The rain and the sunset: how Cassini will meet the last moments of life

© NASA/JPLКассини during the Finale of the OperaThe rain and the sunset: how Cassini will meet the last moments of life© NASA/JPL

. Space probe «Cassini» will spend last moments at sunset on Saturn, flying through the torrents of rain, which are the rings of a giant planet, scientists said at a press conference at the jet propulsion Laboratory of NASA.

«We expect that last signal «Cassini» will be transmitted to Earth on Friday afternoon, approximately two hours and 55 minutes and 6 seconds. Of course, the fact that the loss of such an excellent probe we very frustrating, but we are very proud of what we managed to achieve in 12 years of operation of the probe, and believe that humanity must return to the Saturn system,» said Earl maze (Earl Maize), head of the mission Cassini NASA.

The final note of the Opera

Maze and other members of the mission «Cassini» yesterday summed up one of the most enduring and successful space missions in history, and also spoke about how the probe will spend your last moments and what discoveries they expect to make in the last «dive» automatic station in the atmosphere of Saturn.

«We are very proud that our probe had worked for 13 years in orbit of a distant planet an almost perfect way, with a minimum of problems and emergency situations. During this time he received more than 500 thousand photos, made 160 of stairs past the Titan and transmitted to Earth about 635 GB of data. This fantastically large amount of information, given the fact that Cassini was designed in the 80-ies of the last century and is based on the technology of the time,» continued maze.

Many discoveries by Cassini, as noted scientist, was made due to its powerful scientific stuffing – probe equipped with 12 scientific instruments, many of which found an unexpected application in the study of Saturn and its moons.

Despite this, said Linda Spilker, scientific head of the mission, everything was impossible, and now scientists regret that on Board the «Cassini» there is no more powerful spectrometers and other instruments necessary for studying the chemical composition of emissions from the geysers of Enceladus. According to Spilker, the available tools did not allow NASA to check whether the water contains amino acids and other potential building blocks of life. This task will have to be solved by the successors Cassini.

In addition, neither NASA nor the scientists did not expect that Cassini will attract so much attention of the public in honour of the probe Amateur astronomers has managed to write a mini-Opera. Like joking maze, if the engineers who created the probe, knew about a similar interest, they would have attached some mirrors to the antenna in order for the machine to do selfi on the background of Saturn and its moons.

The last stage in the life of Cassini began last weekend, when the probe last bonded with Titanium to due to its gravity to change the orbit and to reach the trajectory of the collision with the Saturn.

According to Maza, Titan was actually the main «engine» of the probe throughout its work, it more than 100 times the withdrawal of «Cassini» in the new orbit, allowing the probe to examine all the major moon of Saturn with minimal fuel costs.

Gravity is the best friend probe

The last maneuver of this kind was executed perfectly, and now Cassini is preparing for the final observations of Saturn, its rings and satellites. Tonight for the last time he will give photos of the moons and rings to the Ground and will focus on the process of rapprochement with the planet, stopping the collection of scientific data and photos.

The probe will start to work in real-time, constantly passing the tracking station on Earth the data from eight scientific instruments that will be included in the time of his death. As explained Spilker, the team Cassini specially lowered data transmission speed to a minimum in order to clouds or bad weather did not prevent to observe the destruction of the probe.

On current projections, NASA, the probe will fall into the atmosphere of Saturn and burn up in it a little earlier than originally expected, scientists – not in three hours a day in Moscow, and in two hours, 55 minutes and 6 seconds.

Are you ready to take the plunge? On Friday, @CassiniSaturn will complete a remarkable mission studying Saturn:

— NASA (@NASA) September 13, 2017

The reason for this is that Cassini once again discovered that the real properties of the subsurface of Saturn’s markedly different from what scientists expected to see, and the roots of these differences, astronomers have yet to uncover. The death of «Cassini,» according to Masa, it will be very fast, the probe will burn literally within seconds after entering the dense layers of the atmosphere.

«The probe «Cassini» is not intended to fly through the atmosphere of planets has been created to study them from a distance. In the last five turns of the «Final Opera» we have already passed through the outskirts of the atmosphere of Saturn, and we had to turn on the thrusters at 40% in order for the probe are not killed. Accordingly, after entry, these engines are quickly becoming overloaded, the probe will lose stability and it will mark the end of the mission,» explains the scientist.

According to him, at this time, Cassini will reach a speed of about 70 thousand kilometers per hour and burn up in the atmosphere after one to two minutes, continuing to transmit data to the Earth until, until will «look» at her. Latest die radioisotope sources of energy probe, protected from the environment by membranes of refractory iridium.

The cry of the planet

As told Spilker and hunter white (Hunter Waite), one of the leaders of the science team Cassini, the probe will spend my last moments in the company of two beautiful cosmic phenomena – Saturn sunset, latest pictures of which he will transmit to Earth shortly before it dives into the atmosphere, and exotic rain generated by the rings of Saturn.

«One of the major scientific mysteries, which we will try to reveal in the final moments of the probe — to understand how it occurs and what is this «ring rain». In the early 1990-ies of our colleagues suggested, by studying the images of «Pioneer» and «Voyager», which in the upper atmosphere of Saturn are constantly kind of rain, caused by particles of ice and dust, gradually descending from the rings in its upper layers,» explained white.

According to planetary scientists, the last span «Cassini» over the edge of the atmosphere of Saturn has proved that the rain really exists, but its physical properties and how it affects the behavior of a giant planet, yet remain a mystery. The team hopes «Cassini», flying probe through the rain will help to find answers to some of these issues.

In addition, Cassini for the first time directly measure the proportion of isotopes of helium in the matter of Saturn that allows scientists to understand how the Solar system came into being and were born to the giant planets. These data, according to Masa was so important to NASA that his team refused to transmit images and other scientific data in the last moments of the life of the probe in favor of the measurements of the spectrometers.

The success of Cassini, as noted by Jim green (Jim Green), head planetological branch NASA has forced the space Agency to think about how and when it can send another probe to the Saturn system. According to him, now NASA is considering two possible missions to the satellites of a giant planet in the framework of the program New Frontiers, focused on space mission «middle» class.

«Discoveries by Cassini on Titan and Enceladus were so stunning that we have in the past year have included these objects in a list of possible targets for research in the program New Frontiers. I can say that we have already received a similar proposal and we now consider them. Expect news in the near future,» concluded green.


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