Cassini set for final close flyby of Saturn's moon Titan

Enceladus

Cassini set for final close flyby of Saturn's moon Titan

Cassini data has revealed the potential for life on Titan and Enceladus, and, if there were life there, it would be important not to contaminate it with life from Earth. That shot, made by the Voyager 1 space probe back in February 1990, was captured from a whopping 3.7 billion miles away.

During one of its recent ring-grazing dives, Cassini managed to capture an incredible image showing not only Saturn's rings, but a small speck of light that is actually our home planet Earth, peeking from between the icy rings!

A blown-up version of the image clearly shows the moon a short distance to the left of the planet.

Closest approach to Titan is planned for 11:08pm PDT on April 21st (2:08am EDT April 22nd).

For the first time, RADAR will attempt to measure the depths of Titan's smaller lakes.

The experiments could also shed light on the moon's so-called "magic islands". Scientists hope to gain additional insights to help them determine whether the feature is waves, bubbles, floating debris, or something else entirely.

While another pass at Titan (the craft's 127th) will provide more details about the moon, and perhaps even find its "magic island", the visit serves another objective: The close proximity to Titan's gravity will warp Cassini's orbit slightly, bringing it from outside the planet's rings to just inside.

On April 22, NASA scientists will give commands to Cassini to change its course.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft is all set for its final close encounter with Saturn's largest moon Titan, the USA space agency has said.

This makes the flyby the transition between the ring-grazing orbits the spacecraft has been conducting since November 30, 2016, and the Grand Finale in which it will conduct 22 dives between the rings and the planet. Once about every seven days. Linda Spilker, a planetary scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Cassini's project scientist, said: "Titan and Enceladus were the stars of the show". "I feel a little sad in many ways that Cassini's discoveries will end". "We, humankind, have been at Saturn for 13 years". "We're going to start with bacteria and, if we get lucky, maybe there's something that's larger".

Now nearly out of fuel, Cassini will be set on a collision course with Saturn by the maneuver that will send it flying over Titan. The spacecraft is destined to destroy itself in Saturn's atmosphere later this year after a productive mission spent studying the ringed planet and its many moons.

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