Cassini’s First Flyby of 2014!


Are you ready for the Cassini spacecraft’s first flyby for 2014? Feel free to follow along with the latest information and images from this Titan flyby on my Facebook event page: Titan (T-97) Flyby. This is Cassini’s first of 11 flybys this year.

Quick Facts:

  • Name Titan (T-97) Flyby
  • Date January 1, 2014 [SCET]
  • Time 10:00 PM UTC
  • Altitude 870 miles (1,400 kilometers)
  • Speed 13,000 mph (5.8 km/sec)
  • Goal To map Titan’s northern and equatorial regions

What will we be able to see? What science will be coming out of this flyby?

Cassini’s camera system, also known as the Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) instrument onboard the Cassini spacecraft, will capture images of Titan’s high northern latitudes on the moon’s leading hemisphere in order to monitor changes in clouds, lakes, and seas. As Titan’s northern hemisphere approaches Summer, it will be important to track clouds and their evolution.

Below is the most complete view yet of Titan’s northern land of lakes and seas — released just last month. Click on the image for a labelled version.

NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASI / USGS
NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASI / USGS

The day before the flyby, ISS snapped images of Titan’s high northern latitudes. On December 31, 2013, the ISS captured this view of Titan using one of its infrared filters: 

NASA / JPL / SSI / Ian Regan
NASA / JPL / SSI / Ian Regan

Images from the ISS will be coming out in a matter of hours after the flyby. However, Cassini’s Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) instrument will also be taking images of Titan, but they won’t be available for some time. VIMS will also be imaging Titan’s northern seas and lakes. It will be mapping the distribution of filled and empty lakes (coated with evaporites). 

VIMS captured this view of Titan’s northern wetlands during Cassini’s T94 Flyby. (Click on the image to see labeled features.)

(Edited by Val Klavans)
edited by Val Klavans

VIMS will also be imaging across Titan’s northern anti-Saturn hemisphere and Shangri-La, including Mindanao Facula. Shangri-La is a large, dark, sand-dune filled region that lies along Titan’s equator, to the east of Adiri. The Huygens probe landed on a western part of Shangri-la, close to the boundary with Adiri.

The view below was imaged by Cassini’s ISS on October 26, 2004. The large, dark region in the middle of this view is Shangri-La. Click on the image to learn more about it.

NASA / JPL / SSI / Val Klavans

Cassini’s Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) and Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer (UVIS) instruments will also be checking in on Titan during this flyby. CIRS will stare at Titan in order to acquire compositional and temperature information about Titan’s atmosphere. Afterwards, UVIS will make far- and extreme-ultraviolet scans across the moon. CIRS and UVIS will also make observations on the structure, temperature and composition of Titan’s upper haze layers. In addition, CIRS will study Titan’s now-cooling south polar vortex. (The Sun is setting over Titan’s south pole.)


Now that all the images are in, let’s take a look!

This is a true color view of Titan, snapped by Cassini’s ISS. About half of Titan’s south polar vortex can be seen towards the bottom of the moon’s hazy crescent.  Click the image below to find out more.

NASA / JPL / SSI / Val Klavans
NASA / JPL / SSI / Val Klavans

This is a close-up of Titan’s crescent in true color. This view, also from the ISS, focuses on one of the horns of its hazy crescent. (If you were wondering, the pointed parts of a crescent are sometimes referred to as a moon’s horns.) Click the image below to find out more.

NASA / JPL / SSI / Val Klavans
NASA / JPL / SSI / Val Klavans

ISS also captured some neat views of Titan’s haze. Below is an approximate true color view of the moon’s haze layers. Titan’s upper haze layers appear blue, while its main atmospheric haze appear orange in this view. The difference in color is most likely due to particle size rather than composition. The blue haze probably consists of smaller particles than the orange haze. Click on the image for more information.

NASA / JPL / SSI / Val Klavans
NASA / JPL / SSI / Val Klavans

Below is a close-up of Titan’s northern lakes and seas. You can see Titan’s 3 largest seas (Kraken MareLigeia Mare and Punga Mare) along with a multitude of lakes. Cassini’s ISS captured this view in the infrared to peer through Titan’s thick atmosphere to image its surface. Click the image below for a labelled version.

NASA / JPL / SSI / Val Klavans
NASA / JPL / SSI / Val Klavans

Check out more images from the flyby right on my Facebook event page.


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: Rev200: Dec 17 ’13 – Jan 19 ’14 and a quick overview of this flyby from Cassini’s main website: Titan Flyby (T-97): Mapping Parts of Titan’s Equator in Infrared. (All of my information from this post, unless otherwise specified, comes from these sources.)


Well that wraps up coverage of the Titan (T-97) Flyby! Cassini’s next flyby: Titan (T-98) Flyby occurs on February 2 so get excited!


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