Cassini to Dive Low through Titan Atmosphere

July 6, 2010
This artist's concept shows NASA's Cassini's spacecraft taking a deep plunge through the Titan atmosphere this week. The altitude for the upcoming Titan flyby, whose closest approach occurs shortly after midnight on July 7, UTC, and in the evening of July 6, Pacific time, will be 1,005 kilometers (624 miles). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

( -- As American schoolchildren head out to pools for a summer splash, NASA's Cassini spacecraft will be taking its own deep plunge through the Titan atmosphere this week.

The altitude for the upcoming Titan flyby, whose closest approach occurs in the evening of July 6, Pacific and Eastern time (or shortly after midnight on July 7, Coordinated Universal Time) will be about 125 kilometers (78 miles) higher than the super-low flyby of June 21. The altitude of this flyby - 1,005 kilometers (624 miles) -- is still considered a low dip into Titan's . Cassini will not go lower again until May 2012.

During closest approach, Cassini's ion and neutral mass spectrometer will be sniffing out the chemical composition of Titan's atmosphere to refine estimates of the densities of nitrogen and there. The radar instrument will be mapping an area south of the dark region known as Senkyo and the Belet sand seas. It is an area that had not been well studied by radar until this flyby.

Because the geometry of this flyby is similar to the previous one, the and other instruments measuring the around Saturn will be conducting similar experiments. Though the magnetometer will be too high to detect any whisper of an internal magnetic field from Titan - which was the focus of the search on the last flyby -- scientists will be looking into the interaction of Titan's atmosphere with the magnetic bubble around Saturn.

This latest flyby is dubbed "T71," though planning changes early in the orbital tour have made this the 72nd targeted flyby of Titan.

Explore further: Cassini Attempts 12th Titan Flyby

Related Stories

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.

Cassini Returns to Southern Hemisphere of Titan

January 12, 2010

( -- NASA'S Cassini spacecraft will return to Titan's southern hemisphere on a flyby tomorrow, Jan. 12, plunging to within about 1,050 kilometers (about 670 miles) of the hazy moon's surface.

Route 66: Cassini's Next Look at Titan

January 27, 2010

( -- Sixteen days after last visiting Saturn's largest moon, NASA's Cassini spacecraft returns for another look-see of the cloud-shrouded moon - this time from on high. The flyby on Thursday, Jan. 28, referred ...

Cassini Getting the Lowdown on Titan This Weekend

June 18, 2010

( -- NASA's Cassini spacecraft will take its lowest dip through the hazy atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan in the early morning of June 21 UTC, which is the evening of June 20 Pacific time. This weekend's flyby, ...

Recommended for you

NASA selects investigations for future key planetary mission

October 1, 2015

NASA has selected five science investigations for refinement during the next year as a first step in choosing one or two missions for flight opportunities as early as 2020. Three of those chosen have ties to NASA's Jet Propulsion ...

Dawn team shares new maps and insights about Ceres

October 1, 2015

Mysteries and insights about Ceres are being discussed this week at the European Planetary Science Conference in Nantes, France. NASA's Dawn spacecraft is providing scientists with tantalizing views and other data about the ...


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.