Voyager 2 expected to solve some of Saturn's riddles
Saturn's mysteries are legion, but space scientists here expect to unravel at least a few of them in the coming week. Last November, America's supersophisticated space probe, Voyager 1, loped within 80,000 miles of the planet, the second largest in the solar system, and gave mankind its closest look to date at the spectacular rings and superficially bland face that Saturn presents to the solar system. The television pictures and scientific data beamed back the 950 million miles to Earth by Voyager 1 multilied Saturn's mysteries.
Now a twin spacecraft, Voyager 2, is speeding across the interplanetary void and closing in on the giant gaseous sphere. Planetary scientists here at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have had nine months to analyze and puzzle over the earlier pictures and data on Saturn. They have programmed the instruments in the second spacecraft to concentrate on gathering clues to the various riddles which the planet presents. Teh scientists will be aided by substantially sharper TV cameras on the second spacecraft than those on its twin. Also, its path will carry it much closer to the planet -- within 63,000 miles -- and the rings will be better illuminated than on the previous flyby.
As a result, "We anticipate an even better look at Saturn," summarized Ed Stone, a voyager project scientist. In a preliminary press briefing he summarized the outstanding puzzles of Saturn and how scientists hope Voyager 2's electronic eyes and ears will shed light on them.
the rings, of course, are Saturn's most dramatic feature and its biggest puzzle. They were perplexing enough before the first Voyager cameras profiled them. If a scale model were made from the thinnest airmail paper, the rings would be about 30 feet wide with an outer diameter of 135 feet, and almost perfectly flat.
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