn's gravity and magnetic fields (both of which yield insights into the gas giant's interior structure), Cassini will directly sample the atmosphere and measure the mass of the rings. It will also make repeated passes very close to the rings – at distances only a few times the diameter of Earth. In such close proximity, Cassini can garner images with two to three times better resolution than those obtained during the main part of the mission.

No comments: