[meteorite-list] Fresh Cassini Pictures Show Majesty of Saturn's Rings

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu Jul 1 17:31:28 2004
Message-ID: <200407012100.OAA09431_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>

Carolina Martinez (818) 354-9382
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Donald Savage (202) 358-1727
NASA Headquarters, Washington

News Release: 2004-169 July 1, 2004

Fresh Cassini Pictures Show Majesty of Saturn's Rings

The first pictures taken by the Cassini spacecraft after it began
orbiting Saturn show breathtaking detail of Saturn's rings, and
other science measurements reveal that Saturn's magnetic field
pulsed in size as Cassini approached the planet.

"For years, we've dreamed about getting pictures like this. After
all the planning, waiting and worrying, just seeing these first
images makes it all worthwhile," said Dr. Charles Elachi, Cassini
radar team leader and director of NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "We're eager to share these new
views and the exciting discoveries ahead with people around the

The narrow angle camera on Cassini took 61 images soon after the
main engine burn that put Cassini into orbit on Wednesday night.
The spacecraft was hurtling at 15 kilometers per second (about
34,000 miles per hour), so only pieces of the rings were

"We won't see the whole puzzle, only pieces, but what we are
seeing is dramatic," said Dr. Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team
leader, Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo. "The images are
mind-boggling, just mind-boggling. I've been working on this
mission for 14 years and I shouldn't be surprised, but it is
remarkable how startling it is to see these images for the first

Some images show patterned density waves in the rings, resembling
stripes of varying width. Another shows a ring's scalloped edge.
"We do not see individual particles but a collection of
particles, like a traffic jam on a highway," Porco said. "We see
a bunch of particles together, then it clears up, then there's
traffic again."

Other instruments on Cassini besides the camera have also been
busy collecting data. The magnetospheric imaging instrument took
the first image of Saturn's magnetosphere. "With Voyager we
inferred what it looked like, in the same way that a blind man
feels an elephant. Now we can see the elephant," said Dr. Tom
Krimigis of Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel,
Md., principal investigator for the magnetospheric imaging
instrument. The magnetosphere is a bubble of energetic particles
around the planet shaped by Saturn's magnetic field and
surrounded by the solar wind of particles speeding outward from
the Sun.

"During approach to Saturn, Cassini was greeted at the gate,"
said Dr. Bill Kurth, deputy principal investigator for the radio
and plasma wave science instrument onboard Cassini. "The bow
shock where the solar wind piles into the planet's magnetosphere
was encountered earlier than expected. It was as if Saturn's
county line had been redrawn, and that was a surprise." Cassini
first crossed the bow shock about 3 million kilometers (1.9
million miles) from Saturn, which is about 50 percent farther
from the planet than had been detected by the Pioneer, Voyager 1
and Voyager 2 spacecraft that flew past Saturn in 1979, 1980 and

The location of the bow shock varies with how hard the solar wind
is blowing, Kurth said. As the magnetosphere repeatedly expanded
and contracted while Cassini was approaching Saturn, the
spacecraft crossed the bow shock seven times.

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://www.nasa.gov/cassini .

Received on Thu 01 Jul 2004 04:59:56 PM PDT

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