John Spencer, Cassini Scientist on the Composite Infrared Spectrometer (bio)
Yesterday was a long day of waiting for our Composite Infrared
Spectrometer (CIRS) data from Wednesday’s Enceladus flyby. CIRS’s
most important job on this encounter was to map the temperatures in
the active south polar region, to learn more about what warms the
“tiger stripe” fractures and measure the total amount of heat that
Enceladus is generating (the current estimate, based on earlier CIRS
data, is a whopping 6 GigaWatts). Before I and others could do much
with the new data, they had to be calibrated, and calibration of CIRS
data, which is done by the CIRS team at Goddard Spaceflight Center in
Maryland, is pretty complicated. It turned out there were some
hiccups in the calibration process, and though the team was working
as fast as they could, everything took longer than expected.
So all through the morning I was reading excited e-mails from members
of other instrument teams, enthusiastically describing their first
look at their data, without being able to contribute any news from
CIRS. I *did* copy over some files early in the day, but when I
learned that they were only partially calibrated, I decided to wait
for the good stuff – I concentrated on getting my software ready instead.
Marcia Segura at Goddard, who did the detailed designs for these
observations, kept me posted on the progress of the work at Goddard,
and by mid-afternoon it looked like the final calibration was still a
couple of hours away. So I broke down and took a quick-and-dirty
look at the preliminary files I’d downloaded in the morning. And
they showed … well, I can’t tell you, because we still need to
properly calibrate and check everything, and make sure we don’t
announce any results that turn out to be wrong on closer inspection.
But I’m pretty happy with what I saw, and we (and the other
instrument teams) hope to have some cool findings to release in the
next few weeks.