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losangelesnewstoday.com August 22, 2017


Cassini concludes final fly by of Titan

25 April 2017, 12:58 | Kristen Gross

Cassini's image shows tiny Earth between Saturn's rings

Cassini snaps a familiar object between Saturn's rings

The close flyby of Titan is set to alter the orbit of the spacecraft so it will pass through the gap between Saturn and its rings.

The latest example came a few days ago from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, which is now orbiting Saturn.

Earth's moon is also visible nearby in a cropped, zoomed-in version of the image.

"Titan's gravity will bend Cassini's orbit around Saturn, shrinking it slightly, so that instead of passing just outside the rings, the spacecraft will begin its finale dives which pass just inside the rings", NASA said in a statement on Wednesday.

The flyby placed the spacecraft on the course for the final phase of its mission called the Grand Finale, wherein the probe will eventually dive into Saturn's atmosphere and transmit data about the ringed planet's chemical composition until it loses its signal. They will be looking into the images of Titan's hydrocarbon seas and lakes that spread across the moon's polar region.

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"Cassini's up-close exploration of Titan is now behind us, but the rich volume of data the spacecraft has collected will fuel scientific study for decades to come", said Linda Spilker, the mission's project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the US.

This made Cassini's grand finale death dive more special since images like this is considered rare during the entirety of its mission.

However, Cassini did not only make a Titan flyby. After the flyby, Cassini will begin a series of dives between the rings and the planet. Space.com noted that the canyon, known as Ithaca Chasma, is visible in an image from Cassini, teetering between the day side and night side of the moon. "The canyon has a maximum depth of almost 2.4 miles (4 kilometers) deep".

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency.

Cassini's fuel is running out, and therefore, the orbiter's work at the ringed planet is nearly done.



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