Seeing Titan’s Lakes in 3D

Titan 92 Flyby Credit: NASA / JPL
Titan 92 Flyby
Credit: NASA / JPL

UPDATE: THE IMAGES ARE IN! Click here to see them.

Cassini’s 93rd flyby is another encounter with Titan! Feel free to follow along with the latest information and images from the flyby on my Facebook event page: Titan (T-92) Flyby(Why is it the 93rd flyby and not the 92ndHere’s why.)

Quick Facts:

  • Name Titan (T-92) Flyby
  • Date July 10, 2013 [SCET]
  • Altitude 599 miles (964 kilometers)
  • Speed 13,000 mph (5.8 km/sec)
  • Goal To see Titan’s lakes in 3D

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 a number of different places on Titan this flyby. ISS will be imaging Titan’s upper level haze layers. ISS will also observe Titan’s northern leading hemisphere and north polar region. This will give us more  insight into the distribution of Titan’s north polar lakes. In addition, ISS will image Titan’s crater Menrva in ISS’ highest resolution yet!

Close up of Titan's North Polar Lakes and Seas Credit: NASA/JPL/USGS
Close up of Titan’s lakes and seas on its north pole
Credit: NASA / JPL / USGS
Titan's crater Menrva. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASI
Titan’s crater Menrva
Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASI

ISS will track any clouds that might be visible across Titan’s southern hemisphere and map albedo variations across this same region. Also, as sunlight continues to fade over Titan’s south pole, ISS will probably be taking the last hi-res images of its south polar vortex.

Titan's south polar vortex Credit: NASA / JPL / SSI
Titan’s south polar vortex
Credit: NASA / JPL / SSI

What science will be coming out of this flyby?

The overall goal of this flyby is to see Titan’s lakes in 3D.  In order to accomplish this, Cassini’s RADAR instrument will acquire Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) images of small lakes on the leading hemisphere side of Titan’s north pole. When combining these with the images from T-91, it will allow us to see those lakes in stereo.

Just like in Cassini’s last flyby T-91, RADAR will acquire altimetry over Ligeia Mare in order to look for waves on Titan’s seas. Sea surface roughness of several millimeters will be able to be measured, giving the most sensitive test for surface waves resulting from winds, drainage from rivers flowing into Ligeia Mare, or tides. This altimetry data could show whether the surface of Ligeia is thick like molasses or as thin as liquid water on Earth.

Ligeia Mare, Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/USGS/ edited by Val Klavans
Ligeia Mare
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/USGS/ edited by Val Klavans

In addition, RADAR will acquire high-altitude Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imaging of the terrain just east of Kraken Mare (Titan’s largest sea). RADAR will also make SAR swaths across Ligeia Mare, Concordia Regio, and Hetpet Regio. Concordia Regio was affected by the “Arrow Storm” in 2010, which resulted in localized flooding.

The image below should give you a good idea of where Concordia Regio and Hetpet Regio are located. If you’re interested: more details on Belet, Adiri, and Titan’s detached north polar hood.

"Belet Below the Haze" Credit: NASA / JPL / SSI / edited by Val Klavans
“Belet Below the Haze”
Credit: NASA / JPL / SSI / edited by Val Klavans

Cassini’s Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) instrument will also be checking in on Titan during this flyby. CIRS will make spectral scans of Titan’s night side and sunlit crescent, will scan across Titan in order to map temperatures in its stratosphere, and will scan across Titan’s limb to measure aerosol and chemical abundances at different altitudes above Titan’s surface.


Want to know even more about this flyby? Check out Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations’ (CICLOPS) website with information on Cassini’s activities every day: Rev194: Jul 1 – Jul 15 ’13 and a quick overview of this flyby from Cassini’s main website: Titan Flyby (T-92): Seeing Titan’s Surface in Stereo. (All of my information from this post, unless otherwise specified, comes from these great sources.)


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