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UM-Built Sensor on Cassini Begins Reading
Tale of Ions in Saturn's Magnetosphere

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The Cassini spacecraft has barely begun its four-year tour around Saturn, but already a University of Maryland sensor is starting to reveal new data about the immense magnetosphere of the ringed planet.

Designed and built by scientists in the University of Maryland's space physics group, the CHEMS (Charge Energy Mass Spectrometer) sensor measures ions -- positively charged atoms -- in Saturn's magnetosphere.
A planet's magnetosphere is the magnetic field and charged particle environment that surrounds it. The magnetosphere traps ions produced in and around a planet. And it shields a planet from, and interacts with, the solar wind - the high-speed stream of ionized particles flowing out in all directions from the Sun.

"By determining the elemental composition and charge state of the ions within and around Saturn's magnetosphere, CHEMS will identify the sources of the plasma found there and study the processes of plasma acceleration," says Douglas C. Hamilton, a professor of physics at the University of Maryland and leader of the space physics team that designed and built the CHEMS sensor.

"CHEMS has already yielded data indicating the plasma in Saturn's magnetosphere consists mostly of hydrogen and oxygen ions and molecular ions derived from water," says Hamilton. "This suggests that the plasma probably comes from the surfaces of Saturn's icy moons and rings, and not from the atmosphere of Titan, which consists primarily of nitrogen."

Plasmas are the most common form of matter, comprising more than 99 percent of the known visible universe including the Sun and other stars. These ionized gases generate and interact with magnetic and electric fields around planets, stars and other astrophysical environments. Plasma processes can accelerate some ions to incredible energies. Cosmic rays -- which are some of the highest energy plasma particles -- contain "signatures" of the birth and death of stars. Observing the properties of space plasmas and energetic particles provides scientists a rich source of information about the physical processes that energize these materials and the conditions that exist at the sites where this energizing takes place.

Magnetospheric Imaging
Maryland's CHEMS is one of three sensors that make up the Magnetospheric Imaging Instrument, MIMI, aboard NASA's Cassini-Huygens spacecraft. MIMI is one of 12 science instruments on the main Cassini spacecraft and one of six instruments designed primarily to investigate the space environments around Saturn and its satellites. The Huygens probe, which has six instruments of its own, will investigate Saturn's largest moon, Titan. Titan is the only moon in the solar system with its own atmosphere.

MIMI and its science team are led by Stamatios (Tom) M. Krimigis, head of the space department of The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Using MIMI, Krimigis, Hamilton and other members of the international MIMI team will profile the plasma environment of charged particles around Saturn and provide the first visible, global images of Saturn's magnetosphere. Gaining a better understanding of Saturn's magnetosphere and its interaction with the solar wind and solar storms promises to also help scientists better understand space weather and its interaction with the magnetosphere of our own planet.

MIMI's sensors combine three critical measurements to create that picture. In addition to Maryland's CHEMS, there is the higher-energy particle detector LEMMS, primarily developed by the Max Planck Institute at Lindau, Germany, that looks at the distribution and strength of energetic ions and electrons near the spacecraft. MIMI's ion and neutral camera, or INCA, uses an APL-developed technique known as energetic neutral atom imaging to provide a global view of the entire magnetosphere - a deep-space mission first. All of MIMI's sensors are linked together by a central computer.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter.

UM Group Leads Space Physics Research
The University of Maryland space physics group specializes in measurements of space plasmas and of suprathermal and energetic ions found in solar, planetary, and interplanetary environments. The work for which the group is internationally recognized includes studies of the composition and ionization states of the solar wind, solar energetic particles, and interstellar neutral atoms which have been "picked up" in the solar wind. This work, carried on at Maryland since the late 1960s, has given key insights into solar energetic particle acceleration and conditions in the solar atmosphere.

Other work has provided fundamental information about the energizing of particles by traveling interplanetary shocks and such diverse topics as the origin of oxygen and sulfur ions in Jupiter's magnetosphere from the volcanoes on the moon Io and the composition and energy content of the Earth's radiation belts.

The plasma and energetic particle observations carried out by the Space Physics Group require novel instrumentation carried on Earth-orbiting satellites and deep-space probes. Instruments are designed and constructed on campus by the group's technical staff, with participation by graduate as well as undergraduate students.

Experiments built by the group are currently operating on 13 spacecraft, including Cassini. Other missions carrying the group's sensors include the Voyager deep-space probes, the Ulysses probe to the solar poles and near-Earth missions such as Geotail, the Solar Anomalous and Magnetospheric Particle Explorer (SAMPEX), WIND, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), and the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE).



Douglas C. Hamilton
Professor of Physics
University of Maryland
Space Physics Group

Expertise includes magnetospheres of the earth and outer planets, space physics, interplanetary physics. Hamilton and the university's space physics group built the CHEMS ion composition instrument on Cassini. Previously, he analyzed energetic particle data returned by Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 when they flew by Saturn in 1980 and 1981, respectively.

George Gloeckler
Professor of Physics/
Institute for Physical Science & Technology
University of Maryland
Space Physics Group

Expertise includes space exploration, space probe instrumentation and space physics. Gloeckler is a Distinguished University Professor and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Working with both NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), he has taken part in many of the major space exploration programs of the past 25 years. A pioneer in the field of space plasma physics, Gloeckler has developed instruments carried on numerous deep space probes, including the two Voyagers, Ulysses and Cassini.

MIMI Principal Investigator
Stamatios (Tom) M. Krimigis
Head of the Space Department
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL)
Contact via Michael Buckley
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
Office of Communications and Public Affairs

Expertise includes the earth's environment, its magnetosphere, the sun, the interplanetary medium, and the magnetospheres of the planets and other astrophysical objects.
Krimigis has been Principal Investigator or Co-Investigator on several NASA spacecraft, including the Low Energy Charged Particle (LECP) Experiment on Voyagers 1 and 2. He is currently a Principal Investigator for the 1997 Cassini mission to Saturn and Titan, and a Co-Investigator on the Galileo, Ulysses, ACE and MESSENGER missions. He spearheaded the establishment of NASA's Discovery program for low-cost planetary missions.


Karrie Sue Hawbaker
University of Maryland
Department of Physics
301-405-5945 __________

Lee Tune
University of Maryland
Office of University Communications

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