Looking for Changes on Ontario Lacus

Are you ready for Cassini’s second of 11 flybys this year? Feel free to follow along with the latest information and images from this flyby on my Facebook event page: Titan (T-98) Flyby.

Quick Facts:

  • Name Titan (T-98) Flyby
  • Date Febuary 2, 2014 [SCET]
  • Time 7:12 PM UTC
  • Altitude 768 miles (1,236 kilometers)
  • Speed 13,000 mph (5.8 km/sec)
  • Goal To look for changes to Ontario Lacus’ shoreline

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 take a global mapping mosaic of Titan which will cover much of the visible face of the moon. ISS will also be tracking clouds across Titan during this flyby.

Below is a close-up of Titan’s northern lakes and seas from Cassini’s T97 Flyby, as imaged by the ISS. You can see Titan’s 3 largest seas (Kraken MareLigeia Mare and Punga Mare) along with a multitude of lakes.

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

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 be mapping the lakes and seas on Titan’s north pole. It will also be observing the evolution of Titan’s south polar vortex.

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

What science will be coming out of this flyby?

The overall goal of this flyby is  to look for changes in the lake level of Ontario Lacus (Titan’s “footprint” lake, located near its south pole). In order to accomplish this, Cassini’s RADAR instrument will make radiometry and scatterometry scans over that region, which will provide information about the properties of Titan’s surface including roughness, composition, structure and temperature.

Below is a RADAR image of Ontario Lacus taken on January 12, 2010. Click on the image for more details.

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

RADAR will also acquire Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and altimetry swaths across Titan’s Dilmun, crater Selk, Shangri-La dune field, Hobal Virga, and south polar region.

The view below was imaged by Cassini’s ISS on October 26, 2004 and focuses on most of the regions RADAR SAR covers during this flyby. Click on the image to learn more about it.

NASA / JPL / SSI
NASA / JPL / SSI / edited by Val Klavans

Cassini’s Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) will also be checking in on Titan during this flyby. CIRS will stare at Titan in order to acquire mid-infrared spectral, temperature, and compositional information about Titan’s atmosphere. CIRS will map temperatures in Titan’s stratosphere to monitor seasonal change. CIRS 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.)

Here is a view of Titan’s south polar vortex, as seen by Cassini’s ISS on June 27, 2012. Click on the image for details.

NASA / JPL / SSI
NASA / JPL / SSI

Images

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 during the flyby. The moon’s south polar vortex is visible towards the upper left of the crescent. Click the image below to find out more. 

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

Cassini’s ISS also peered through Titan’s atmosphere to see details on the surface. The darker areas are vast hydrocarbon sand dunes and seas. The bright region to the north of this image contains Titan’s northern wetlands.

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

Below are a few close close-ups of Titan’s northern lakes and seas also captured by Cassini’s ISS. You can see parts of Titan’s three largest seas (Kraken MareLigeia Mare and Punga Mare) along with a multitude of lakes. Also visible is Mayda Insula, an island within Kraken Mare.

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NASA / JPL / SSI / Val Klavans

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

Sources

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: Rev201: Jan 19 – Feb 20 ’14 and a quick overview of this flyby from Cassini’s main website: Titan Flyby (T-98): Radar Looks for Changes. (All of my information from this post, unless otherwise specified, comes from these sources.)

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