Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
  Saturn News  




Subscribe to our free daily newsletters



SATURN DAILY
Cassini Makes First Ring-Grazing Plunge
by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (JPL) Dec 06, 2016


This graphic shows the closest approaches of Cassini's final two orbital phases. Ring-grazing orbits are shown in gray (at left); Grand Finale orbits are shown in blue. The orange line shows the spacecraft's Sept. 2017 final plunge into Saturn. Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.

NASA's Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft has made its first close dive past the outer edges of Saturn's rings since beginning its penultimate mission phase on Nov. 30. Cassini crossed through the plane of Saturn's rings on Dec. 4 at 5:09 a.m. PST (8:09 a.m. EST) at a distance of approximately 57,000 miles (91,000 kilometers) above Saturn's cloud tops. This is the approximate location of a faint, dusty ring produced by the planet's small moons Janus and Epimetheus, and just 6,800 miles (11,000 kilometers) from the center of Saturn's F ring.

About an hour prior to the ring-plane crossing, the spacecraft performed a short burn of its main engine that lasted about six seconds. About 30 minutes later, as it approached the ring plane, Cassini closed its canopy-like engine cover as a protective measure.

"With this small adjustment to the spacecraft's trajectory, we're in excellent shape to make the most of this new phase of the mission," said Earl Maize, Cassini project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. A few hours after the ring-plane crossing, Cassini began a complete scan across the rings with its radio science experiment to study their structure in great detail.

"It's taken years of planning, but now that we're finally here, the whole Cassini team is excited to begin studying the data that come from these ring-grazing orbits," said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at JPL. "This is a remarkable time in what's already been a thrilling journey."

Cassini's imaging cameras obtained views of Saturn about two days before crossing through the ring plane, but not near the time of closest approach. The focus of this first close pass was the engine maneuver and observations by Cassini's other science instruments. Future dives past the rings will feature some of the mission's best views of the outer regions of the rings and small, nearby moons.

Each of Cassini's orbits for the remainder of the mission will last one week. The next pass by the rings' outer edges is planned for Dec. 11. The ring-grazing orbits - 20 in all - will continue until April 22, when the last close flyby of Saturn's moon Titan will reshape Cassini's flight path. With that encounter, Cassini will leap over the rings, making the first of 22 plunges through the 1,500-mile-wide (2,400-kilometer) gap between Saturn and its innermost ring on April 26.

On Sept. 15, the mission will conclude with a final plunge into Saturn's atmosphere. During the plunge, Cassini will transmit data on the atmosphere's composition until its signal is lost.

Launched in 1997, Cassini has been touring the Saturn system since arriving there in 2004 for an up-close study of the planet, its rings and moons. During its journey, Cassini has made numerous dramatic discoveries, including a global ocean with indications of hydrothermal activity within the moon Enceladus, and liquid methane seas on another moon, Titan.

For details about Cassini's ring-grazing orbits, visit here.


Comment on this article using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.


Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only

.


Related Links
Saturn at JPL
Explore The Ring World of Saturn and her moons
Jupiter and its Moons
The million outer planets of a star called Sol
News Flash at Mercury






Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
SATURN DAILY
NASA Saturn Mission Prepares for 'Ring-Grazing Orbits'
Pasadena CA (JPL) Nov 25, 2016
A thrilling ride is about to begin for NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Engineers have been pumping up the spacecraft's orbit around Saturn this year to increase its tilt with respect to the planet's equator and rings. And on Nov. 30, following a gravitational nudge from Saturn's moon Titan, Cassini will enter the first phase of the mission's dramatic endgame. Launched in 1997, Cassini has been ... read more


SATURN DAILY
Swiss firm acquires Mars One private project

Europe okays 1.4 bn euros for Mars rover, ISS

Climate cycles may explain how running water carved Mars' surface features

NASA Radio on Europe's New Mars Orbiter Aces Relay Test

SATURN DAILY
Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin stable after South Pole health scare

Russian Space Agency Confirms Plans to Implement Lunar Sample-Return Mission

Skygazers gawp at extra bright 'supermoon'

There's an 'extra-super' Moon on the rise

SATURN DAILY
NASA Saturn Mission Prepares for 'Ring-Grazing Orbits'

Vast equatorial jet stream in Saturn's atmosphere are revealed

Watching Summer Clouds on Titan

Titan experiences dramatic seasonal changes

SATURN DAILY
Chinese missile giant seeks 20% of a satellite market

China-made satellites in high demand

Space exploration plans unveiled

China launches 4th data relay satellite

SATURN DAILY
New Perspective on How Pluto's "Icy Heart" Came to Be

New analysis adds to support for a subsurface ocean on Pluto

Pluto follows its cold, cold heart

New Analysis Supports Subsurface Ocean on Pluto

SATURN DAILY
Life before oxygen

Could There Be Life in Pluto's Ocean?

Biologists watch speciation in a laboratory flask

Timing the shadow of a potentially habitable extrasolar planet

SATURN DAILY
First Light for Breakthrough Listen at Parkes Telescope

Search for ET underway with Parkes Radio Telescope

Breakthrough Listen to Search for Intelligent Life Around Tabby's Star

New bacteria groups, and stunning diversity, discovered underground

SATURN DAILY
Going against the grain - nitrogen turns out to be hypersociable!

Eyes in the sky

NASA's ISS-RapidScat Earth Science Mission Ends

Geographers provide new insight into commuter megaregions of the US




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News






The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement