New findings from Cassini’s final months


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Link here. Among a bunch of other interesting results, this one I found the most tantalizing:

The spacecraft’s Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) returned a host of first-ever direct measurements of the components in Saturn’s upper atmosphere, which stretches almost to the rings. From these observations, the team sees evidence that molecules from the rings are raining down onto the atmosphere. This influx of material from the rings was expected, but INMS data show hints of ingredients more complex than just water, which makes up the bulk of the rings’ composition. In particular, the instrument detected methane, a volatile molecule that scientists would not expect to be abundant in the rings or found so high in Saturn’s atmosphere.

The results generally leave behind more questions than answers, but that is exactly why exploring the universe is so much fun.

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