Icy Satellite Science Today and in Cassini's Final Three Years

Monday, 15 December 2014: 11:20 AM
Bonnie J Buratti, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, United States
The Cassini Mission has turned our view of Saturn’s icy moons from scientific sketches to fully realized worlds. Among the major discoveries are: Activity on Enceladus and associated plumes that originate in small hot spots on its south pole and that appear to be modulated by tidal forces; a liquid subsurface water ocean on Enceladus that is a habitable environment; several new moons; debris rings associated with moons; a unique equatorial ridge on Iapetus; the identity of new constituents on the moons including carbon dioxide ice on most of them and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)on Iapetus; differentiated or partially differentiated interiors; nano-iron on the surfaces of the moons and in the rings; volatile segregation on Iapetus and Hyperion; and a bewildering array of geologic processes on the small moons. But our new view of these icy worlds has spawned new questions. Among these unanswered questions are: How variable are the plumes? Have any other moons had activity similar to that on Enceladus and did it continue up to the recent past? How much dust do the moons contribute to the region around Saturn? What caused the ridge on Iapetus? What are the interiors of the moons like? How differentiated and compensated are they? Five additional targeted flybys, two of Dione and three of Enceladus, have been designed to answer these questions and will be implemented during the remainder of the Solstice Mission. The Dione flybys both include gravity passes to determine its state of differentiation. One of the flybys is optimized to measure the fields and particle environment around Dione. One of the two remote-sensing flybys of Enceladus will scrutinize the south polar region to further understand the size, temperature, and variability of the emitting areas, while the other will observe the north pole to determine why it is so different from the south. The third Enceladus flyby involves an unprecedented pass less than 50 km above the surface into the midst of the plume. The spacecraft’s daring swoop into the inner parts of the saturnian system during the F-ring and proximal orbits will bring many of the small inner satellites into clearer focus. Funded by NASA.