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Cassini mission discoveries

  1. Jan 4, 2005 #1


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    Just wanted to share some of the discoveries from the ongoing Cassini mission to Saturn (and in particular, Saturn's moon Titan)...

    source: "Cassini Targets Titan" by Richard Talcott, Astronomy magazine Feb 2005

    Radar imaged ~1% of the surface of Titan with a resolution ~ 300 m
    (1) possible indication of hydrocarbon lakes...although the expected bright “glints” were not seen as would be expected from a lake surface
    (2) relatively flat terrain (variations of up to 150 m)
    (3) no clear sign of impact craters (i.e., indicates a young surface/geologically active surface)
    (4) many bright streaks (surface features) that suggest wind effects (or it could be from migrating ice sheets or flowing liquid hydrocarbons)

    No strong magnetic field was detected for Titan (may still have a weak one).

    Sampled Titan's upper atmosphere and among the organic molecules detected, there was methane, benzene, & diacetylene.

    Based on N-15/N-14 ratios in the upper atmosphere, it looks like Titan has lost 3/4 of its atmosphere since its formation (makes the currently dense atmosphere even more amazing).

    Not many clouds detected on Titan (mainly one large cloud complex near the south pole). The clouds might not be made of methane, as was expected.

    Cassini discovered up to 6 additional small moons of Saturn.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 8, 2005 #2


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    Iapetus turns out to have a tall, narrow linear ridge running for a long way parallel to and near the equator. It's one of the stranger-looking features I have seen on a moon.
  4. Jan 9, 2005 #3
    I agree, an amazing feature, covered by many craters what indicates its old age. Iapetus seems to be a very mysterious moon.
  5. Jan 17, 2005 #4
  6. Jan 19, 2005 #5
    The Cassini spacecraft has also discovered dust streams moving away from Saturn. The dust streams come from the A ring, it seems. Similar dust streams were discovered before emanating from Jupiter, but there was not knowledge that they were also present in Saturn

    It is also interesting the speculation of some investigator that such streams could also exist in Earth

    I will wait impatiently till a more complete report of the discoveries in Titan will be presented the 21 January by the scientists of the mission
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2005
  7. Jan 21, 2005 #6
    Are those sounds of the descent of Huygen from its engines or is it air currents rushing past it?? (Weird... why would anyone be bothered with sounds anyway ... )

    I wonder if Huygen detects any trace of amino acid. There's probably carbon-based life on Titan. I recall reading about one experiment which involves flashing electrical currents through an enclosed area filled with methane gas, and amino acid was produced.
  8. Jan 21, 2005 #7


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    Huygens didn't have engines.

  9. Jan 22, 2005 #8
    Is it a refering to Sprites & Jets? http://elf.gi.alaska.edu/
  10. Jan 22, 2005 #9
    I don't think so. Notice that Blue Jets are electromagnetic radiation irradiated by accelerated electrons, so they don't have any relation with dust. Sprites are caused by ions and electrons, so no dust here neither. The phenomenon called elves that is due to the glowing of athmospheric gas, is unrelated too
  11. Jan 24, 2005 #10
    Well, blue jets seem related. Why not suppose dust particles getting charged and accelerated by electric fields in the area?

    "The dust particles are accelerated to speeds above 100 kilometres per second. This is because solar radiation causes some particles in the outer regions of the A ring to become positively charged. These are then accelerated outwards by electrical fields generated by the interaction of the charged particles and the planet's magnetic field."

    This is what caught my attention and reminded of blue jets. Of course, I'm more likely wrong than anything, but if there is dust in the area of blue jets, why not think it will get accelerated outwards and cause dust stream?
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