Images from Cassini’s First Flyby of 2013

Now that all of the images have come in from the Titan (T-89) Flyby, let’s take a look!

As Cassini closed in on Titan, its Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) — Cassini’s camera system — captured a set of images of its atmosphere. The image below is an RGB color composite of three of those images in red, green, and violet filters. ISS took the images that make up this composite while the Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) monitored Titan’s stratosphere.

Credit: NASA / JPL / SSI / Val Klavans
A Distant View of Titan, Credit: NASA / JPL / SSI / composite by Val Klavans

Next, ISS snapped some close-ups of the region around Adiri, followed by more distant shots as Cassini departed Titan. In the set of images below, the darker areas are regions of equatorial dunes (made of hydrocarbons). Located to the left of Adiri is Titan’s “sand sea” Belet. Its dunes have even been compared to Earth’s Oman dunes in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. (Read more about that here.) If you are interested in learning more about Titan’s features, the IAU’s Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature is pretty useful!

Infrared Close-ups, Credit: NASA / JPL / SSI / montage by Val Klavans
Infrared Close-ups, Credit: NASA / JPL / SSI / montage by Val Klavans

Cassini also snapped more shots of Titan’s south polar vortex — a mass of swirling gas located at Titan’s south pole. The donut-shaped object in the upper right part of the image below has nothing to do with Titan at all! It’s an out of focus dust speck on Cassini’s camera. You will probably notice that they appear quite often!

Credit: NASA / JPL / SSI / edited by Val Klavans
A View of Titan’s South Polar Vortex, Credit: NASA / JPL / SSI / edited by Val Klavans

ISS usually takes images of Titan using a wide range of filters, not just in the infrared or visible part of the spectrum. This flyby, ISS also snapped Titan in the ultraviolet. The image below is a RGB false color composite, in infrared, visible (blue), and ultraviolet filters. The green-ish areas on the top center correspond to Titan’s vast dune desert, in Belet. Just to the right is Adiri. Also, you should be able to spot Titan’s south polar vortex at the bottom of the image.

Titan in Infrared, Blue & Ultraviolet Light, Credit: NASA / JPL / SSI / composite by Val Klavans
Titan in Infrared, Blue & Ultraviolet Light, Credit: NASA / JPL / SSI / composite by Val Klavans

Well that wraps up coverage of Cassini’s first flyby of 2013! Cassini’s next flyby: Rhea (R-4) Flyby occurs on March 9 so get excited! (Scroll down to the very bottom of the page to see a countdown to Cassini’s next flyby.)

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