Pioneer Saturn celestial mechanics experiment

John D. Anderson, George W. Null, Elinor D. Biller, Sun Kuen Wong, William B. Hubbard, Joseph J. MacFarlane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


During the Pioneer Saturn encounter, a continuous round-trip radio link at S band (∼2.2 gigahertz) was maintained between stations of the Deep Space Network and the spacecraft. From an analysis of the Doppler shift in the radio carrier frequency, it was possible to determine a number of gravitational effects on the trajectory. Gravitational moments (J2 and J 4) for Saturn have been determined from preliminary analysis, and preliminary mass values have been determined for the Saturn satellites Rhea, Iapetus, and Titan. For all three satellites the densities are low, consistent with the compositions of ices. The rings have not been detected in the Doppler data, and hence the best preliminary estimate of their total mass is zero with a standard error of 3×10-6 Saturn mass. New theoretical calculations for the Saturn interior are described which use the latest observational data, including Pioneer Saturn, and state-of-the-art physics for the internal composition. Probably liquid H2O and possibly NH 3 and CH4 are primarily confined in Saturn to the vicinity of a core of approximately 15 to 20 Earth masses. There is a slight indication that helium may likewise be fractionated to the central regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)449-453
Number of pages5
Issue number4429
StatePublished - 1980

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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