Solar Wing NASA



Dr. Carolyn Porco, a planetary scientist and leader of the Imaging Science team for Cassini, explained to the press in March 2012 that "More than 90 jets of all sizes near Enceladus's south pole are spraying water vapor, icy particles, and organic compounds all over the place. Cassini has flown several times now through this spray and has tasted it. And we have found that aside from water and organic material, there is salt in the icy particles. The salinity is the same as that of Earth's oceans." Cassini's successful mission of exploration to the Saturn system is over, but planetary scientists are left with a cornucopia filled with important new information that Cassini/Huygens sent back to Earth before its mission ended. A collaborative NASA/European Space Agency/Italian Space Agency mission, the robotic spacecraft was made up of two components. The first was the European Space Agency's (ESA's) Huygens Probe, that had been named in honor of the Dutch mathematician and astronomer Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695), who discovered Titan. The Huygens Probe also closely observed Saturn's lovely system of gossamer rings. The second component, the NASA-designed Cassini Orbiter, was named after the Italian-French astronomer Giovanni Dominico Cassini (1625-1712), who discovered four of Saturn's other intriguing, numerous, and icy moons. GRAIL has also generated new maps showing lunar crustal thickness. These maps have managed to uncover still more large impact basins on the near-side hemisphere of Earth's Moon--revealing that there are fewer such basins on the far-side, which is the side that is always turned away from Earth. This observation begs the question: How could this be if both hemispheres were on the receiving end of the same number of crashing, impacting, crater-excavating projectiles? According to GRAIL data, the answer to this riddle is that most of the volcanic eruptions on Earth's Moon occurred on its near-side hemisphere.