Cassini’s Closest Remaining Flyby of Titan

 

NASA / JPL
NASA / JPL

This is a very special flyby of Titan. It is Cassini’s closest flyby of Titan for the rest of the mission! Follow along with the latest information and images from this flyby on my Facebook event page: Titan (T-100) Flyby.

Quick Facts:

  • Name Titan (T-100) Flyby
  • Date April 7, 2014 [SCET]
  • Time 1:41 PM UTC
  • Altitude 598 miles (963 kilometers)
  • Speed 13,000 mph (5.8 km/sec)
  • Goal To learn more about the composition of Titan’s upper atmosphere

 

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 large portion of the visible face of Titan during this flyby. ISS will focus on Titan’s north polar region, northern anti-Saturn hemisphere, and southern sub-Saturn hemisphere.

This is ISS’ most recent view of Titan above and below its atmosphere from April 2, 2014. Click on the image for more details.

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

Starting at 12:11 PM UTC and until the flyby begins, ISS will observe the red supergiant star Antares (α Scorpii, α Sco, Alpha Scorpii) as it passes behind Titan’s atmosphere. This observation will be used to better understand the structure and density of Titan’s upper atmosphere.

Below is a simulated view from Celestia of Antares passing behind Titan. This type of astronomical event is called a stellar occultation.

Antares Titan stellar occultation

ISS will also image Titan’s surface at high-resolution, near Dilmun.

The view below was imaged by Cassini’s ISS on October 26, 2004 and should give you an idea of the location of Dilmun on Titan. Click on the image to learn more about it.

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 involves Cassini’s Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) instrument. INMS will measure the composition of Titan’s upper atmosphere and the structure of Titan’s ionosphere. Due to Cassini’s trajectory during this flyby, Titan and the spacecraft will be in the outer edge of Saturn’s magnetosphere — enabling us to understand the impact of the Sun on Titan’s upper atmosphere.

Below is an ultraviolet image of Titan focusing on its upper atmosphere, snapped by the ISS. Click on the image to learn more.

NASA / JPL / SSI
NASA / JPL / SSI

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

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

Cassini’s ISS snapped this view focusing on the smoggy moon’s upper haze layers.

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

 

This true color view of Titan was also snapped by Cassini’s ISS. The moon’s south polar vortex is just barely visible to the lower right.

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 view below highlights some of Titan’s northern lakes and seas. Click the image to see an unlabeled version.

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: Rev203: Mar 24 – Apr 27 ’14 and a quick overview of this flyby from Cassini’s main website: Titan Flyby (T-100): the Closest Remaining Brush with Titan. (All of my information from this post, unless otherwise specified, comes from these sources.)

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