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Cassini exploring atmosphere with Titan flyby

Charles Black, Founder and CEO of Sen
Sep 26, 2012, 7:00 UTC

Sen—The Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn will flyby Titan on September 26 to gain a better understanding of its atmosphere.

Titan, Saturn's largest moon and the second largest in the Solar System, is unique because it has a dense atmosphere that can be seen in the pictures as a thick blue line around the moon.  With its lakes, mountains, river beds and rainfall, Titan appears to have many Earth like characteristics - except the rain and lakes are liquid methane rather than water. 

Cassini will make a day time pass of the north of the moon and use its Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) to take readings. The flyby is one of many that will gather data to help scientists determine how Titan's atmosphere varies with latitude.

Dr Carolyn Porco, leader of the Cassini imaging team, told Sen: "This upcoming flyby is yet another in our campaign to understand as much about the complex surface environment and atmosphere of this most intriguing place, and to lookout for new phenomena that might unfold with time as the seasons change."

Cassini was launched in 1997 and entered Saturn's orbit in 2004. The Huygens space probe landed successfully on Titan in 2005. Cassini continues to provide much information and stunning images of Saturn, its rings and its moons, such as this angled view of Saturn.

Cassini takes an angled view toward Saturn

Cassini image of Saturn. The tiny moon Enceladus (504km across) can be seen in the bottom left of the image. The picture was taken June 15, 2012. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency.

The Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations (CICLOPS) and team leader (Dr Carolyn Porco) are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) based in Pasadena, California, a division of the California Institute of Technology, manages the overall mission for NASA.