The cosmic dust analyser onboard cassini: ten years of discoveries

R. Srama, S. Kempf, G. Moragas-klostermeyer, N. Altobelli, S. Auer, U. Beckmann, S. Bugiel, M. Burton, T. Economomou, H. Fechtig, K. Fiege, S. F. Green, M. Grande, O. Havnes, J. K. Hillier, S. Helfert, M. Horanyi, S. Hsu, E. Igenbergs, E. K. JessbergerT. V. Johnson, E. Khalisi, H. Krüger, G. Matt, A. Mocker, P. Lamy, G. Linkert, F. Lura, D. Möhlmann, G. E. Morfill, K. Otto, F. Postberg, M. Roy, Johanna L Schmidt, G. H. Schwehm, F. Spahn, V. Sterken, J. Svestka, V. Tschernjawski, E. Grün, H.-p. Röser

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The interplanetary space probe Cassini/Huygens reached Saturn in July 2004 after 7 years of cruise phase. The German cosmic dust analyser (CDA) was developed under the leadership of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg under the support of the DLR e.V. This instrument measures the interplanetary, interstellar and planetary dust in our solar system since 1999 and provided unique discoveries. In 1999, CDA detected interstellar dust in the inner solar system followed by the detection of electrical charges of interplanetary dust grains during the cruise phase between Earth and Jupiter. The instrument determined the composition of interplanetary dust and the nanometre-sized dust streams originating from Jupiter’s moon Io. During the approach to Saturn in 2004, similar streams of submicron grains with speeds in the order of 100 km/s were detected from Saturn’s inner and outer ring system and are released to the interplanetary magnetic field. Since 2004 CDA measured more than one million dust impacts characterising the dust environment of Saturn. The instrument is one of the three experiments which discovered the active ice geysers located at the south pole of Saturn’s moon Enceladus in 2005. Later, a detailed compositional analysis of the water ice grains in Saturn’s E ring system led to the discovery of large reservoirs of liquid water (oceans) below the icy crust of Enceladus. Finally, the determination of the dust-magnetosphere interaction and the discovery of the extended E ring (at least twice as large as predicted) allowed the definition of a dynamical dust model of Saturn’s E ring describing the observed properties. This paper summarizes the discoveries of a 10-year story of success based on reliable measurements with the most advanced dust detector flown in space until today. This paper focuses on cruise results and findings achieved at Saturn with a focus on flux and density measurements. CDA discoveries related to the detailed dust stream dynamics, E ring dynamics, its vertical profile and E ring compositional analysis are published elsewhere (see Hus et al. in AIP Conference Proccedings 1216:510–513, 2010; Hsu et al. in Icarus 206:653–661, 2010; Kempf et al. in Icarus 193:420, 2008; 206(2):446, 2010; Postberg et al. in Icarus 193(2):438, 2008; Nature 459:1098, 2009; Nature, 2011, doi:10.1038/nature10175).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-16
JournalCEAS Space Journal
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2011


  • cosmic dust layer
  • Cassini
  • CDA
  • Interplanetary dust
  • interstellar dust
  • planetary ring
  • E ring
  • Enceladus
  • cosmochemistry
  • Saturn
  • water ice
  • geyser
  • impact ionisation
  • PVDF


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