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Thursday, July 1, 2004



Cassini Arrives

The image is taken from the dark side, and shows only the diffuse sunlight scattered through the rings.
The image is taken from the dark side, and shows only the diffuse sunlight scattered through the rings.
Credit: NASA/JPL
After its 7-year trek, Cassini is finally in orbit around Saturn. After a burn to put itself into temporary orbit, the spacecraft was in the final planned orbit, saving a little time and fuel. "It feels awfully good to be in orbit around the Lord of the Rings" said Charles Elachi, director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. the craft flew between a gap in the rings. "We'd done lot of work to make sure the path was clear, but until you come out the other side you don't know," he said. Because of the $3 million Cassini project, "there is going to be a huge leap in our understanding of the Saturnian system" says Elachi. The first "call home" was received at 21:30 PDT.

The picture at left is raw data from Cassini. It still shows electronic interference (scan lines) and glitches where cosmic rays affect the photo. Also, the sun is out of site, behind Saturn. We have already learned that some of the rings' bands are only a half a kilometer, not the kilometer that Voyager told us. Cassini Scientist hope to learn what the rings are made of and why they are there.

(More info New Scientist, New Scientist)


- posted by Jim @ 12:37 EST