Status Report

NASA Cassini’s Latest Flyby of Titan

By SpaceRef Editor
April 13, 2005
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Full-Res: PIA06219

This map of Titan’s surface illustrates the regions that will be imaged by Cassini during the spacecraft’s close flyby of the haze-covered moon on March 31, 2005. At closest approach, the spacecraft is expected to pass approximately 2,400 kilometers (1,500 miles) above the moon’s surface.

The colored lines delineate the regions that will be imaged at different resolutions. Images from this encounter will include the eastern portion of territory observed by Cassini’s radar instrument in October 2004 and February 2005. This will be the Cassini cameras’ best view to date of this area of Titan.

The higher resolution (red) box at the northwestern edge of the covered region targets the area observed by Cassini’s synthetic aperture radar at the closest approach point of the February flyby. The Cassini visual and infrared mapping spectrometer experiment will also be targeting this area during the March 31 flyby, yielding coverage of the same part of Titan’s surface by three different instruments.

The map shows only brightness variations on Titan’s surface (the illumination is such that there are no shadows and no shading due to topographic variations). Previous observations indicate that, due to Titan’s thick, hazy atmosphere, the sizes of surface features that can be resolved are a few to five times larger than the actual pixel scale labeled on the map.

The images for this global map were obtained using a narrow band filter centered at 938 nanometers — a near-infrared wavelength (invisible to the human eye). At that wavelength, light can penetrate Titan’s atmosphere to reach the surface and return through the atmosphere to be detected by the camera. The images have been processed to enhance surface details.

It is currently northern winter on Titan, so the moon’s high northern latitudes are not illuminated, resulting in the lack of coverage north of 35 degrees north latitude.

At 5,150 kilometers (3,200 miles) across, Titan is one of the solar system’s largest moons.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit . For additional images visit the Cassini imaging team homepage .

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

SpaceRef staff editor.