Lead imaging scientist, Cassini mission to Saturn
I'm going to tell you what's going on a billion miles away from here.
Cassini is the farthest robotic outpost that mankind had ever established around the sun.
Saturn has all the same sort of features that Jupiter does, only they're deeper on Saturn. It's colder, and there's haze, so we have a harder time seeing it. In the near IR, for instance, you can see a lot more structure. We don't know presently what energizes the winds in Saturn's or Jupiter or our own atmosphere, so there's a lot to learn about its structure.
The rings consist of billions of billions of particles. From the size of houses to the finest powder.
The math underlying the structure of spiral galaxies was co-opted with very little change to the study of Saturn's rings. So understanding Saturn helps us understand galaxies. It's truly universal.
Now 47 moons in total. Cassini studies only inner moons. They're like a miniature solar system. We're hoping to study system as a whole to gain greater insight into planetary formation process. There have been flybys of Titan closer than the ISS is to Earth.
These moons have lots of craters-there was a time before when there was lots of bodies careening around the solar system creating these craters. It's one of the thoughts for how rings come about: Bodies smash into other bodies into bits.
And that's when the battery runs out on the laptopâ€