December 12, 2017
Cassini’s instruments found evidence that Saturn’s atmosphere, known as the ionosphere, is strongly affected by shadows cast by the rings.

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft may be dead, but it left behind new data about Saturn’s rings

NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn may have came to a fiery end in September, but observations made by the spacecraft in its final months still have plenty to teach us about the mysteries of the ringed planet.
Case in point: A new study finds that the electrically charged region of Saturn’s atmosphere, known as the ionosphere, is significantly more complex and variable than scientists thought.
Cassini’s instruments also found evidence that the ionosphere is strongly affected by shadows cast by the rings. In addition, it might also interact with microscopic ice particles from the rings themselves in a phenomenon known as “ring rain.”
The work was presented Monday at the American Geophysical Union conference in New Orleans, and will be published this week in the journal Science.
“Consider this a prelude of things to come from Cassini,” said Hunter Waite, director of planetary mass spectrometry at the South West Research Institute, who was not involved in the study. “Saturn’s ionosphere is much more complicated than anyone could imagine.”
After travelling in the Saturn system for nearly 13 years, Cassini launched on a new trajectory in April that took the two-storey-high spacecraft into the previously unexplored territory between Saturn and its rings —including through the top of the planet’s atmosphere.
This allowed instruments on board the spacecraft to make in-situ observations of Saturn’s ionosphere for the first time. Researchers had been able to study this region of Saturn’s atmosphere using other methods such as radio occultation, but actually being there allowed them to take much more precise measurements.
“There is absolutely no substitute for being in-situ,” Waite said. “It changed our whole perspective.”
The new work is based on data collected by Cassini’s Radio and Plasma Wave Science instrument (RPWS), which measures electron density in the planet’s atmosphere.
The study is the first of what experts say could be dozens of papers describing this region of the planet.
William Kurth, the principal investigator for RPWS and a co-author of the study, said the new work is based on Cassini’s first 11 passes through the space between the planet and the rings. The spacecraft would eventually make a total of 22.
“We thought we had gathered enough information to write a paper about Saturn’s ionosphere that would be groundbreaking and set the stage for what would come,” he said.
The researchers report large variations in the density of electrons as a function of latitude and altitude and also from one orbit to the next.
Some of these variations can be attributed to interactions with the rings, but not all of them, the authors said.
For example, the A and B rings cast shadows on the planet that are opaque enough to block the sun’s ultraviolet radiation from hitting the atmosphere. Ultraviolet radiation can knock an electron off an atom and allow it to be free floating. Therefore, these shadowy regions have less electron density than other parts of the planet.
But that’s only part of the story.
“We see other types of effects that appear to be relative to the rings, but we don’t fully understand them yet,” Kurth said. “Further analysis is due on that point.”
The researchers also report that ring rain does not have a significant effect on the ionosphere at the equatorial regions of the planet, where the measurements in the new study were made.
However, they added that it is still possible that the water particles from the rings interact with Saturn’s atmosphere at higher latitudes.
Kurth said much more about the structure of the ionosphere will become clear in the coming months as data from Cassini’s other instruments are published. He said that already, behind the scenes, scientists are beginning to compare observations and work out what they all mean.
Waite agreed.
“We were wrong about the ionosphere, but that’s OK,” he said. “Mother Nature is always more imaginative than scientists.”
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
Jan 02, 2024
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
Jan 02, 2024 15:29
The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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