Cassini makes last close flyby of Saturnian moon Rhea

Mar 08, 2013 by Jia-Rui C. Cook
NASA's Cassini spacecraft will be flying close to Saturn's moon Rhea on Saturday, March 9, the last close encounter of Rhea planned for the rest of Cassini's mission. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

(Phys.org) —NASA's Cassini spacecraft will be swooping close to Saturn's moon Rhea on Saturday, March 9, the last close flyby of Rhea in Cassini's mission. The primary purpose will be to probe the internal structure of the moon by measuring the gravitational pull of Rhea against the spacecraft's steady radio link to NASA's Deep Space Network here on Earth. The results will help scientists understand whether the moon is homogeneous all the way through or whether it has differentiated into the layers of core, mantle and crust.

In addition, Cassini's imaging cameras will take ultraviolet, infrared and visible-light data from Rhea's surface. The cosmic dust analyzer will try to detect any dusty debris flying off the surface from tiny meteoroid bombardments to further scientists' understanding of the rate at which "foreign" objects are raining into the Saturn system.

Cassini looks over the heavily cratered surface of Rhea during the spacecraft's flyby of the moon on March 10, 2012. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini will fly within about 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) of the surface. The time of closest approach is around 10:17 a.m. PST (1:17 p.m. EST). This is Cassini's fourth close flyby of Rhea.

On Feb. 10, 2015, Cassini will pass Rhea at about 29,000 miles (47,000 kilometers), but this is not considered a targeted flyby. Cassini has been in orbit around Saturn since 2004 and is in a second mission extension, known as the Solstice mission. The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. JPL is a division of Caltech. For more information on Cassini, visit http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov .

Explore further: Heavy metal frost? A new look at a Venusian mystery

Related Stories

Cassini captures new images of icy moon Rhea

Mar 12, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- These raw, unprocessed images of Saturn's second largest moon, Rhea, were taken on March 10, 2012, by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. This was a relatively distant flyby with a close-approach distance ...

Cassini presents Saturn moon quintet

Sep 19, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- With the artistry of a magazine cover shoot, NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured this portrait of five of Saturn's moons poised along the planet's rings.

Cassini captures Rhea coming down

Jan 13, 2011

Raw images obtained by NASA's Cassini spacecraft from the closest flyby of Saturn's moon Rhea have begun streaming to Cassini's raw image page.

Cassini completes Rhea flyby

Jan 14, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Cassini spacecraft has successfully completed its closest flyby of Saturn's moon Rhea, returning raw images of the icy moon's surface.

Cassini flyby focuses on Saturn's moon Enceladus

Nov 08, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Saturn's moon Enceladus shows its icy face and famous plumes in raw, unprocessed images captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during its successful flyby on Nov. 6, 2011.

Latest Cassini images of Enceladus on view

Oct 21, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Raw, unprocessed images from the successful Oct. 19 flyby of Saturn's moon Enceladus by NASA's Cassini spacecraft provide new views of the moon and the icy jets that burst from its southern ...

Recommended for you

Image: Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko

10 minutes ago

It was 45 years ago when astronomer Klim Churyumov and Svetlana Gerasimenko, one of his researchers, unwittingly began a new chapter in the history of space exploration.

Extreme ultraviolet image of a significant solar flare

21 minutes ago

The sun emitted a significant solar flare on Oct. 19, 2014, peaking at 1:01 a.m. EDT. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which is always observing the sun, captured this image of the event in extreme ultraviolet ...

Heavy metal frost? A new look at a Venusian mystery

19 hours ago

Venus is hiding something beneath its brilliant shroud of clouds: a first order mystery about the planet that researchers may be a little closer to solving because of a new re-analysis of twenty-year-old ...

Hot explosions on the cool sun

Oct 20, 2014

(Phys.org) —The Sun is more spirited than previously thought. Apart from the solar eruptions, huge bursts of particles and radiation from the outer atmosphere of our star, also the cooler layer right below ...

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

VendicarE
not rated yet Mar 08, 2013
The surface has a much higher proportion of small craters compared to say the moon. Undoubtedly from the Saturnian rings.
aroc91
4 / 5 (1) Mar 08, 2013
Perhaps. I'd say it's a combination of that and Saturn's gravity well drawing in asteroids and meteors. It's mainly Jupiter that's credited with shielding Earth, but Saturn and their moons probably catch more than their fair share.
geokstr
1 / 5 (2) Mar 10, 2013
The article makes it sound like Cassini is on it's final legs. Is that the case, or are there still potentially many years of observation left in the old boy?
RealScience
not rated yet Mar 10, 2013
@geokstr - as the article says, Cassini is already in its second mission extension, the 'Solstice Mission', which runs until 2017.
No more Rhea flybys are targeted within that time frame.

It would be good if NASA can keep Cassini running well beyond that; perhaps we'll be lucky and Cassini will be technically capable and the current budget-cutting days will be over and Cassini can get a third extension.