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Cassini finds plethora of plumes, hotspots at Enceladus

Images from a November 2009 swoop over Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft reveal a forest of new jets spraying from prominent fractures crossing the south polar region and yield the most detailed temperature map to date of one fracture.

The new images from the imaging science subsystem and the composite infrared spectrometer teams also include the best 3-D image ever obtained of a “tiger stripe,” a fissure that sprays icy particles, water vapor and organic compounds. There are also views of regions not well-mapped previously on Enceladus, including a southern area with crudely circular tectonic patterns. For Cassini’s visible-light cameras, the Nov. 21, 2009 flyby provided the last look at Enceladus’ south polar surface before that region of the moon goes into 15 years of darkness, and includes the most detailed look yet at the jets.

Scientists planned to use this flyby to look for new or smaller jets not visible in previous images. In one mosaic, scientists count more than 30 individual geysers, including more than 20 that had not been seen before. At least one jet spouting prominently in previous images now appears less powerful.

A new map that combines heat data with visible-light images shows a 40-kilometer (25-mile) segment of the longest tiger stripe, known as Baghdad Sulcus. The map illustrates the correlation, at the highest resolution yet seen, between the geologically youthful surface fractures and the anomalously warm temperatures that have been recorded in the south polar region. The broad swaths of heat previously detected by the infrared spectrometer appear to be confined to a narrow, intense region no more than a kilometer (half a mile) wide along the fracture.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo. The composite infrared spectrometer team is based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., where the instrument was built.

Contact Maria Stothoff at 210-522-3305, or email


New deep water ocean simulator available at SwRI

A new hyperbaric test chamber for items that require high-pressure, high-temperature (HPHT) testing is now available for use at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI). The deepwater ocean simulator is capable of attaining pressures of 30,000 psig at a rated temperature of 500 degrees F.

The cylindrical simulator was designed, fabricated and built by SwRI in accordance with Section VIII-Division 2 rules of the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code. The Institute has previously designed and built similar fixtures.

Measuring 10 feet inside length with a 16-inch inner diameter and a wall thickness of 11 inches, the simulator is crafted of SA-508-Grade 4N Class 2 material that has a tensile strength of 100,000 psi.

The chamber is rated to 30,000 psig, enabling SwRI to perform high-collapse tests on oil country tubular goods (OCTG) casing and to perform testing for subsea technologies requiring proof test pressures beyond the ocean depths.

The new simulator expands SwRI’s test capabilities for meeting demands made on tubular manufacturers for higher-strength pipe to withstand extreme well depths and water depths greater than 60,000 feet.

In addition to the new HPHT chamber, a 9,000-square-foot building was erected to enclose SwRI’s outdoor deep ocean pressure simulation test chambers including the 90-inch I.D., 4,000 psig-rated, and 50-inch I.D., 6,500 psig-rated test chambers. The facility includes two bridge cranes with three overhead hoists rated up to 30 tons for lowering test articles into the chambers. The enclosure provides weather protection and allows clients to better view testing.

Contact Joe Crouch at 210-522-4295 or


Light receives ASNT award

Dr. Glenn M. Light, director of the Sensor Systems and NDE Technology Department in Southwest Research Institute’s Mechanical Engineering Division, has been selected by the American Society for Nondestructive Testing (ASNT) Research Council to receive its 2010 Research Award for Sustained Excellence.

The award recognizes “outstanding sustained contributions in the nondestructive testing/nondestructive engineering research field.” ASNT gives only one Sustained Excellence Award each year.

Light, who joined the SwRI staff in 1978, specializes in developing sensors, systems and techniques for the nondestructive evaluation of materials and structures. He has applied these efforts to metals, composites and ceramics. His expertise includes ultrasonic technology and transducer design, eddy current probe design, digital radiography, computed tomography, infrared thermography and shearography.

Currently, Light is focusing on developing structural health monitoring systems using magnetostrictive sensor ultrasonic guided wave technology and conventional ultrasonic technology with wireless communication.

Light has been a member of ASNT since 1979 and has been involved in a number of the society’s activities including serving as chair of the ASNT Research Council from 2004 to 2006. He was named an ASNT Fellow in 2001.

Contact Light at

Published in the Spring 2010 issue of Technology Today®, published by Southwest Research Institute. For more information, contact Joe Fohn.

Spring 2010 Technology Today
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