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 Frontierchannel.tv beginning very early tomorrow morning.

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Richard Leis

Richard Leis is a writer and poet living in Tucson, Arizona. His poetry has been published in Impossible Archetype. His essays about fairy tales and technology have been published on Tiny Donkey and Fairy Tale Review’s “Fairy-Tale Files“.