News and commentary about the Great Frontiers

ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) --- This view of Earth's horizon as the sunsets over the Pacific Ocean was taken by an Expedition 7 crewmember onboard the International Space Station (ISS). Anvil tops of thunderclouds are also visible. Credit: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Image Credit: ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) – Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Closing in on Titan



Today is the big day. The Cassini spacecraft is heading toward a close flyby of Titan, with the likely result the best pictures ever taken of the shrouded Saturnian moon. On Sunday, Cassini snapped a clear image of the moon at a wavelength that allowed it to see through the thick atmosphere. The large and white continent-sized area is called Xanadu. So far, scientists are not clear as to the exact nature of this terrain, but perhaps by tonight they will have better information.

In December, the Huygens probe that is riding piggyback on Cassini will be released and set a course for Titan. Several days later Huygens will parachute through the atmosphere of Titan, snapping pictures and recording sounds on its way to the surface.

Cassini itself will revisit Titan several times over the next four years, perhaps much closer than this current flyby. Cassini will also fly by many of the planet’s other moons. The mission has already revealed much greater detail, more mysteries, and better pictures than any other previous mission, and the best is yet to come.

NASA TV will begin live web coverage of the event tonight at 6:30 p.m. Pacific Time. NASA TV is also available on some satellite and cable systems. Stay turned for updates and images right here on beginning very early tomorrow morning.

%d bloggers like this: