CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS

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Captain's Log

September 15, 2015

Over the last ten years, we on Cassini have built an edifice of knowledge of Saturn's active moon, Enceladus, that has set planetary exploration abuzz.

With growing degrees of confidence, we have found, in one discovery after another, that this small world contains a liquid water environment, deep beneath the ice capping its southern hemisphere, that is laced with organic compounds, comparable in salinity to the Earth's oceans, and of all things under the Sun, venting to space in a spectacular and expansive array of 101 geysers reaching thousands of miles into the space. In all, these findings point to the solar system's most accessible extraterrestrial watery environment -- a habitat -- within Enceladus where, perhaps, a second genesis has taken hold. It is a possibility that can bewitch the mind and strike awe and exaltation in the most stolid of souls.

One unanswered question all this time has been: Just how extensive is the water layer within Enceladus? Evidence has been gathering since Cassini's first visits to this moon for a lens, or sea, of water, as wide as the South Polar Terrain ... that unique province at the south pole that is ringed by mountainous folds and ridges and slashed by 4 major fractures from which the geysers erupt. Then in 2013/2014, Cassini gravity measurements indicated much stronger evidence for such a south polar sea, about 35 kilometers below the surface and about 10 kilometers thick, but perhaps connected to a thinner global ocean. It was unclear.

Today, the members of my imaging science team, using our high resolution images of Enceladus' surface taken over the last 7 years, have confirmed that Enceladus' water layer is indeed global. How did they do it? By looking for a libration ... a small, cyclical, back-and-forth deviation from uniform rotation ... and finding that it is present and much too large to be a libration of the entire body. The conclusion: It is a libration in the thin, outer ice shell only, indicating that ice shell and rocky core are decoupled and separated by a liquid layer.

Sacre bleu!

It has been a hard problem to solve, requiring persistence, painstaking analysis, an understanding of orbital and rotational dynamics, and bringing to bear the full and tedious brunt of statistical analysis. But it has yielded gold.

So here's raising a glass to our kind. We have done a remarkable thing ... to set our craft on a long-distance mission in search of lovely blue oceans like those of Earth, and have it answer us with such gratifying certitude.

Carolyn Porco
Cassini Imaging Team Leader
Director, CICLOPS
Boulder, CO


More Captain's Logs

Alliance Member Comments
clipartner (Jun 21, 2017 at 6:01 PM):
It has been a hard problem to solve, requiring persistence, painstaking analysis, an understanding of orbital and rotational dynamics, and bringing to bear the full and tedious brunt of statistical analysis. But it has yielded gold.
clipartner (Jun 21, 2017 at 6:01 PM):
It has been a hard problem to solve, requiring persistence, painstaking analysis, an understanding of orbital and rotational dynamics, and bringing to bear the full and tedious brunt of statistical analysis. But it has yielded gold.
clipartguru (Jun 12, 2017 at 2:50 PM):
Wow, this is amazing.
sami (Jun 10, 2017 at 5:44 AM):
i love space exploration and this mission is very important
jsc248 (May 10, 2017 at 6:02 AM):
It is incredible that after all these years of the CASSINI mission that one of it's most important discoveries comes in the twilight of the mission. It is amazing to have the global ocean shown so completely. Now that we know that ocean there exists and it is global, are there any chances for life within the ocean. There are organics in the plumes and the ice layer should have provided a good barrier for radiation, the heating of the water, albeit by gravitational friction or "black smokers" on the seabed, to provide us with the ideal conditions for life. Or at least as ideal as can be found so far from the Suns influence.
So I would like to ask Carolyn what her views are?
John.
jibranpcc (May 7, 2017 at 2:50 AM):
Dear Carolyn and all involved in the mind expanding Cassini-Huygens mission across the years thank you! Yesterday I was sharing the newest images you had released with my 4 year old grandaughter. She was zooming in and out on the images and asking me all kinds of questions. Because of all your work and your dedication to sharing both the images and the evolving science you were all deciphering I was able to give her general answers! She then grabbed an astronomy magazine and climbed into the chair and started turning the pages saying "I wonder if this is in your magazine Gramma." We had a delightful hop across thr galaxies!
Baton rouge Fence Repair (Apr 24, 2017 at 11:56 AM):
Very informative information. Thank you for expanding my knowledge of the ice layer.
mikeroch (Apr 22, 2017 at 8:26 PM):
Wonderful it is for full stop pounding
mikeroch (Apr 22, 2017 at 8:22 PM):
Wonderful it is for full stop pounding
Web971 (Apr 21, 2017 at 4:45 PM):
Hi all, not a lot of comments
Cote2018 (Apr 12, 2017 at 0:51 AM):
Salut la communauté. Moi c'est Pascal, vétérinaire dans une clinique à Monaco. Pendant mon enfance, j'avais un chien à la maison du nom de Fred. Avec lui, je m'amusais souvent à jouer le vétérinaire. Aujourd’hui, je sais que je suis entrain de faire le métier de mon rêve et j'adore mes patients à quatre pattes. Merci et à très bientôt .
Cote2018 (Apr 11, 2017 at 4:12 PM):
Salut la communauté. Moi c'est Pascal, vétérinaire dans une clinique à Monaco. Pendant mon enfance, j'avais un chien à la maison du nom de Fred. Avec lui, je m'amusais souvent à jouer le vétérinaire. Aujourd’hui, je sais que je suis entrain de faire le métier de mon rêve et j'adore mes patients à quatre pattes. Merci et à très bientôt .
PiperPilot (Apr 7, 2017 at 3:02 PM):
Why was the A ring prop called Earhart? Much more deserving women in aviation abound. Cochran or Thaden to name two.
maureenkistle (Apr 7, 2017 at 5:35 AM):
Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic
READ

HERE

VISIT
Cote2018 (Apr 6, 2017 at 11:35 AM):
Merci pour l'article continuez de faire comme ce type de posts !
clipground2 (Mar 30, 2017 at 6:19 AM):
Hi to all
maxkazan (Mar 29, 2017 at 0:24 AM):
I will show this article to my friends- thank you
Mary (Mar 28, 2017 at 9:18 AM):
thank you for the info


info



Carpet Cleaning Ottawa (Mar 27, 2017 at 10:32 AM):
Simply Amazing!
Codes (Mar 26, 2017 at 3:45 PM):
From Sector 6, an Alliance member will eventually be able to embark in a variety of directions
patrickB (Mar 19, 2017 at 10:04 AM):
That was so interesting... I'm not much of a science man but this leaves you wondering...
PatB
FrankW (Mar 16, 2017 at 1:18 PM):
Absolutely stunning. If only we could see 100-150 years into the future to see where we are! Costa Mesa Plumber
lucyjames (Mar 15, 2017 at 10:50 AM):
i wish we spent more of our time, energy, and treasure on things like the Cassini mission.
kasstri (Mar 14, 2017 at 8:35 AM):
Not a all.
PiperPilot (Dec 31, 2016 at 2:04 PM):
To the whole team I want to send a Happy & Sad New Year to all.
PiperPilot (Sep 16, 2016 at 4:58 PM):
I'm really not looking forward to this time next year. Not a all.
NeKto (Jul 6, 2016 at 10:40 PM):
Cassini really has set a high bar for future planetary exploration. an extremely high bar. i do not look forward to the end of this mission gladly.
as with any good scientific investigation, Cassini has left us with many more questions than answers. one important legacy of this mission is the very high quality of those questions.
i wish we spent more of our time, energy, and treasure on things like the Cassini mission.
mikesimons (Feb 23, 2016 at 8:07 AM):
What an amazing ride. I've cried at the beauty of the images...and Carolyn, you (and the team) have joined my very short list of heroes.
LScot (Dec 22, 2015 at 7:06 PM):
Riffing off of the above comments, I am a great admirer of Lady Gaga's talents and efforts in a completely different venue; but here I would say to you, Caroline, you are the Lady Gaga of planetary imaging science and have provided me years of clearly written informative and exuberant text on many Cassini adventures. This article is a concise gem; but more importantly it completes a volume in the story of Enceladus. I am not implying there isn't more to discover (Can we talk sampling its plumes for life?), but it provides satisfying closer to a story arc, a question of what is this strange little (tiny!) moon and why is its message so huge? I am not sure I will be around for the conclusion of the next volume, but I will savor each new chapter as long as can. Thank you Cassini and thank you Caroline for this great and example of science at its most profound.
agenifya (Dec 9, 2015 at 7:19 PM):

Thanks For The Sensible Critique. Me & My Neighbor Were Just Preparing To Do Some Research On This. We Got A Grab A Book From Our Area Library But I Think I Learned More Clear From This Post. I Am Very Glad To See Such Magnificent Information Being Shared Freely Out There. agenify
cmc (Oct 31, 2015 at 4:45 AM):
Dear Carolyn and all involved in the mind expanding Cassini-Huygens mission across the years thank you! Yesterday I was sharing the newest images you had released with my 4 year old grandaughter. She was zooming in and out on the images and asking me all kinds of questions. Because of all your work and your dedication to sharing both the images and the evolving science you were all deciphering I was able to give her general answers! She then grabbed an astronomy magazine and climbed into the chair and started turning the pages saying "I wonder if this is in your magazine Gramma." We had a delightful hop across thr galaxies!
ludicman (Oct 26, 2015 at 10:12 AM):
Perhaps this will be the week for a grand new discovery!
NeKto (Sep 28, 2015 at 7:27 AM):
it is things like this that remind me how much i am going to miss Cassini when it's gone. it ain't just the great images, it's a lot more. i will be here until the end of this ride.

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