Cassini Cosmic Dust Analyser Post Launch Support

Lead Research Organisation: Open University
Department Name: Physical Sciences

Abstract

The largest ever spacecraft to be launched on a mission to another planet is Cassini. This NASA spacecraft reached Saturn in July 2004, carrying with it another smaller spacecraft: the European Space Agency Huygens probe. Huygens separated with Cassini on Christmas day 2004, and on January 14th 2005, descended to the surface of Saturn's largest moon, Titan. While the Huygens landing was a wonderful success, Cassini's work is far from over. Cassini will spend the next few years exploring Saturn and its many moons, and of course, Saturn's famous rings. Indeed the rings are Saturn's most recognisable feature, easily visible with a small telescope, and yet they are incredibly thin and are not solid bands of material. We see them because they are made of tiny highly reflective icy particles. On board Cassini is an instrument called the Cosmic Dust Analyser (CDA), the focus of this project. When the ring particles impact CDA, we can determine information about the composition of the particles. The rings are highly structured in terms of composition, and over the next few years, CDA will tells us about the nature and composition of particles from many different regions of the rings, and also about small particles ejected from the moons by impacts on their surfaces.

Publications

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