Cassini heads toward final close encounter with Titan

Cassini heads toward final close encounter with Titan
Cassini will make its final close flyby of Saturn's moon Titan on April 21 (PDT), using its radar to reveal the moon's surface lakes and seas one last time. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's Cassini spacecraft will make its final close flyby of Saturn's haze-enshrouded moon Titan this weekend. The flyby marks the mission's final opportunity for up-close observations of the lakes and seas of liquid hydrocarbons that spread across the moon's northern polar region, and the last chance to use its powerful radar to pierce the haze and make detailed images of the surface.

Closest approach to Titan is planned for 11:08 p.m. PDT on April 21 (2:08 a.m. EDT April 22). During the encounter, Cassini will pass as close as 608 miles (979 kilometers) above Titan's surface at a speed of about 13,000 mph (21,000 kph).

The flyby is also the gateway to Cassini's Grand Finale—a final set of 22 orbits that pass between the planet and its rings, ending with a plunge into Saturn on Sept. 15 that will end the mission. During the close pass on April 21, Titan's gravity will bend Cassini's orbit around Saturn, shrinking it slightly, so that instead of passing just outside the rings, the spacecraft will begin its finale dives which pass just inside the rings.

The flyby is Cassini's 127th targeted encounter with Titan. A targeted flyby is one for which the spacecraft uses its rocket engine or thrusters to accurately aim toward the encounter.

Cassini's will look for changes in Titan's methane lakes and seas, and attempt for the first (and last) time to study the depth and composition of Titan's smaller lakes. The radar instrument will also search a final time for Titan's "magic island," a mysterious feature in one of the moon's seas that changed in appearance over the course of several flybys. Scientists hope to gain additional insights to help them determine whether the feature is waves, bubbles, floating debris, or something else entirely.


Explore further

Cassini mission prepares for 'grand finale' at Saturn

Provided by JPL/NASA
Citation: Cassini heads toward final close encounter with Titan (2017, April 19) retrieved 26 June 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2017-04-cassini-encounter-titan.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
704 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Apr 19, 2017
Yep. Great mission. If anybody would like a laugh, here is the idiot Thornhill's take on Tltan:
http://www.holosc...y-earth/

Extremely lolworthy. Never tire of reading this lunatic's take on things! Always good for a laugh.

Apr 19, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Apr 19, 2017
Could he magic island be some kind of -berg? Methane-berg, or whatever?

Apr 20, 2017
Yep. Great mission. If anybody would like a laugh, here is the idiot Thornhill's take on Tltan:
http://www.holosc...y-earth/

Extremely lolworthy. Never tire of reading this lunatic's take on things! Always good for a laugh.

Lost interest after 2nd paragraph....

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