What Did Cassini Teach Us? Remembering Cassini and Saying Goodbye | Summary and Q&A

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March 8, 2017
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Fraser Cain
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What Did Cassini Teach Us? Remembering Cassini and Saying Goodbye

TL;DR

NASA's Cassini spacecraft, launched in 1997, has provided valuable insights into Saturn, its rings, and its moons, including the discovery of water ice geysers on Enceladus. The mission will end on September 15, 2017, with the spacecraft crashing into Saturn.

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Questions & Answers

Q: What did Cassini reveal about Saturn's weather patterns?

Cassini observed the changing weather patterns on Saturn, including lightning storms that illuminated the cloudtops at night. It also witnessed a massive storm in 2010 that brought up water ice from deep within the planet's atmosphere.

Q: How thick are Saturn's rings?

Despite their grand appearance, Saturn's rings are actually quite thin, measuring just 10 meters thick in some areas. Cassini's detailed observations helped confirm the rings' composition as ice particles ranging in size from tiny dust particles to mountain-sized fragments.

Q: What did Cassini discover about Saturn's moon Enceladus?

Cassini discovered jets of water ice erupting from Enceladus' southern pole, indicating the presence of an underground ocean of liquid water heated by Saturn's tidal interactions. This finding raises the possibility of habitability and potential for life on this moon.

Q: Why will the Cassini mission end on September 15, 2017?

To avoid the risk of contaminating Saturn's potentially life-supporting moons, NASA has chosen to end the Cassini mission by crashing the spacecraft into Saturn. This allows control over its trajectory and ensures the protection of these environments.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Cassini spacecraft has been studying Saturn for the past 13 years, providing in-depth observations and discoveries.

  • It observed Saturn's weather patterns, lightning storms, and the massive hexagonal storm at its northern pole.

  • Cassini also revealed new insights about Saturn's rings, including their composition, dynamics, and the presence of structures known as waves.

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