This Week on Galileo
April 16 - April 22, 2001
Activity Picks Up on the Galileo Spacecraft
The pace of activity onboard Galileo picks up a bit this week. On
Wednesday, routine maintenance is performed on the spacecraft propulsion
system. On Friday, routine maintenance is performed on the tape recorder.
Both of these activities are done periodically during the relatively quiet
cruise portion of an orbit in order to maintain the health of the thrusters
and of the tape recorder for when they are needed the most -- during the
intense activities of the close satellite encounters.
On Sunday, some special science instrument calibrations are performed.
Because of the limits on the amount of data that Galileo can return in a
given orbit, calibrations, though very important, are rarely done. The
preferred data to return are the detailed science observations made during
the close flybys. However, because of the intense radiation environment the
spacecraft has been living in over the years, and the simple fact that the
spacecraft has been in space for over 10 years, the science instruments
have slowly been degrading with age.
In order for the science data to accurately measure specific physical
quantities (100 photons, for example), we must calibrate the instruments so
that we know how they respond to a given input signal (the instrument
receives 100 photons, but only reports 85 of them). Also, even in the
absence of input signals (looking at black sky, for example) most
instruments will report seeing some signal, mostly as a result of
electrical noise in the control circuits.
The Solid State Imaging camera (SSI) will be taking pictures through
different color filters of two star fields with stars of known intensity
which have been measured before by the Galileo instrument. By comparing
these pictures with those taken earlier in the mission, scientists can see
how the sensitivity of the camera at different wavelengths may have
changed. Also, pictures taken without opening the camera shutter will
determine how much noise there is in the camera's electronic circuits. The
Near Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (NIMS) will be looking at dark sky, and
at the star Sirius, the brightest in the sky.
This is the last time in the mission that we plan on calibrating SSI and
NIMS in this way. These measurements will be stored on the spacecraft tape
recorder and played back over the next month, prior to the next flyby of
Callisto near the end of May.
Leading up to this activity, playback of data recorded during the last
flyby of Ganymede in December will continue. At this point, the data are
mostly a replay of data that were lost in transit during an earlier
SSI will be filling gaps in an observation of Ganymede taken when that
satellite was in Jupiter's shadow. These images were looking for the glow
of an aurora on the satellite, which was the highest priority observation
for this instrument on this orbit. Bits of other pictures to be returned
are from Ganymede's polar cap boundary, and the Dardanus Sulcus region of
this largest of Jupiter's moons. Also expected are pictures of a stormy
area near the Great Red Spot on Jupiter itself, and of Jupiter's ring.
NIMS will be completing some mapping of Ganymede, both at a global scale,
and at somewhat higher spatial resolution. An observation of Io will also
be returned, keeping track of the volcanoes and hot spots on this
satellite. On Jupiter itself, an observation of hot spots in the atmosphere
near 7 degrees North latitude will be played back, as well as measurements
taken of the North Temperate Zone and of the aurora in the south polar
region of the planet.