Cassini’s 100th Flyby of Titan!

NASA / JPL
NASA / JPL

Are you ready for Cassini’s 100th flyby of Titan? (Wait… why is it the 100th flyby and not the 99thHere’s why.) Follow along with the latest information and images from this flyby on my Facebook event page: Titan (T-99) Flyby.

Quick Facts:

  • Name Titan (T-99) Flyby
  • Date March 6, 2014 [SCET]
  • Time 4:26 PM UTC
  • Altitude 932 miles (1,500 kilometers)
  • Speed 13,000 mph (5.8 km/sec)
  • Goal To learn more about Titan’s internal structure

 

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 most of the visible face of Titan during this flyby. ISS will focus on Titan’s north pole in order to look at the lakes and seas in that region and monitor clouds.

Below is a close-up of Titan’s north polar 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), a multitude of lakes, and an island within Kraken Mare called Mayda Insula.

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

What science will be coming out of this flyby?

The overall goal of this flyby is to learn more about Titan’s internal structure. In order to accomplish this, Cassini’s Radio Science Subsystem (RSS) instrument will carry out a Titan Gravity science observation, one of only three in the entire Cassini Solstice Mission. During these observations, Cassini points its high-gain antenna at Earth so that changes in the spacecraft’s signal caused by Titan’s gravity can be observed. This data will be used to:

  1. determine the density of Titan’s outer layers, including Titan’s global subsurface ocean
  2. measure the exact global shape of Titan
  3. determine how Titan’s outer icy shell changes shape

This artist’s concept shows a possible scenario for the internal structure of Titan. Click on the image for more information.

A. Tavani
A. Tavani

Cassini’s Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) will also be checking in on Titan during this flyby. CIRS will observe Titan in order to learn more about the structure, temperature, and composition of its upper haze layers. CIRS will also study Titan’s south polar vortex. The vortex is now cooling as fall turns to winter in Titan’s southern hemisphere.

This is a true color view of Titan, snapped by the ISS during the T98 Flyby in February 2014. Titan’s south polar vortex is visible towards the upper left of the crescent.

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

Below is a close-up of Titan’s south polar vortex, as seen by the ISS on June 27, 2012. Want to watch the vortex in action? Check out this link.

NASA / JPL / SSI
NASA / JPL / SSI

 

Images

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

This is true color view of Titan, snapped by Cassini’s ISS. Titan’s south polar vortex is visible on the lower left of Titan’s smile.

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

Below is a close-up of Titan’s north polar 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 to see it in full resolution.

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

ISS also imaged some of Titan’s vast sand dunes. They can be seen in dark areas of the image below.

NASA / JPL / SSI / Val Klavans
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: Rev202: Feb 20 – Mar 24 ’14 and a quick overview of this flyby from Cassini’s main website: Titan Flyby (T-99): The 100th flyby. (All of my information from this post, unless otherwise specified, comes from these sources.)

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