Culling Through It All!

Linda SpilkerLinda Spilker, Cassini Deputy Project Scientist
It’s been a whirlwind here at JPL as the data from the Enceladus flyby comes pouring in, and we scientists have been doing our thing . . . culling through it all! Sometimes there’s so much to choose from that I feel like a kid in a candy story.  There is much excited email chatter among the many Cassini teams, all suggesting awesome findings.  These first-looks are being matured by the team members, and we have begun to share and compare results. 

You may have already seen the press release from JPL explaining that the
Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA) had an unfortunate software hiccup at closest approach to Enceladus and their data was not recorded. The CDA instrument measures the composition of small particles that hit the instrument, which is an important thing to do at Enceladus to understand its geyser-like jets.  But like all small bumps on the road to discovery, we will find out what happened, fix it and get on with our business about the Saturn system.  And what an amazing system it is. 
On the very bright side, all of the other fields and particles instruments and remote sensing instruments, worked perfectly at Enceladus.  They are returning fantastic data and providing an incredible look around and inside the plume, and of the surface.  The fields and particles instruments are complementary to CDA and provide information on particle composition and characteristics, among other things.   
As soon as possible in the week or two ahead, we will be able to announce the preliminary results to the world.  Until then, I’m waiting like the rest of you are for these data sets to be analyzed, since the first-looks are looking so great!  Stay tuned for some Earth-shaking — I mean moon-shaking — results!

11 thoughts on “Culling Through It All!”

  1. Linda:

    Does the CDA detect/identify organic materials within the particles emitted by the jets?

    Do any of the other instruments do the same?

    If the answers are yes and no, it seems like that was a big loss, unfortunately.

    Bill Kinsel

  2. Linda, and everyone on the CASSINI team,

    Many congratulations on a fantastic fly-by! There were so many people “out here” rooting for you, it’s great that it went so well (apart from the glitch with the… well, no need to say any more. Great shame, but these things happen). In fact, it went SO well that with all the interest in the pictures it was all but impossible to get at the raw images page until very late in the day, so thanks for posting those few pictures on the blog as quickly as you did.

    Looking forward to hearing more about those “moon-shaking” results!


  3. What I personally would like to know .. and hope to see answered in the coming weeks and months are the following questions.

    These plumes shoot material into space..
    It seems that most material falls back to Enceladus.

    1. Does this mean that is actually snows (without clouds)
    2. without wind (hardly an atmosphere) this snow must fall rapidly without swirling almost horizontal ?
    3. How far from the Tigerstripes does this .. snow or ice rain come down ??
    4. Is it a planet wide snow/ice rain ?

    Somewhere I saw a remark that these cold faithfulls are spewing ice continuesly..

    5. When did it start ? Does this “continuesly” mean for 5 billion years ? That seems impossible.. Would Cassini be possible to tell us how long it is going on (and if it can go on till the end of times..)

  4. Linda:

    My compliments to all of you for pulling this off! Totally amazing and I cannot wait to see the results as well.

    I am perhaps most intrigued by the question on how long has this gone on and how long can it continue? As a corollary, has Enceladus ‘shrunk’ over time? Will it (and has it) lost diameter (say 1 km every 100 years or whatever) owing to all this water loss?

    Just curious as I wonder if other icy moons went through an ‘Enceladus’ cycle and now are as small as they are owing to the loss of material.


  5. Great job all, I’m very exited to read the results.

    Do we have an idea of how much mass is being ejected in the plumes? Does all of the material return to Enceladus’ surface, or does some escape to feed Saturn’s rings? Will we have an idea of how long this process has been going on? If it is a long term, consistent process, and some mass does not return to the surface, does that mean that Enceladus is in effect evaporating?

    These are some of the many questions that I am looking forward to learning the answers to, and that I’m sure the Cassini team is working on!

    Congratulations again, and thanks for the Blogs! Your enthusiasm and excitement is infectious!

  6. Hi Linda Spilker
    To bad you had an unfortunate time with the cosmic Dust Analyzer.
    “I an sure Linda that you will find A way to fix the Instrument”.With the next Fly by comeing up you can get some particles to hit the instrument.
    For now I will do like the rest “Wait”.

  7. Congratulations on getting Cassini through the plume. Too bad about the CDA. Just a thought: did you try the new high-resolution software out before heading through the plume? It would probably have been too late to do anything about it, but at least you could have stayed in low-resolution mode throughout the approach.

  8. I “ride” along on every mission that you launch! Your persistence to explore and seek knowledge is to be applauded. No doubt that live exists in the liquid H2O under the ice on Encelades. Do you have the ability, using all of Cassini’s instruments, if biological agents are in the material expelled from the ice plumes? What are the chances of fitting the next generation of explorers with video camera’s, zoom lenses and microphones? Keep up the great work.


  9. Come on, just a little something on the latest Enceladus fly by.
    I’m beginning to turn as blue as a Tiger Stripe from holding my breathe for so long…

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