Cassini visits Enceladus – SpacePod 2010.11.30

NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft is doing some awesome stuff. Stay tuned to NASA’s twitter feed Space Cadets, today should be interesting. I’m Benjamin Higginbotham and this is your SpacePod for November 30th, 2010.

Back on November 2nd, 2010 the Cassini spacecraft went in to safe mode when the on-board computer had a messed up bit. As a result the craft was unable to process an important instruction and that’s why it went in to safe mode. This is the 6th time since its launch in 1997 that the craft has gone in to safe mode.

On November 24th, 2010 Cassini was brought back to full operations and just in time. At 11:54 UTC and during Spacecraft Event Time, Cassini will pass around 48 kilometers or 30 miles from the surface of Enceladus. During the closest part of the flyby, Cassini’s will make gravity measurements to help understand the moon’s interior structure better. Follow the action on the official Cassini Twitter page at

Other great stuff has come out of this craft as well. The Cassini spacecraft has detected a very weak atmosphere known as an exosphere, infused with oxygen and carbon dioxide around Saturn’s icy moon Rhea. This is the first time a spacecraft has directly captured molecules of an oxygen atmosphere – albeit a very thin one — at a world other than Earth. This means that active, complex chemistry involving oxygen may be quite common throughout the solar system and even our universe and could mean life may be more common than we think. Not enough data yet, but certainly an interesting find.

Lets close this out a bit closer to home. We have some amazing time lapse of Aurora Borealis recorded over Norway. What better way to see this amazing imagery than on your HDTV, and thanks to Roku now you can! Tune in this Friday at 0200 UTC during our live show for your chance to win a Roku HD player. For those of you in the US that’s Thursday night at 6:00pm PST or 9:00pm EST. You can only win if you watch live! And now lets end this space pod right.

2 Replies to “Cassini visits Enceladus – SpacePod 2010.11.30”

  1. You say:

    “complex chemistry involving oxygen may be quite common throughout the solar system and even our universe and could mean life may be more common than we think”

    It has long been thought that an oxygenated atmosphere around an exoplanet would be a sure indicator of life on that planet, but if we find non-biological mechanisms for oxygen creation on Rhea, might that not throw that assertion into doubt?

    Your claim that life might be more common may very well be right, but the search for it might become a little more difficult if atmospheric oxygen is not so unique to life afterall.

  2. There are not even close to enough answers yet, just awesome possibilities. One of the many reasons that was written very open ended and even used the line, “Not enough data yet, but certainly an interesting find” which is very true. But it sure is interesting that we found this right in our own backyard.

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