Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Los Alamos Instrument Yields New Knowledge Of Saturn's Rings

Date:
October 15, 2004
Source:
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Summary:
University of California scientists working at Los Alamos National Laboratory have begun to analyze data from an instrument aboard the joint U.S.-European spacecraft Cassini. Although Cassini has only been orbiting the planet Saturn since July 1, data from the Cassini Plasma Spectrometer (CAPS) has already begun to provide new information about the curious nature of Saturn's space environment.

The Cassini Plasma Spectrometer (CAPS) is a Direct Sensing Instrument (think touch, taste, smell) that measures the energy and electrical charge of particles such as electrons and protons that the instrument encounters. CAPS will measure the molecules originating from Saturn's ionosphere and also determine the configuration of Saturn's magnetic field. CAPS will also investigate plasma in these areas as well as the solar wind within Saturn's magnetosphere.
Credit: Image courtesy of Los Alamos National Laboratory

LOS ALAMOS, N.M., Oct. 13, 2004 -- University of California scientists working at Los Alamos National Laboratory have begun to analyze data from an instrument aboard the joint U.S.-European spacecraft Cassini. Although Cassini has only been orbiting the planet Saturn since July 1, data from the Cassini Plasma Spectrometer (CAPS) has already begun to provide new information about the curious nature of Saturn's space environment.

CAPS had been detecting advance readings for several days before Cassini finally crossed the bow shock that exists in the solar wind ahead of the magnetosphere, a huge magnetic field bubble produced in the solar wind by Saturn's strong magnetic field. On June 28, the spacecraft entered into the magnetosphere itself and began taking data. From this very preliminary set of measurements, it is apparent that the outer reaches of Saturn's magnetosphere are probably populated by plasma captured from the solar wind, but closer to the planet the plasma comes primarily from the rings and/or the inner icy satellites.

According to Michelle Thomsen, the current Los Alamos CAPS project leader, "After many years of design, development and testing, and then the seven-year journey across the solar system, CAPS is finally doing the job it was built to do. We are quickly learning much, but I think we have only begun to understand what CAPS can teach us about Saturn and its space environment over the next few years."

CAPS consists of three separate analyzers designed to measure the electrically charged particles trapped within Saturn's magnetosphere. Los Alamos played a major role in the design and construction of two of them: an ion mass spectrometer (IMS), which incorporates a novel design developed at Los Alamos to identify the different atomic species in Saturn's magnetospheric plasma, and an ion beam spectrometer (IBS), which is based on a design used by Los Alamos scientists on several previous solar wind research missions.

During Cassini's first brief pass over Saturn's rings, CAPS identified a previously unknown low-energy plasma trapped on the magnetic field lines threading the Cassini Division, the name given to the gap between the main A and B rings. With the four-year mission just beginning, including more than 70 orbits of the planet, CAPS is poised to provide scientists with a new level of understanding about Saturn's space environment, as well as clues about some of the space physics processes that operate more universally in the solar system.

The CAPS team involves scientists and engineers from 14 institutions and six countries, including Dave Young, the Principal CAPS Investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. At Los Alamos, the CAPS effort was made possible by the work of numerous members of International, Space and Response Division and its predecessor organizations. The IMS was designed by Los Alamos staff member Beth Nordholt and former staff member Dave McComas. In addition to Thomsen, current members of the team include Bruce Barraclough (lead investigator for the IBS), Dot Delapp, Jack Gosling, Dan Reisenfeld, John Steinberg, Bob Tokar and summer student Brian Fish.

Los Alamos National Laboratory is operated by the University of California for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) of the U.S. Department of Energy and works in partnership with NNSA's Sandia and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories to support NNSA in its mission.

Los Alamos enhances global security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear deterrent, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to defense, energy, environment, infrastructure, health and national security concerns.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Los Alamos National Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Los Alamos National Laboratory. "Los Alamos Instrument Yields New Knowledge Of Saturn's Rings." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 October 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/10/041014074119.htm>.
Los Alamos National Laboratory. (2004, October 15). Los Alamos Instrument Yields New Knowledge Of Saturn's Rings. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/10/041014074119.htm
Los Alamos National Laboratory. "Los Alamos Instrument Yields New Knowledge Of Saturn's Rings." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/10/041014074119.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) — Numerous residents along the East Coast reported seeing a bright meteor flash through the sky Sunday night. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 16, 2014) — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' startup will team up with Boeing and Lockheed to develop rocket engines as Elon Musk races to have his rockets certified. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA’s Curiosity Rover Finally Reaches Long-Term Goal

NASA’s Curiosity Rover Finally Reaches Long-Term Goal

Newsy (Sep. 15, 2014) — After more than two years, NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover reached Mount Sharp, its long-term destination. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
SpaceX's Elon Musk Really Wants To Colonize Mars

SpaceX's Elon Musk Really Wants To Colonize Mars

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) — Elon Musk has been talking about his goal of colonizing Mars for years now, but how much of it does he actually have figured out, and is it possible? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

      Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:  

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile iPhone Android Web
      Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins