Cassini radio signal from Saturn picked up after dive

Apr 27, 2017

By Jonathan Amos

The Cassini spacecraft is sending data back to Earth after diving in between Saturn’s rings and cloudtops.

The probe executed the daredevil manoeuvre on Wednesday – the first of 22 plunges planned over the next five months – while out of radio contact.

Nasa’s 70m-wide Deep Space Network (DSN) antenna at Goldstone, California, managed to re-establish communications at 06:56 GMT (07:56 BST) on Thursday.

The close-in dives are designed to gather ultra high-quality data.

At their best resolution, pictures of the rings should be able to pick out features as small as 150m across.

The Cassini imaging team has already started to post some raw, unprocessed shots on its website.

Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.

4 comments on “Cassini radio signal from Saturn picked up after dive

  • The OP link has some interesting images and diagrams, along with details of some experiments.

    @OP link – The US space agency (Nasa) is calling the gap-runs the “grand finale”, in part because of their ambition.
    They promise pictures of unparalleled resolution and science data that finally unlocks key puzzles about the make-up and history of this huge world.

    “We’re going to top off this mission with a lot of new measurements – some amazing new data,”
    said Athena Coustenis from the Paris Observatory in Meudon, France.

    “We’re expecting to get the composition, structure and dynamics of the atmosphere, and fantastic information about the rings,” she told the BBC.

    These final orbits before the probes fuel runs out, are risky.

    Saturn’s rings contain ice crystals dust and rocks which could damage or destroy the probe with an impacts at tens of thousands of MPH.
    It is out of contact with Earth during the high risk sections of the orbits, because it is flying with its large bowl dish transmitter pointing forwards (away from Earth) to give a measure of protection from small impacts, during those sections of the orbits.

    Cassini is flying through gaps in the rings on a succession of orbits, as the link explained on this earlier discussion: –

    Report abuse

  • It looks like there is less material and smaller particles in Saturn’s ring gaps, than was feared!

    The American space agency says the Cassini satellite encountered very few particles as it dived between Saturn and its rings last week.

    There were fears that the probe might hit fragments of ice or rock, and that these could cause significant damage.

    Cassini made the plunge with its radio dish pointing forward like a shield.

    But the latest analysis indicates there were hardly any impacts and those particles the probe did strike were only smoke-sized.

    “The region between the rings and Saturn is ‘the big empty,’ apparently,” commented Cassini project manager, Earl Maize, of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

    “Cassini will stay the course, while the scientists work on the mystery of why the dust level is much lower than expected.”

    The outcome is good news because four of the remaining gap-runs that Cassini will execute before terminating its mission in September will edge even closer to Saturn’s inner D-ring.

    These manoeuvres also are expected to see the probe lead with its antenna in the shield configuration.

    But last Wednesday’s experience means controllers can now approach these events with increased confidence.

    Cassini is booked to make a further 21 plunges through the 3,000km-wide opening between the planet’s cloudtops and the D-ring, with the next occurring at 19:38 GMT On Tuesday.

    The dives are designed to return data of unprecedented resolution on the structure and dynamics of Saturn’s interior.

    They should also allow the probe to weigh the rings, which will give scientists their best estimate yet for the age of these spectacular bands.

    Report abuse

  • So the high-risk terminal phase is working to provide more data -so far!

    Cassini skims Saturn’s atmosphere

    The Cassini probe has begun the final phase of its mission to Saturn.

    The satellite has executed the first of five ultra-close passes of the giant world, dipping down far enough to brush through the top of the atmosphere.

    It promises unprecedented data on the chemical composition of Saturn.

    It also sets the stage for the probe’s dramatic end-manoeuvre next month when it will plunge to destruction in the planet’s atmosphere.

    Cassini is currently flying a series of loops around Saturn that thread the gap between its atmosphere and its rings.

    Monday’s swing-by saw the spacecraft go closer than ever before to the cloud tops – skimming just 1,600km (1,000 miles) above them, at 04:22 GMT (05:22 BST) on Monday.

    This low pass was designed to allow the probe to directly sample the gases of the extended upper-atmosphere.

    Report abuse

Leave a Reply

View our comment policy.