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.

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Richard Leis

Richard Leis is a writer and poet. His first published poem, "Roadside Freak Show," arrives on August 21, 2017 in Impossible Archetype.  His essays about fairy tales and technology have been published on Tiny Donkey. Richard is also the Downlink Lead for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) team at the University of Arizona. He monitors images of the Martian surface taken by the HiRISE camera located on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in orbit around Mars and helps ensure they process successfully and are validated for quick release to the science community and public. Once upon a time, Richard wrote and edited the science and technology news and commentary website Frontier Channel, hosted the RADIO Frontier Channel podcast, and organized transhumanist clubs. Follow Richard on his website (, on Goodreads (richardleis), Twitter (@richardleisjr), and Facebook (richardleisjr).