New movies of Jupiter are the first to catch an invisible wave shaking up one of the giant planet’s jet streams, an interaction that also takes place in Earth’s atmosphere and influences the weather. The movies, made from images taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft when it flew by Jupiter in 2000, are part of an in-depth study conducted by a team of scientists and amateur astronomers led by Amy Simon-Miller at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and published in the April 2012 issue of Icarus.
“This is the first time anyone has actually seen direct wave motion in one of Jupiter’s jet streams,” says Simon-Miller, the paper’s lead author. “And by comparing this type of interaction in Earth’s atmosphere to what happens on a planet as radically different as Jupiter, we can learn a lot about both planets.”
Michael Lopez-Alegria, NASA’s most experienced spacewalker and the American holding the record for the single longest spaceflight mission, has left the agency.
Lopez-Alegria flew on four missions and performed 10 spacewalks during his career. He most recently served in the Flight Crew Operations Directorate at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston as assistant director for the International Space Station (ISS).
“Mike has faithfully served the Flight Crew Operations Directorate for many years,” said Janet Kavandi, director of Flight Crew Operations at Johnson. “His unique background and diplomatic skills have made him an outstanding FCOD assistant director for space station and lead for the Multilateral Crew Operations Panel. Mike’s tireless dedication to the safety and well-being of space station crews is well known. We will miss him and wish him well in his future endeavors.”
These raw, unprocessed images of Saturn’s second largest moon, Rhea, were taken on March 10, 2012, by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. This was a relatively distant flyby with a close-approach distance of 26,000 miles (42,000 kilometers), well suited for global geologic mapping.
During the flyby, Cassini captured these distinctive views of the moon’s cratered surface, creating a 30-frame mosaic of Rhea’s leading hemisphere and the side of the moon that faces away from Saturn. The observations included the large Mamaldi (300 miles, or 480 kilometers, across) and Tirawa (220 miles, or 360 kilometers, across) impact basins and the 29-miles (47-kilometers) ray crater Inktomi, one of the youngest surface features on Rhea (about 950 miles, or 1,530 kilometers, across).
All of Cassini’s raw images can be seen at http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/photos/raw/ .
The most recent spacecraft tracking and telemetry data were collected March 7 using the Deep Space Network’s 34 meter Beam-Waveguide Station 25 at Goldstone in the California desert. The Cassini spacecraft is in an excellent state of health. All subsystems are operating normally except for the issues being worked with the Cassini Plasma Spectrometer and the Ultrastable Oscillator. Information on the present position and speed of the Cassini spacecraft may be found on the “Present Position” page at: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/presentposition/ .
Twice this week, Cassini rotated to point its Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS), Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS), and Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) telescopes toward Saturn’s largest satellite for more Titan Monitoring Campaign observations. At other times, the instruments were pointed toward Saturn for the Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS) and ISS to measure and monitor the planet’s aurorae.