By Kim Zetter , Wired.com

cap001.pngOne of the most fascinating talks at the TED conference so far was given by Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist, who gave a riveting account of a stroke she experienced in 1996. (TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design.)

Taylor’s knowledge of the brain made her the perfect witness to her body’s gradual shutdown. Over the course of four hours she watched her body deteriorate in stages, all the while processing its breakdown as if she were a curious explorer taking field notes. The first to go was her perception of herself as separate from the objects around her.

I should step back and say that before she described what happened to her brain and body, she brought out a real brain on stage, with spinal cord attached to it, and explained the distinctions between the functions performed by the right and left hemispheres of the brain. The right hemisphere, she said, is all about the present. It processes information from the sensory systems to give us a picture of the current moment — what it looks, smells, sounds and feels like.

The left hemisphere makes a collage of the present moment, picks out details and categorizes them and associates them with everything in the past that we’ve ever learned and then projects it into the future to determine possibilities. It’s the left hemisphere she says where brain chatter resides and the voice that says “I am.” This is the part of the brain that says we’re something separate from the scenery around us, and this is the part of the brain she temporarily lost during her stroke.

So on the morning of December 10, 1996, Taylor awoke with pounding, caustic pain behind her left eye. It came in waves, gripping and releasing her. Nonetheless, she started her morning routine, oblivious to what was happening. She jumped on an exercise machine and looked down at her hands and says they looked like primitive claws to her. She didn’t recognize her body as hers.

“It was as though my consciousness had shifted away from my consciousness of personality to where a mysterious person was having this experience,” she said.

She also couldn’t define the boundaries of where her body ended and the things around her began. The molecules of her arm blended with the molecules in the wall. It made her feel enormous and expansive and connected to all of the energy around her, which gave her a sense of peace.

“Imagine what it would feel like to lose thirty-seven years of emotional baggage,” she said.

It occurred to her that she had to get to work, but then her right arm became paralyzed and that’s when she finally realized she was having a stroke. She says rather than feel panic, her brain said, “Wow, this is so cool” — proof that scientists don’t think like the rest of us.

She decided to call her office but didn’t know the number. So she pulled out a stack of business cards, sifting for one with her work number. It took 45 minutes to get through a third of the cards. By then, however, the hemorrhage had grown and she didn’t know how to work the phone. She waited for a moment of clarity to return — it came in waves — but when she tried to dial the number from one of the cards it just looked like squiggles. She matched the shapes of the squiggles on the card to the squiggles on the phone and eventually reached a colleague. When he answered the phone, all she heard him say was, “Whaa, whaa, whaa” — a bit like the sound the adults in Peanuts cartoons make. When she opened her mouth to respond, the same sound came from her.

Later when she was in the ambulance she felt the energy in her body lift and her spirit surrender.

“In that moment I knew that I was no longer the choreographer of my life,” she said. She woke up later that afternoon, surprised that she was still alive. Two and a half weeks later surgeons removed a blood-clot the size of a golf ball from her skull.

It took her eight years to completely recover.

WSJ.com – If the U.S. is concerned about the quality of raw heparin imported from China, the Americans need to make sure the proper controls are in place, China’s State Food and Drug Administration said last week.

The Chinese FDA said it works with foreign regulators to monitor factories, but the ultimate responsibility for “safeguarding the legality, quality and safety of active pharmaceutical ingredients” lies with the importing nation, the WSJ’s Gordon Fairclough reports.

A version of the blood thinner heparin, sold by Baxter International, has been associated with illnesses and deaths in this country. Some of the key raw ingredient for the drug comes from China. In today’s statement, China’s FDA put concerns about the Chinese product at arm’s length, noting that the Chinese manufacturer that supplied the raw heparin is majority U.S. owned, its production technology was supplied by an American firm and all of its output was exported to the U.S.

Chinese producers of active pharmaceutical ingredients must be drug companies that are “registered and certified” by the Chinese FDA, an agency spokeswoman told the WSJ. Foreign buyers should confirm this certification and importing countries “should make strict tests” on ingredients. The company that sold the raw heparin used by Baxter wasn’t certified by the Chinese FDA because it was registered as a chemical company, not a drug company.

The WSJ’s Gordon Fairclough snapped this picture at the Yuan Intestine & Casing Factory, where men “wring pulp from pig intestines, then heat it in concrete vats.”

Heparin sold by Baxter International in the U.S. has recently been associated with hundreds of adverse reactions and a few deaths. Scientific Protein Laboratories, Baxter’s main supplier of the active ingredient in the blood thinner, says that the Yuan Intestine & Casing Factory isn’t in its company’s supply chain.

But the company does have a joint-venture that sources raw heparin, which is derived from pig intestines, from a handful of Chinese facilities. It’s not clear whether the Chinese operation is the source of the ingredients that seem to be causing harm in patients who receive the blood thinner.

Still, the heparin issue is raising questions over whether heparin makers should be able to track their product back to individual pigs. The drug goes through a complex purification process between pig and person, which some regulators say eliminates the need to identify the source animal. Others argue, though, that even the raw materials should be traceable in order to quickly contain any problems that arise.

Raw heparin makers have come under some scrutiny in China, but that wasn’t really about drug safety. In 2006, the WSJ reports, authorities shut down 16 companies making heparin and chondroitin sulphate, an ingredient in arthritis medications derived from animal cartilage, for illegally discharging waste water. (For more on the production of heparin, click on the image at right to see a slideshow.)
In another case, officials closed sausage-casing companies that were producing heparin on the side. Dirty water on the floor of one factory contained ten-centimeter-long worms, according to a local paper that covered the case.

News From PharmaLive.com

http://www.therapeuticsdaily.com/news/article.cfm?contentValue=1752968&contentType=sentryarticle&channelID=33#

Heparin Discovery May Point to Chinese Counterfeiting

New York Times – Mar. 20, 2008

Federal drug regulators, in announcing Wednesday that the mystery contaminant in heparin was an inexpensive, unapproved ingredient altered to mimic the real thing, moved closer to concluding that Americans might be the latest victims of lethal Chinese drug counterfeiting.

The finding by the Food and Drug Administration culminated a worldwide race to identify the substance discovered early this month in certain batches of heparin, the blood-thinning drug that had been linked to 19 deaths in the United States and hundreds of allergic reactions.

The contaminant, the regulators said, is a chemically altered form of chondroitin sulfate, a dietary supplement made from animal cartilage that is widely used to treat joint pain. The agency’s announcement followed a report Wednesday in The New York Times that was the first publicly to identify the modified substance as the likely contaminant. That report was based on nearly two dozen interviews with researchers and scientists in China, the United States and Canada.

Federal officials stopped short of saying that the contaminant — constituting as much as 50 percent of the active ingredient in heparin — was counterfeit. ”At the moment we don’t know definitely whether the contaminant was introduced intentionally or by accident,” said Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s center for drug evaluation and research.

Even so, the authorities left little doubt that they believed that the contaminant was not an unintended byproduct of some manufacturing process.

In its natural state, chondroitin sulfate does not have anticlotting properties. But it mimics heparin when altered to form what is called oversulfated chondroitin sulfate. That is what made it difficult for Baxter International, the manufacturer of the heparin associated with the allergic reactions, to detect the impurity. ”This compound to our knowledge is not naturally occurring,” Dr. Woodcock said. ”It should not be in heparin. And it obviously should not be in the form it is in.”

While identifying the contaminant was a significant breakthrough, investigators still do not know if it is responsible for causing the allergic reactions. Nor do they know why the modified ingredient ended up in heparin, though they have raised the possibility that the substance was used as cheap filler.

”The base compound, chondroitin sulfate, is very abundant and an inexpensive compound,” said Moheb Nasr, director of the agency’s office of new drug quality and assessment. Chemically modifying it, Mr. Nasr added, ”will not be that expensive either.”

The F.D.A. said it had found the contaminated heparin at Changzhou SPL, the Chinese plant that supplies the active ingredient to Baxter. Changzhou in turn buys its heparin from two companies, called consolidators, that gather crude heparin from workshops that make it from pig intestines.

Many workshops that make crude heparin are unregulated family operations.

Erin Gardiner, a spokeswoman for Baxter, said Wednesday that tests found the supplies were contaminated before they arrived at the Changzhou plant. ”The consolidators and workshops handle the crude material, so that is where our focus is turning,” Ms. Gardiner said.

So far, Ms. Gardiner said Baxter’s investigators had been denied access to the consolidators and workshops. ”We will continue to seek access.”

Last week, the F.D.A. said it had not yet visited the workshops.

Some heparin producers in China also sell chondroitin sulfate, which can be derived from pig cartilage. Traders and producers say it is far cheaper than heparin, as little as one-twentieth the cost. That could be an enticement for counterfeiters, especially in the wake of a virulent pig virus that swept across China last year, substantially reducing the availability of the starting materials needed to make the active ingredient in heparin.

Contaminated heparin sourced from China has also turned up recently in Germany, where about 80 allergic reactions have been reported. But investigators there have yet to identify the contaminant. F.D.A. officials said their discovery of chemically modified chondroitin sulfate came exactly one year after the discovery that a pet food ingredient shipped from China contained toxic levels of melamine, which was added to make it appear higher in protein. Many pets became ill, and some died.

Around the same time, The Times reported that an unlicensed Chinese chemical plant sold a cheap counterfeit ingredient, diethylene glycol, that was mixed into cold medicine in Panama, killing nearly 120 people and disabling dozens more.

Diethylene glycol mimics its more expensive chemical cousin, glycerine, a safe ingredient used in medicine, food and toothpaste.

The F.D.A. said its search for answers in the heparin case had been made easier because of the cooperation it had received from China’s State Food and Drug Administration. That was not the case when United States officials inquired last year about the melamine and diethylene glycol.

The agency cited an accord signed in December by the governments of China and the United States as one reason for the cooperation they had received recently, which they said allowed American investigators to quickly begin their investigation of the additive.

Baxter has recalled virtually all of its heparin products. The F.D.A. has also asked that all heparin entering the country be stopped and tested for the contaminant. Heparin is commonly used in dialysis and cardiac surgery. ”We feel doctors and patients can be confident that the product on the market for the large volume uses of heparin, for dialysis and so forth, has been tested and is safe,” Dr. Woodcock said.

Harvard University Medical School

Reactions to Common Heart Medications

March 2008

Harvard University Medical School – Bad reactions to a prescribed medication send more than 175,000 older Americans to the emergency room each year. Just 10 commonly used medications—almost all of them for heart disease or diabetes— account for half of these reactions. The March 2008 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter offers tips about safely taking these important but potentially tricky medications.

Warfarin: Check your bleeding time (INR) regularly. Take care if you are also taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen. Keep your intake of green, leafy vegetables and alcohol steady from day to day.

Insulin: Check your blood sugar several times a day. Take care to store your insulin properly and carry a ready supply. Be aware of the signs of low blood sugar.

Digoxin: Check your pulse when you are calm and relaxed. If it is slower than it should be, call your doctor. Take care if you begin using an over-the-counter medication that may interfere with digoxin, such as antacids, cold or sinus medicine, or laxatives. Call your doctor if you experience vision changes, drowsiness, or confusion.

Aspirin and clopidogrel: Check that you are taking the right dose at the recommended times. Take care when you are using these medications together or with warfarin. Call your doctor if you experience any bleeding warning signs.

Oral medications for diabetes: Check your blood sugar as your doctor directs. Take care with these drugs if you have any type of kidney or heart disease. Be aware of the signs of low blood sugar.


Dangers of Hookah Smoking

March 2008

Harvard University Medical School – A new fad among college students and other young people—smoking from a hookah—is raising public health concerns. The centuries-old tradition of smoking from a hookah, or waterpipe, is widely perceived to be less harmful and addictive than smoking cigarettes or other forms of tobacco. Yet a number of studies suggest that hookah smoking may be just as addictive and perhaps even more harmful because of the way people smoke while using a waterpipe, reports the March 2008 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter.

Researchers have found that hookah smokers inhale more often and for longer periods than typical cigarette smokers. Scientists estimate that by puffing longer and in greater volume, a waterpipe smoker inhales the equivalent of 100 cigarettes or more during a single waterpipe session.

Proponents of hookah smoking argue that it isn’t necessary to inhale the smoke into the lungs. Instead they puff as if on a pipe—and believe this reduces the health hazards. However, studies indicate that hookah smokers are absorbing high levels of toxins and carcinogens that may contribute to heart disease, lung cancer, and respiratory disease. And although some nicotine is filtered through the water contained at the base of the pipe, scientists conclude that waterpipe smokers are still exposed to enough nicotine to become addicted.

Dr. Michael Miller, editor in chief of the Harvard Mental Health Letter, suggests that until more is known about how to help hookah smokers quit, clinicians and smokers should be aware of the potential dangers.


Folic Acid and Cancer Risk

March 2008

For 20 years, the United States has been fortifying some foods with folic acid (the synthetic form of folate, a B vitamin) as part of a public health effort to prevent neural tube defects in newborns. The effort is paying off: the rate of neural tube defects is down by 30%. But there’s also evidence that the added folic acid is contributing to colorectal cancers, reports the March 2008 issue of Harvard Women’s Health Watch.

In the early years after folic acid fortification was mandated, the average level of folate in the blood of Americans nearly doubled. During that same period, a 15-year decline in colorectal cancers suddenly reversed. Although this link is not proof of cause and effect, there are biological reasons why extra folic acid may be to blame.

Only long-term monitoring can reveal whether fortifying foods with folic acid is safe—and clarify who is more (or less) likely to benefit. For now, unless you’re pregnant, lactating, or have a recognized folate deficiency, the daily recommended intake of folic acid is 400 mcg—the amount found in a multivitamin. The maximum safe amount from fortified foods and supplements is 1,000 mcg per day. With all the folic acid in fortified foods, you may exceed that limit, especially if you are taking a multivitamin. So it’s a good idea to check nutrition labels and make sure your daily folic acid intake is within bounds.

Harvard Women’s Health Watch notes there’s no known health risk from foods naturally high in folate, so try to get much of your daily requirement from a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

On this day, March 20, 1987, AZT (azidothymidine) became the first drug to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of AIDS.

Lawrence Grouse, MD, PhD

Medscape J Med. 2008;10(3):59. ©2008 Medscape
Posted 03/10/2008

In another commentary, I advocated the creation of a US health television network,[1] but I didn’t discuss the difficult issues in establishing it or in creating its medical content.

The medical content for a national health network would be crucial in establishing its value. The individuals and organizations with the responsibility for deciding this content cannot be influenced by proprietary interests. A diverse group of health educators who are without commercial bias is needed to make these decisions. Those with conflicts of interest should be excluded.

It is my opinion that medical professional groups are inappropriate judges of what health information to present precisely because of their conflicts of interest. These groups are primarily trade organizations that operate to benefit their members’ and their own financial interests.[2-6]

So, what organization should establish the US health network? Because the good health of the US population is so much in the interest of the US government, it is logical that the government should implement the network. It goes without saying that government policies are also influenced by proprietary interests, but the possibility of achieving the benefits of a health television network should persuade legislators to fund it in a way that would make it less vulnerable to commercial influence and more oriented to effective health education. The US government also has a long arm that can involve state and local governments, schools, public health clinics, and practicing physicians in an integrated program of health improvement. A US health network could be the medium that would link these resources together.

What about the expense of a US health network? In my opinion, commercial advertisements, as long as they are medically appropriate as regulated by the FDA and FTC, could cover these costs. In a business as profitable as television, even the government should be able to break even.[6]

These are just a few of the issues to deal with in establishing a health television network. And like all complex organizations, the devil is in the details, but what is most important is that we work to realize the power for health promotion that exists in television and in new communication technologies. We should not let the “business as usual” attitude prevent the implementation of this life-saving approach to public health.

That’s my opinion. I’m Dr. Larry Grouse, the Executive Director of the ARIA Initiative of the World Health Organization.


References

  1. Grouse L. Issues in creating a US health television network. Medscape J Med. 2008;10(2):27. Available at: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/569156 Accessed March 7, 2008.
  2. Lundberg GD. And then there were none. The demise of national medical television. JAMA. 1995;273:891.
  3. Lundberg GD, Stacey J, Severed Trust: Why American Medicine Hasn’t Been Fixed. New York: Basic Books; 2000.
  4. Angell M. Drug Companies. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2004.
  5. Kassirer J. On the Take. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2005.
  6. Grouse LD. For Sale: US Medicine. Physicians For Sale. USHN, Inc. 2008. In press.

Lawrence Grouse, MD, PhD, Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington
Author’s email: lgrouse@u.washington.edu

Disclosure: Lawrence Grouse, MD, PhD, has disclosed no relevant financial relationships in addition to his employment.

margaretsanger-underwoodloc.jpg
Born September 14, 1879(1879-09-14)
Corning, New York
Died September 6, 1966 (aged 86)
Tucson, Arizona

Sometimes social factors slow progress toward improving health more than lack of awareness or the absence of technology. No 20th century public health achievement demonstrates this more clearly than the struggle to provide women in the United States with safe and effective birth control. Margaret Sanger (September 14, 1879-September 6, 1966) risked scandal, danger, and imprisonment to challenge the legal and cultural obstacles that made controlling fertility difficult and illegal.

Margaret Louise Higgins was born in Corning, New York, the sixth of 11 children. Her free-thinking father’s politics might have ignited her activism, but watching the process of her mother, aged 50 years, die after 18 pregnancies probably had an even deeper impact. Higgins was a nursing student in 1902 when she married architect William Sanger. Although weakened by bouts of tuberculosis, she bore three children between 1902 and 1910. The Sangers immersed themselves in the radical political and intellectual world of Greenwich Village in New York City. She worked as a visiting nurse in the city’s tenements and wrote about sex education and women’s health.

cap0012.png
Sanger poses before leaving Brooklyn Court of Special Sessions after her arraignment in New York in October 1916

In 1914, Sanger’s articles in The Woman Radical brought her a federal indictment for violating federal postal obscenity laws, prompting her to flee to England. As soon as the ship left U.S. waters, she cabled a radical publisher in New Jersey to distribute 100,000 copies of her pamphlet, Family Limitation. Sanger remained exiled in Europe until late 1915; William Sanger had been arrested and jailed for distributing one copy of Family Limitation, and Margaret Sanger returned to face the charges against her. Personal tragedy intervened when the Sanger’s 5-year-old daughter died suddenly from pneumonia; public sentiments resulted in dismissal of the charges against Margaret Sanger.

Rather than backing away from controversy, Sanger and her sister Ethel Byrne, also a nurse, opened the first birth control clinic in the United States, modeled after those Sanger had seen in Holland. On October 16, 1916, dozens of Jewish and Italian immigrant women from Brooklyn’s crowded Brownsville section lined up to receive counseling and birth control information. Nine days later police closed the clinic and arrested Sanger, Byrne, and the clinic’s interpreter. Byrne was tried and convicted first, and went on a hunger strike. Sanger was convicted and served 30 days in jail. Legal failure had brought victory, however. The publicity surrounding Sanger’s activities had made birth control a matter of public debate.

Margaret and William Sanger divorced in 1920. Sanger founded the American Birth Control League (ABCL) in 1921 with Lothrop Stoddard and C. C. Little. In 1922, she traveled to Japan to work with Japanese feminist Kato Shidzue promoting birth control; over the next several years, she would return another six times for this purpose. In this year she married her second husband, the oil tycoon, James Noah H. Slee. In 1923, Sanger’s efforts were partially validated when the New York State appellate court amended the Comstock law, allowing physicians to legally distribute contraceptive information.

cap0022.png
Signed portrait of Margaret Sanger by Taylor-Sargent. New York. Gelatin silver print. 1941. From the Ama Lutz Collection. 1775-1943. Schlesinger Library. Radcliffe Institute.

After World War I, Sanger continued her U.S. leadership role, although during the 1920s and 1930s, she refocused her energy toward international birth control, traveling and lecturing throughout Asia and Europe. Her international circuit culminated in the 1930 organization of the Birth Control International Information Centre.

In 1952, she founded the International Planned Parenthood Federation and served as its first president until 1959. Sanger died in Tucson, Arizona, aged 87 years, a few months after the 1965 Supreme Court decision, Griswold vs. Connecticut, that made birth control legal for married couples, the culmination of events Sanger had started 50 years earlier.

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For more information about Target Document of any of our software tools for clinical research, please contact Dr. Jules T. Mitchel or Joyce Hays. For new business opportunities, contact Dr. Jules T. Mitchel

Iron Mountain Chooses IBM Software to Power Its Digital Record Center for Images
March 14, 2008

IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that Iron Mountain Incorporated has selected IBM software to power its new Digital Record Center(TM) for Images, which provides organizations with hosted storage and quick access to scanned images, PDFs and other digital files.

Iron Mountain, the global leader in information protection and storage services, is using IBM Content Manager OnDemand, IBM’s Web Interface for Content Management (IBM WEBi), IBM DB2 data server, and IBM WebSphere Application Server to enable and support the information management requirements of its Digital Record Center.

“The Digital Record Center for Images marries leading information management software from IBM with our Storage-as-a-Service expertise. The result is a secure, scalable repository for a company’s most accessed records and a pay-as-you-go service that frees companies from the costs and risks of maintaining their own in-house solution,” said Chris Churchill, vice president of document management solutions at Iron Mountain. “Combined with our physical document management and imaging capabilities, we can offer customers a true lifecycle solution: we can manage the physical document, convert it and then put it into our hosted archive to provide electronic access.”

“Enabling partners and clients like Iron Mountain to access and use data exactly when and how they need it to improve their business processes is the aim of our cross-company Information on Demand strategy,” said Ken Bisconti, vice president, product and strategy, for IBM Enterprise Content Management. “The combination of IBM’s information and content management software is helping Iron Mountain establish its Digital Record Center for Images and forge the transformation of processes and business models to create competitive advantage.”

Unlocking the Value of Information

The IBM software Iron Mountain has chosen to help transform its business and deliver information in the right context includes a range of advanced data and content management technologies, including IBM Content Manager OnDemand, which delivers high-performance, high-volume enterprise report management and content storage that provides streamlined, automatic access and distribution of selected reports and documents to authorized users, support for electronic bill presentment and payment solutions, and customer self-service access to bills, invoices, and statements.

Iron Mountain also is relying upon, IBM WEBi, an out-of-the-box, easy-to-use, highly interactive Web Client for IBM Content Manager and IBM Content Manager OnDemand that employs open standards and supports Web 2.0 and AJAX technologies. IBM WEBi can be easily customized and rapidly deployed to a business user’s desktop and provides today’s knowledge worker with the ability to search, view and edit documents and/or multiple content types using a visually appealing and intuitive user interface.

DB2 offers customers like Iron Mountain a truly innovative database server. Innovations such as Deep Compression and pureXML(TM) make DB2 Viper the ideal database server to slash storage costs and enable Web 2.0 applications. Customers of all sizes can rely on DB2’s legendary mission critical capabilities to power their business applications.

IBM WebSphere® Application Server is the foundation of the IBM WebSphere software platform and a key building block for a service oriented architecture. As the premier Java(TM) 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE(TM)) and Web services application platform, WebSphere Application Server V6.1 delivers a high performance transaction engine that can help you build, run, integrate and manage dynamic applications.

MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
CASSINI IMAGING CENTRAL LABORATORY FOR OPERATIONS (CICLOPS)
SPACE SCIENCE INSTITUTE, BOULDER, COLORADO
http://ciclops.org
media@ciclops.org

Preston Dyches (720) 974-5859
CICLOPS/Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.

Carolina Martinez (818) 354-9382
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

For Immediate Release: March 13, 2008

CASSINI FLIES THROUGH WATERY PLUMES OF SATURN MOON

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft performed a daring flyby of Saturn’s moon Enceladus on Wed., March 12, flying about 15 kilometers per second (32,000 mph) through icy water geyser-like jets. The spacecraft snatched up precious samples that might point to a water ocean or organics inside the little moon.

Scientists believe the geysers could provide evidence that liquid water is trapped under the icy crust of Enceladus. The geysers emanate from fractures running along the moon’s south pole, spewing out water vapor at approximately 400 meters per second (800 mph).

The new data provide a much more detailed look at the fractures that modify the surface and will give a significantly improved comparison between the geologic history of the moon’s north pole and south pole.

New images show that compared to much of the southern hemisphere on Enceladus–the south polar region in particular–the north polar region is much older and pitted with craters of various sizes. These craters are captured at different stages of disruption and alteration by tectonic activity, and probably from past heating from below. Many of the craters seem sliced by small parallel cracks that appear to be ubiquitous throughout the old cratered terrains on Enceladus.

“These new images are showing us in great detail how the moon’s north pole differs from the south, an important comparison for working out the moon’s obviously complex geological history,” said Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team leader, Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo. “And the success of yesterday’s daring and very low-altitude flyby means this coming summer’s very close encounter, when we get exquisitely detailed images of the surface sources of Enceladus’ south polar jets, should be an exciting ‘next big step’ in understanding just how the jets are powered.”

This week’s flyby and another one planned for Oct. 9, 2008, were designed so that Cassini’s particle analyzers could dissect the “body” of the plume for information on the density, size, composition and speed of the particles. Among other things, scientists will use the data gathered this week to figure out whether the gases from the plume match the gases that make up the halo of particles around Enceladus. This may help determine how the plumes formed.

During Cassini’s closest approach, two instruments were collecting data–the Cosmic Dust Analyzer and the Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer. An unexplained software hiccup with Cassini’s Cosmic Dust Analyzer instrument prevented it from collecting any data during closest approach, although the instrument did get data before and after the approach. During the flyby, the instrument was switching between two versions of software programs. The new version was designed to increase the ability to count particle hits by several hundred hits per second. The other four fields and particles instruments on the spacecraft, in addition to the ion and neutral mass spectrometer, did capture all of their data, which will complement the overall composition studies and elucidate the unique plume environment of Enceladus.

Cassini’s instruments discovered evidence for the geyser-like jets on Enceladus in 2005, finding that the continuous eruptions of ice water create a gigantic halo of ice dust and gas around Enceladus, which helps supply material to Saturn’s E-ring.

This was the first of four Cassini flybys of Enceladus this year. During Wednesday’s flyby, the spacecraft came within 50 kilometers (30 miles) of the surface at closest approach, 200 kilometers (120 miles) while flying through the plume. Future trips may bring Cassini even closer to the surface of Enceladus. Cassini will complete its prime mission, a four-year tour of Saturn, in June. From then on, a proposed extended mission would include seven more Enceladus flybys. The next Enceladus flyby would take place in August of this year.

Images from the Enceladus flyby are available at: http://ciclops.org, http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team consists of scientists from the U.S., England, France, and Germany. The imaging operations center and team leader (Dr. C. Porco) are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

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