Linda Spilker, Cassini Deputy Project Scientist
I just got the good news that the playback has ended. Now for the fun part! I am eagerly waiting to see what new discoveries are buried in the bits streaming back from Cassini.
All sorts of questions are running through my head. I wonder if the Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) will find more exotic hydrocarbons in the gases it samples deeper in Enceladus’ geysers. Will the magnetometer find an induced magnetic field that points to an ocean just under Enceladus’ crust? If there is a water ocean, what are the chances that life might exist in it?
As a Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) co-investigator, I am especially interested in the new thermal maps of the south polar region. I am eager to find out if any of the hot spots that our instrument saw back in July 2005 disappeared or if any new hot spots appeared, indicating that the geysers might change locations. Given the golden opportunity to observe Enceladus up close during an eclipse, I wonder how quickly the surface of Enceladus warms up once sunlight hits it again. With Enceladus’ fluffy surface, will it warm up faster than any other moon circling Saturn?
You’d think that being a veteran of icy satellite flybys this would be old hat for me by now, but each flyby is just as exciting as the one before it!