Cassini Spacecraft to Monitor North Pole on Titan

December 28, 2009
Artist concept of NASA's Cassini spacecraft flying by the north polar region of Saturn's moon Titan on Dec. 27. Image credit: NASA/JPL

(PhysOrg.com) -- Though there are no plans to investigate whether Saturn's moon Titan has a Santa Claus, NASA's Cassini will zoom close to Titan's north pole this weekend.

The flyby, which brings to within about 960 kilometers (600 miles) of the Titan surface at 82 degrees north latitude, will take place the evening of Dec. 27 Pacific time, or shortly after midnight Universal Time on Dec. 28.

The encounter will enable scientists to gather more detail on how the lake-dotted north polar region of Titan changes with the seasons. Scientists will be using high-resolution radar to scan the large and numerous lakes in the north polar region for shape-shifting in size and depth. The ion and neutral mass spectrometer team will take baseline measurements of the atmosphere to compare with the moon's south polar region when Cassini flies by that area on Jan. 12. Cassini will also be collecting images for a mosaic of a bright region called Adiri, where the Huygens probe landed nearly five years ago.

Cassini will have released the Huygens probe exactly five years and three days before this latest flyby. Huygens began its journey down to Titan on the evening of Dec. 24, 2004 California time, or early Dec. 25 Universal Time, and reached the surface Jan. 14, 2005.

Cassini last flew by Titan on Dec. 11, 2009 California time, or Dec. 12 Universal Time. Although this latest flyby is dubbed "T64," planning changes early in the orbital tour have made this the 65th targeted of Titan.

Explore further: Titan's Purple Haze Points to a Fuzzy Past

Related Stories

Titan's Purple Haze Points to a Fuzzy Past

August 2, 2004

Encircled in purple stratospheric haze, Saturn's largest moon, Titan, appears as a softly glowing sphere in this colorized image taken on July 3, 2004, one day after Cassini's first flyby of that moon. Titan has a dense atmosphere ...

Cassini Goes On

August 24, 2004

The Cassini spacecraft successfully completed a 51-minute engine burn that will raise its next closest approach distance to Saturn by nearly 300,000 kilometers (186,000 miles). The maneuver was necessary to keep the spacecraft ...

Saturn's Icy Moon Iapetus

January 4, 2005

NASA's Cassini spacecraft successfully flew by Saturn's moon Iapetus at a distance of 123,400 kilometers (76,700 miles) on Friday, Dec. 31. NASA's Deep Space Network tracking station in Goldstone, Calif., received the signal ...

Cassini Attempts 12th Titan Flyby

February 28, 2006

NASA's Cassini spacecraft returns to Titan on Monday for its twelfth flyby since beginning to survey Saturn and its moons on July 4, 2004.

Recommended for you

Distant planet's interior chemistry may differ from our own

September 1, 2015

As astronomers continue finding new rocky planets around distant stars, high-pressure physicists are considering what the interiors of those planets might be like and how their chemistry could differ from that found on Earth. ...

New Horizons team selects potential Kuiper Belt flyby target

August 29, 2015

NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic July 14 flyby of the Pluto system. The destination is a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that orbits ...

Image: Hubble sees a youthful cluster

August 31, 2015

Shown here in a new image taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) on board the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope is the globular cluster NGC 1783. This is one of the biggest globular clusters in the Large Magellanic ...

4 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

omatumr
3 / 5 (1) Dec 29, 2009
Intriguing!

What is the composition of the lakes in the "the lake-dotted north polar region of Titan."

Don't seasonal changes decrease with distance from the Sun?

Intriguing,

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
High_Evolutionary
1 / 5 (1) Dec 30, 2009
Intriguing!

What is the composition of the lakes in the "the lake-dotted north polar region of Titan."
I believe it should be uniform throughout Titan.
As the seasons change o Titan liquid methane and variables of it sublimate and rain down on Titan much like we have rain here on earth.
Don't seasonal changes decrease with distance from the Sun?

Intriguing,

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel

High_Evolutionary
not rated yet Dec 30, 2009
The seasons on Titan go through a (I believe) 9 year period and the lakes are pretty much made up of methane and derivatives of it which are rained down on the moon after sublimation.
austux
not rated yet Dec 31, 2009
Titan has some amazing similarities to Venus (like thick atmosphere, relatively even temperature, "fresh" surface).

It will be interesting to see if even more are unveiled after the data have been considered.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.