Cassini’s First Flyby of 2013!

Titan 89 Flyby, Credit: NASA/JPL
Titan 89 Flyby, Credit: NASA/JPL

Cassini’s first flyby of the year is an encounter with Titan! If you want to know more about flybys in general, check out this link.

Quick Facts:

  • Name Titan (T-89) Flyby
  • Date Feb. 17, 2013 [SCET]
  • Altitude 1,229 miles (1,978 kilometers)
  • Speed 13,000 mph (5.8 km/sec)
  • Goal To confirm or deny the presence of an underground water ocean.

What will we be able to see?

Cassini’s camera system, also known as the Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) instrument onboard the Cassini spacecraft, will image Titan’s Adiri region and Titan’s southern hemisphere to track cloud patterns. Adiri is located to the west of the large, dark region of Shangri-la. Adiri appears to be filled with drainage channels. The Huygens probe landed on a plain just off the northwest ‘coast’ of Adiri in 2005. ISS will also be imaging Titan’s atmosphere, so expect more shots of it’s colorful hazes!

Location of Adiri on Titan, Credit: Wolfram|Alpha
Location of Adiri on Titan, Credit: Wolfram|Alpha

What science will be coming out of this flyby?

Cassini’s Radio Sub-System (RSS) instrument will be used to measure Titan’s gravity field in order to confirm or deny the presence of an underground ocean. Cassini will be pointed at Earth, and the effect of Titan’s gravity on the spacecraft will be measured by looking at the Doppler effect on Cassini’s signal. This information will be used (along with previous and later RSS gravity passes) to refine our understanding of Titan’s internal structure and help determine if Titan’s crust is thick and rigid, or thin.

Cassini’s Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) instrument will monitor Titan’s stratosphere while the Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) observes Titan’s illuminated North Pole area to monitor the evolution of the polar hood. VIMS will also look for the evolution of the cloud pattern at Titan’s mid-latitudes.

Cassini’s Dual Technique Magnetometer (MAG) instrument will study the diffusion of the external magnetic field at low altitudes and high solar zenith angles.

So where exactly is Cassini flying over Titan?

Here is Cassini’s path over Titan:

Cassini's Path Across Titan: Global and Polar Plots, Credit: NASA/JPL
Cassini’s Path Across Titan: Global and Polar Plots, Credit: NASA/JPL

Sources

Want to know more in-depth information on this flyby? Check out Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations’ (CICLOPS) website with information on Cassini’s activities every day: http://www.ciclops.org/view/7553/Rev181 and this neat pdf from Cassini’s main websiteQuick-Look Flyby Facts. (All of my information from this post, unless otherwise specified, comes from these great sources.)

The images are in! Check them out right here.

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