Cassini Double Play: Enceladus and Titan

May 18, 2010
On the left, Saturn's moon Enceladus is backlit by the sun, showing the fountain-like sources of the fine spray of material that towers over the south polar region. On the right, is a composite image of Titan. Image credit: NASA/JPL/SSI and NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

(PhysOrg.com) -- About a month and a half after its last double flyby, NASA's Cassini spacecraft will be turning another double play this week, visiting the geyser moon Enceladus and the hazy moon Titan. The alignment of the moons means that Cassini can catch glimpses of these two contrasting worlds within less than 48 hours, with no maneuver in between.

Cassini will make its closest approach to Enceladus late at night on May 17 Pacific time, which is in the early hours of May 18 UTC. The spacecraft will pass within about 435 kilometers (270 miles) of the moon's surface.

The main scientific goal at will be to watch the sun play peekaboo behind the water-rich plume emanating from the moon's south polar region. Scientists using the ultraviolet imaging spectrograph will be able to use the flickering light to measure whether there is molecular nitrogen in the plume. Ammonia has already been detected in the plume and scientists know heat can decompose ammonia into nitrogen molecules. Determining the amount of molecular nitrogen in the plume will give scientists clues about thermal processing in the moon's interior.

The second of Cassini's two flybys is an encounter with Titan. The closest approach will take place in the late evening May 19 Pacific time, which is in the early hours of May 20 UTC. The spacecraft will fly to within 1,400 kilometers (750 miles) of the surface.

Cassini will primarily be doing radio science during this pass to detect the subtle variations in the on the spacecraft by Titan, which is 25 percent larger in volume than the . Analyzing the data will help scientists learn whether Titan has a liquid ocean under its surface and get a better picture of its internal structure. The will also get its southernmost pass for thermal data to fill out its temperature map of the smoggy moon.

Cassini has made four previous double flybys and one more is planned in the years ahead.

Explore further: Two Galileo satellites lose their way

More information: More information on the Enceladus flyby, dubbed "E10," is available at: saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/fl… s/enceladus20100518/
More information on the Titan flyby, dubbed "T68," is available at: saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/flybys/titan20100520/

Related Stories

Cassini Returning Enceladus Gravity Data

May 03, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Cassini spacecraft successfully completed its 26-hour gravity observation at Saturn's moon Enceladus this week, sending back data scientists will use to understand the moon's interior ...

Cassini Doubleheader: Flying By Titan and Dione

Apr 05, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- In a special double flyby early next week, NASA's Cassini spacecraft will visit Saturn's moons Titan and Dione within a period of about a day and a half, with no maneuvers in between. A fortuitous ...

Cassini Measures Tug of Enceladus

Apr 26, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Cassini spacecraft will be gliding low over Saturn's moon Enceladus for a gravity experiment designed to probe the moon's interior composition.

Cassini Attempts 12th Titan Flyby

Feb 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 Finishes Saturnian Doubleheader

Apr 12, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Cassini spacecraft completed its double flyby this week, swinging by Saturn's moons Titan and Dione with no maneuver in between. The spacecraft has beamed back stunning raw images of ...

Recommended for you

Two Galileo satellites lose their way

3 hours ago

Two European Galileo satellites launched as part of a navigation system designed to rival GPS have failed to locate their intended orbit, launch firm Arianespace said Saturday.

SpaceX rocket explodes during test flight

12 hours ago

A SpaceX rocket exploded in midair during a test flight, though no one was injured, as the company seeks to develop a spacecraft that can return to Earth and be used again.

Amazing raw Cassini images from this week

Aug 22, 2014

When Saturn is at its closest to Earth, it's three-quarters of a billion miles away—or more than a billion kilometers! That makes these raw images from the ringed planet all the more remarkable.

Europe launches two navigation satellites

Aug 22, 2014

Two satellites for Europe's rival to GPS were lifted into space on Friday to boost the Galileo constellation to six orbiters of a final 30, the European Space Agency (ESA) said.

SpaceX gets 10-year tax exemption for Texas site

Aug 22, 2014

Cameron County commissioners have agreed to waive 10 years of county taxes as part of an agreement bringing the world's first commercial site for orbital rocket launches to the southernmost tip of Texas.

User comments : 0