cassini huygens mission

This false-color view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shows clouds in Saturn’s northern hemisphere. The view was produced by space imaging enthusiast Kevin M. Gill, who also happens to be an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The view was made using images taken by Cassini’s wide-angle camera on July 20, 2016, using a combination of spectral filters sensitive to infrared light at 750, 727 and 619 nanometers.

Filters like these, which are sensitive to absorption and scattering of sunlight by methane in Saturn’s atmosphere, have been useful throughout Cassini’s mission for determining the structure and depth of cloud features in the atmosphere.

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 mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

Object Names:Infrared Saturn Clouds

Image Type:  Astronomical

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/Kevin M. Gill/Cassini

Time And Space

Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) workers examine the Huygens probe after removal from the Cassini spacecraft in the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF) at KSC. The spacecraft was returned to the PHSF after damage to the thermal insulation was discovered inside Huygens from an abnormally high flow of conditioned air. The damage required technicians to inspect the inside of the probe, repair the insulation, and clean the instruments.

After returning from the PHSF to Launch Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Station, Cassini/Huygens launched successfully in October 1997, and reached Saturn in July of 2004. Scientific instruments carried aboard the Cassini orbiter studied Saturn’s atmosphere, magnetic field, rings, and several moons, while the Huygens probe separated and landed on the surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.

The Cassini-Huygens mission owes its name to the Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens and Italian astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini. Both had spectacular careers as observers of the heavens, which included important discoveries about Saturn and its satellites. Huygens (1629-1695) discovered Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, in 1655 and in 1656 described the shape and phase changes of Saturn’s rings. Cassini (1625-1712) was the first to observe four of Saturn’s moons, Iapetus, Rhea, Tethys, and Dione, in the 1670s and 1680s. He also, in 1675, discovered the gap in Saturn’s rings, now called the Cassini Division, and proposed that the rings were formed from many tiny particles.

Cassini-Huygens is a joint mission of NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Italian Space Agency, Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI).

Exciting NASA news

… as if there’s not been some of that already this week.

(Image credit: NASA/JPL)

It seems that NASA’s slated to select two proposals for their Discovery program missions.

A “Discovery” mission at NASA is generally a smaller mission that happens very quickly. Something like the Curiosity rover or the Cassini-Huygens mission aren’t Discovery program missions, those are called “Flagship” missions.

NASA’s incredible Dawn mission is a Discovery mission.

Right now the five missions under consideration are:

VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR Topography and Spectroscopy): Basically a mission that would orbit Venus (a planet deserving to be visited again) and map its surface with high resolution radar.

- Psyche: This mission would explore a huge, metal-rich asteroid in the asteroid belt. Important and potentially influential mission (there are lots of entrepreneurs looking for metal-rich asteroids to mine in the near future).

- Lucy: This mission would explore a series of “Trojan” asteroids, basically asteroids that trail behind Jupiter.

- NEOCam: This would search for dangerous near-Earth asteroids.

DAVINCI (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging): As you might guess from its name, this spacecraft would descend through the Venusian atmosphere, studying it as it goes down.

If the rumors I’ve heard are true, it’s possible NASA might be able to select two missions from this excellent pile.

What are your picks?

Mimas Stares Back

The great eye of Saturn’s moon Mimas, a 130-kilometer-wide (80-mile) impact crater called Herschel, stares out from the battered moon. Several individual ringlets within the F ring are resolved here, and the small moon Atlas is also seen faintly outside the main rings.

Mimas is 397 kilometers (247 miles across); the view shows principally the moon’s anti-Saturn hemisphere. Atlas is 32 kilometers (20 miles) across.

The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on April 5, 2005, at a distance of approximately 2.1 million kilometers (1.3 million miles) from Mimas and at a Sun-Mimas-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 72 degrees. The image scale is 13 kilometers (8 miles) per pixel.

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 mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute