What will Cassini see on Titan?

Discussion in 'Astronomy, Exobiology, & Cosmology' started by ElectricFetus, Oct 26, 2004.

  1. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

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    The Cassini space probe is heading for it's first close up flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan. Titan is shrouded in a thick organic fog that obscures all visible light observations, But Cassini has advanced radar mapping and IR cameras and can take picture of Titan’s surface, and make 3D maps of Titans atmospheres like no other telescope or space craft has before. In this flyby Cassini will be able to take pictures of titan's surface with resolutions as low as 50m. Exogeologist are speculating on seeing things like lakes and seas of liquid methane/ethane, methane/ethane rain, water volcanism (ice in a mineral or common rock on Titan), ect.

    Here a photo of Titan taken by Cassini yesterday as it approaches, closes approach is tomorrow. Resolution in this pic is at 150km per pixel.

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    http://spaceflightnow.com/cassini/041025titanpreview.html
    http://spaceflightnow.com/cassini/041025flybypreview.html
     
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  3. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

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    Carolina Martinez (818) 354-9382
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    Don Savage (202) 358-1727
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    Status Report: 2004-263 October 26, 2004

    Cassini-Huygens Mission Status Report

    The Cassini spacecraft beamed back information and pictures tonight after successfully skimming the hazy atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan. NASA's Deep Space Network tracking station in Madrid, Spain, acquired a signal at about 6:25 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time (9:25 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time). As anticipated, the spacecraft came within 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) of Titan's surface.

    At the time, Cassini was about 1.3 billion kilometers (826 million miles) from Earth. Numerous images, perhaps as many as 500, were taken by the visible light camera and were being transmitted back to Earth. It takes 1 hour and 14 minutes for the images to travel from the spacecraft to Earth. The downlink of data will continue through the night into the early morning hours. Cassini project engineers will continue to keep a close watch on a rainstorm in Spain, which may interrupt the flow of data from the spacecraft.

    The flyby was by far the closest any spacecraft has ever come to Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, perpetually drenched in a thick blanket of smog. Titan is a prime target of the Cassini-Huygens mission because it is the only moon in our solar system with an atmosphere. It is a cosmic time capsule that offers a look back in time to see what Earth might have been like before the appearance of life.

    The Huygens probe, built and operated by the European Space Agency, is attached to Cassini; its release is planned on Christmas Eve. It will descend through Titan's opaque atmosphere on Jan. 14, 2005, to collect data and touch down on the surface.

    The latest information and images from Cassini are available at http://www.nasa.gov/cassini . Additional information on the mission and raw images are at http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov .

    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 Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C.

    -end-
     
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  5. Facial Valued Senior Member

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    Oh my, just look at those clouds! We have never seen them before in detail like that. This is mankind's first glimpse.
     
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  7. Curious Registered Senior Member

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    I think the real exciting part is the 360 degree camera that will slowly rotate around the probe and take pictures as it descends through the clouds. I will be glued to whatever channel providing the coverage.

    From what I've read some of the most exciting science will be in the clouds. There are theories that particular kinds of chemistry is occuring in the atmosphere that might contribute to our understanding of the formation of life. It is known there are traces of organic molecules in the atmosphere.

    All I can say is that I haven't been this excited over an astronomical event since Spirit and Opportunity. I'm almost more excited about Jan 14 then Dec 25.

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    The sad part is the probe isn't going to last very long in that frigid temperature... I haven't been able to read exactly how long it will last but nowhere have I read it will survive for days, so months of science is probably way too hopeful.

    *Hopes anyways*

    Man what a charge, I hope people are excited as I am!
     
  8. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

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    http://spaceflightnow.com/cassini/041027science.html

    Looks like Titan just made more questions then answers, I don't even think Huygens can answer these questions, Huygens is to study the atmosphere it will take few pictures of the surface, no surface material analyzing equipment is on board, in fact it is not expect to last an hour on the surface before the batteries give out. We mihg have to send somethingb like this:
    http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/solarsystem/aerover_for_titan_001020.html
     
  9. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

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    Very interesting and a big thank you to all those who worked on this project!
     
  10. Poor Player I looked and saw a new Earth Registered Senior Member

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    The flyby was very successful and did everything they wanted. I watched the press conference this morning but there was very little data that had been interpreted yet. Tommorrow morning (10/28 9am PST) there will be another press conference on the early interpretations. I believe it can be viewed on the NASA TV web site at www.NASA.gov.
     
  11. Xerxes asdfghjkl Valued Senior Member

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    Too bad its only equiped with a 1 megapixel camera

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    Even if the methane fog is too thick to see very far, we're not gonna get mars rover type images.

    Have they sent any recent probes to Europa yet? We gotta get under that ice
     
  12. blackholesun Registered Senior Member

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  13. geodesic "The truth shall make ye fret" Registered Senior Member

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  14. Curious Registered Senior Member

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    36
    Oh man, the International Astronauntical Congress (http://www.iac2004.ca/) was held in my city this year and the space industry had this week-long exhibition (http://www.iac2004.ca/exhibit_list.html) but only the last day was open to the public.

    At the NASA area they had possible spaceship/submarines specific for exploring Europa! The main theory for delivering a ship/probe through the thick ice has been a superheated nose/shell that melts the ice as the vehicle sinks. They will have a automated process to sterilize the exterior of the ship before they melt through and into the water. Obviously there are no plans to build the spaceship, but I'm glad they are thinking about it at least! I have read that this will only work if the ice is at a particular thickness (<10 km, I think), and that the ice on Europa might be much thicker (>25 km, I think).

    "Thin ice opens lead for life on Europa"
    http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99992929
    Good Diagram in here too

    "Plan to melt through Europa's ice"
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3548139.stm

    Other then the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter (JIMO) I don't see anything else on NASA's future missions chronology that is going to Europa.

    Chronology of Lunar and Planetary Exploration (Future Missions)
    http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/chrono_future.html

    Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter - Prometheus One
    http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/missions/profile.cfm?Sort=Chron&StartYear=2000&EndYear=2009&MCode=JIMO

    If it goes ahead I reckon it will have more then a few probes destined for Europa!

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    There are plans for probes already!

    http://www.tsgc.utexas.edu/archive/design/europa/
     
  15. Curious Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    36
    Oh man, the International Astronauntical Congress (http://www.iac2004.ca/) was held in my city this year and the space industry had this week-long exhibition (http://www.iac2004.ca/exhibit_list.html) but only the last day was open to the public.

    At the NASA area they had a design for a possible spaceship/submarine specific for exploring Europa! The main theory for delivering a ship/probe through the thick ice has been a superheated nose/shell that melts the ice as the vehicle sinks. They will have a automated process to sterilize the exterior of the ship before they melt through and into the water. Obviously there are no plans to build the spaceship, but I'm glad they are thinking about it at least! I have read that this will only work if the ice is at a particular thickness (<10 km, I think), and that the ice on Europa might be much thicker (>25 km, I think).

    "Thin ice opens lead for life on Europa"
    http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99992929
    Good Diagram in here too

    "Plan to melt through Europa's ice"
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3548139.stm

    Other then the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter (JIMO) I don't see anything else on NASA's future missions chronology that is going to Europa.

    Chronology of Lunar and Planetary Exploration (Future Missions)
    http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/chrono_future.html

    Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter - Prometheus One
    http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/missions/profile.cfm?Sort=Chron&StartYear=2000&EndYear=2009&MCode=JIMO

    If it goes ahead I reckon it will have more then a few probes destined for Europa!

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    There are plans for probes already!

    http://www.tsgc.utexas.edu/archive/design/europa/

    You know... Ijust thought of something regarding any manned mission under the Europian ice... how are they gonna get out?

    Can you imagine being on of the astronauts... exciting but scary...

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    *gulp*
     
  16. Communist Hamster Cricetulus griseus leninus Valued Senior Member

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    Wow shiznit, thats some amazing pics of Titan!
     
  17. geodesic "The truth shall make ye fret" Registered Senior Member

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    Already? Those plans are at least 10 years old.
    Also, it's always easier to design something than it is to build it. Think of powered flight, helicopters and more recently a space elevator. The first two were designed hundreds of years before they were implemented, and the last has been around for at least fifty years. There are always problems that need to be overcome, such as the necessity of improving materials technology, and also public need/desire for such a tech. Flight was around for 10 years, with no great leaps being made - until there was a war, and it was realised that planes were effective weapons.
     
  18. FieryIce Tic Toc, World in Cobalt Blue Registered Senior Member

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    Only what the information control and acquisitions will allow released....LOL
     
  19. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

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    Some radar maps:

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    Credit: NASA/JPL
    Download larger image version here

    Take a look at this, there ar bright cracks, valleys or rivers on the surface.

     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2004
  20. Curious Registered Senior Member

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    36
    My guess would be until we have a better idea how thick the ice is on Europa we are going to see nothing but proposals and designs for now.

    My hope is for some sort of an attempt to pentrate the ice with JIMO but it seems more likely that Prometheus will be our ticket to unraveling some of the vital information that is necessary to mount a successful mission under the Europian ice (ie. Ice Thickness).
     
  21. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

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    A probe on the surface of Europe could dig down just a few meters to test the ice for organics and biology, you don't need to get to the sea below to find life. The ice has been recycled so in it is capture minerals (and life if its there) from the oceans below. Just a few meters below the ice is safe from the intense radiation above.

    Now back to titan, would be nice to get an aerobot/rover there.
     
  22. Starthane Xyzth returns occasionally... Valued Senior Member

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    1,465
    Given the amount of methane and ethane in the atmosphere, it seems surprising that no obvious, extensives seas of liquid hyrocarbons have yet been observed on the surface. The variety of different icy terrains is clearly fascinating - but where does all the precipitated methane and ethane go? There could be plenty of smaller lakes, of course... it just removes the novelty appeal of deep, rolling toxic orange oceans breaking on shoals and sandbars of ice, with wind-driven waves rising tens of metres in the low gravity (paradise for the spacesuited surfers of the future!)

    Not to mention that, given its low gravity, Titan must lose methane slowly but steadily into space. There must be some huge surface reservoir of the gas, presumably in a liquid state, which continually replenishes the atmosphere.

    Maybe most of the liquid is underground, and much of the young-looking surface we are seeing is the frozen surface of an ocean: like that on Europa? Except not water.
     
  23. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

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    that’s a nice hypothesis, what if the surface is mostly frozen hydrocarbons and below are oceans or compressed solids of ethane and methane. It would explain the organics haze as there would be a continuous leaking of methane and ethane into the atmosphere, snow of longer chains organics that are solid at titan temperatures would fall from the haze and cover up the liquids. There is one problem with that theory: density of methane is lower then other hydrocarbons so any oil “snow” would sink not float.
     

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