Researchers will present findings based on recent Cassini observations during the 39th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference taking place next week in League City, Texas. Sessions will include new findings related to three of Saturn's moons--Enceladus, Tethys and Titan.
The Cassini spacecraft will fly through Enceladus' Old-Faithful-like geysers, scooping up valuable samples of water-ice, dust and gas along the way during a March 12 flyby. This will be Cassini's closest flyby yet at about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the surface and at about 200 kilometers (120 miles) through the plume.
BLOWING THE LID OFF ENCELADUS
TIME: Thursday, March 13, 1:30 p.m. CDT
SESSIONS: 554: Amphitheater: ABSTRACTS 2523/2517/2229/1418/1311
Just one day after Cassini makes its closest flyby of Enceladus, new findings will be presented in a session on geological activity within Saturn's active moon. The studies match active areas to pits and fissures on Enceladus' surface, and examine the patterns of convection and heating that may produce the plumes of water vapor shooting from the south polar region. They also predict an eventual halt to the activity based on the stability of a possible internal ocean.
STUDYING THE PLUMES OF ENCELADUS
TIME: Thursday, March 13, 6:30 p.m. CDT
SESSION: 624: Fitness Center: ABSTRACT 2014
Scientists see multiple streams of high-density gas that correspond to jets seen in images and to warm locations on the surface. The gas from the vents seems to be constant, while the plume density is almost identical to what was measured in 2005. They do not see evidence for fissures opening and closing, as some models suggest. Candy Hansen, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., will report on plume studies, which conclude that particles within the plume were not hazardous to Cassini at its flyby distance on March 12.
RECONSIDERING TETHYS' PAST
TIME: Monday, March 10, 4:30 p.m. CDT
SESSION 155: Amphitheater: ABSTRACT 1968
Surface features on Saturn's moon Tethys recently provided evidence that the icy moon was once heated significantly more than previously thought. Erinna Chen and Francis Nimmo of the University of California, Santa Cruz, will present results that offer a possible source of Tethys' extra heat and suggest the moon might have once held a liquid ocean.
CARVING THE LANDSCAPE - TITAN'S EROSION CHANNELS
TIME: Friday, March 14, 2:15 p.m., 2:30 p.m. CDT
SESSION 753: Marina Plaza Ballroom: ABSTRACTS 1257-Jaumann/1943-Baugh
Both Cassini and the Huygens probe have delivered striking images of the branching channels on Titan's surface. Researchers will discuss new findings related to those erosion channels. Ralf Jaumann of the German Space Agency will explain how frequent, heavy methane storms and turbulent flows fit with observations of the channels and Titan's vast dune fields. Nicole Baugh of the University of Arizona, Tucson, will describe how many of Titan's channels are organized into mature stream networks, capable of transporting large amounts of sediment.
CASSINI'S FIRST RADAR GLIMPSE OF TITAN'S SOUTH POLAR REGION
TIME: Friday, March 14, 2 p.m., 2:45 p.m. CDT
SESSION 753: Marina Plaza Ballroom: ABSTRACTS 1491-Stofan/1637-Lunine
In Dec. 2007, Cassini's radar instrument revealed Titan's south polar region to be a diverse landscape of channels, mottled plains, unique, rugged areas, and a few lake-like features. Ellen Stofan of Proxemy Research will describe the varied terrain and past geologic processes. Ralph Lorenz of Johns Hopkins University will discuss the possibility that the few methane-ethane lakes in the region might have evaporated over the southern summer.
COMPARING TITAN'S LAKES TO SOMETHING CLOSER TO HOME
TIME: Friday, March 14, 3 p.m. CDT
SESSION 753: Marina Plaza Ballroom: ABSTRACT 1733
The lakes and channels Cassini has observed at high latitudes on Titan resemble landforms on Earth called "pans," which develop under semi-arid conditions such as those found in northern Namibia. Olivier Bourgeois of the University of Nantes will discuss these analogous structures and what they suggest about the climate and geology of Titan's northern reaches.
LEARNING FROM THE LASTING SCARS ON TITAN'S YOUNG FACE
TIME: Friday, March 14, 3:15 p.m. CDT
SESSION 753: Marina Plaza Ballroom: ABSTRACT 1990
Titan is a dynamic world - one whose landforms and history continue to get swept from its surface. Cassini's radar instrument has now seen about 20 percent of Titan's surface and has spotted 70 possible old impact craters. Charles Wood of the Planetary Science Institute will present findings related to these craters, which will help researchers begin to establish Titan's geologic history.
Media Relations Contact: Carolina Martinez (JPL) 818-354-9382