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SPC Report May 2006

SPC Report May 2006

The Cassini Orbiter continues to make significant discoveries around Saturn. A series of papers recently published in Science on the Enceladus observations revealed a moon which is as intriguing as Jupiter's moon Europa. Strong evidence has been found of the presence of liquid water in underground pockets near the South Pole.

Although attention focused on the images, the motivation for the retargeting and imaging came from the European magnetometer team. The liquid water may be only a few tens of meters below the surface. Astonishing images recently obtained of Saturn, its rings and moons all in the same frame display very well the beauty of the Saturn system. Planning is underway for the extended mission beyond mid-2008. Key scientific targets are most likely going to be Titan, Enceladus and the long-term monitoring of Saturn's highly dymanic and variable features. NASA funding for the extended mission is however not yet granted.

Following the initial publication in Nature (December 2005), a series of coordinated Huygens publications is in preparation for the European Journal, Planetary and Space Sciences.

Huygens Engineering Analysis and Lessons Learned

The preparation activities for the Huygens Phase-2 engineering data analysis and lessons learned exercise, being carried out under a General Studies Programme activity, is underway. Formal kick-off is expected in April – May and the study is expected to last one year.

Science Highlights

In-depth analysis of the Huygens data is continuing. Collaborations among Huygens teams and between Huygens and Orbiter teams, are well established. A recent paper by researchers at the University of Nantes and the University of Arizona that appeared in Nature used Probe and Orbiter observations to substantiate a model of Titan's evolution that suggests that three major methane out-gassing periods occurred over Titan's lifetime. The model suggests that we are currently experiencing the third and last period that may last another few hundred million years.

Data Archiving

All the Huygens teams are putting significant effort into delivering the Huygens scientific archive data set in April/May for the formal review process to start according to the agreed plan. The archive data set is expected to go public in mid-July 2006. It is becoming clear that further work will be needed in the next one to two years to maintain the archive data set by delivering regular updates that will result from the new Probe performance engineering analysis, further instrument calibration, inter-instrument data comparison and new delivery of high-level products. It is hoped that instrument team funding beyond mid-2006 will allow the required work to be carried out. A form request for NASA funding in 2007 is being prepared by the US-funded Huygens investigators.

Last Update: 1 September 2019
8-Mar-2021 00:56 UT

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