Cassini is orbiting Saturn with a 47.9-day period in a plane inclined 49.7 degrees from the planet's equatorial plane. The most recent spacecraft tracking, telemetry, and radio science data were obtained on October 30 using one of the 34-meter diameter Deep Space Network stations at Madrid, Spain. Except for the science instrument issues described in previous reports (for more information search the Cassini website for CAPS and USO), the spacecraft continues to be in an excellent state of health with all of its subsystems operating normally. Information on the present position of the Cassini spacecraft may be found on the "Present Position" page at: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/presentposition/.
Sequence Implementation Process teams continued working on the ten-week command sequences S82 and S83. Tasks and meetings have also been scheduled for S84 development. Planning proceeded for the 2016 start of the F-ring and Proximal Orbits phase as well. As usual, the Realtime Operations team continued supporting two-way communications with Cassini via the Deep Space Network (DSN). Meanwhile behind the scenes, budget plans and work agreements were finalized for the new fiscal year.
Wednesday, Oct. 23 (DOY 296)
The S81 command sequence, which was uplinked last week, began controlling Cassini's activities today. It will continue doing so for just under ten weeks. This period covers only one and a half orbits of Saturn, though, since Cassini's orbit period is a lengthy 47.9 days, the longest it has been in nine years since shortly after arrival at Saturn. Since then, Cassini's orbit period has averaged 18.7 days, and been as short as 7 days; in comparison, Titan orbits Saturn once every 16 Earth-days.
A news item released today features exciting new infrared views of Titan's northern region of surface lakes made by the Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS). The image maps infrared colors onto the visible-color spectrum, revealing differences in the composition of material around the lakes: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/news/newsreleases/newsrelease20131023/
Thursday, Oct. 24 (DOY 297)
Slightly less often than once a year, the Earth and Saturn are on opposite sides of the Sun; an event called superior conjunction. Today, the Radio Science team started its tenth superior conjunction experiment to study the solar corona, observing its effects on radio signals from the spacecraft. For today’s observation, the 70-meter aperture DSN station in Australia captured Cassini's X-band (8 GHz) and S-band (2 GHz) signals for Radio Science, along with routine communications and tracking.
Friday, Oct. 25 (DOY 298)
The Magnetospheric and Plasma Science (MAPS) instruments began an 11-day campaign today to study Saturn’s magnetotail, making use of an orbital positioning that was specifically designed into Cassini's Solstice Mission. The spacecraft will make deep cuts through the plasma sheet in the long, extended tail of Saturn's magnetosphere, which goes quite far south of the equator now that Saturn's equinox has passed. The Magnetospheric Imaging Instrument (MIMI) is prime for the multi-day observations, using its Ion and Neutral Camera (INCA) in ion mode, and also its Charge-Energy-Mass Spectrometer (CHEMS) sensor.
The Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) team processed a set of calibrated images into a natural-color mosaic of Saturn that was released today. Cassini's high-inclination orbits make such a stunning perspective possible: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/news/cassinifeatures/feature20131025/. If the image looks familiar, it's because a talented amateur astrophotographer composed a view that was featured in these pages last week.
Today was the deadline for US entries in the 2013 edition of Cassini Scientist for a Day, an essay contest for students in grades 5-12: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/education/scientistforaday12thedition/
Saturday, Oct. 26 (DOY 299)
The 70-meter Australian DSN station again captured Cassini's X- and S-band signals for Radio Science along with providing the link for telemetry, command, and tracking. The 11-day MAPS campaign continued to observe Saturn's magnetotail.
Monday, Oct. 28 (DOY 301)
One of the two operable (more are being built) 34-meter DSN stations in Australia captured Cassini's X-band and Ka-band (32 GHz) signals for Radio Science as part of this year's superior conjunction experiment. It also provided routine communications and tracking.
When Voyager's cameras were unable to see through Titan's hazy atmosphere during their 1980 and 1981 flybys, Cassini's more sensitive ISS was designed with special filters intended for just that purpose. An ISS image featured today shows regions of Titan's surface that are not otherwise visible: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/photos/imagedetails/index.cfm?imageId=4910