T-118 Titan encounter: Cassini’s fly-by of Titan involves two major science observations

On Monday, the Cassini spacecraft will conduct a fly-by of Titan to observe its atmosphere before it starts sending back information to earth, so that could be evaluated by scientists. The event known as ‘T-118’ Titan encounter, two Cassini instruments have been employed to study the moon’s atmosphere.

Cassini is heading into its 19th year in space and it continues to provide significant scientific data. The spacecraft was launched in October 1997 and in 2004, it entered in orbit. In December 2004, Cassini completed a major milestone.

It entered Titan’s atmosphere and descended to the surface, and it became the first landing every accomplished in the outer solar system. Cassini has made many new discoveries in the Saturn system. Latest one was completing a dive through the ice plume ejecta material of the Saturn moon Enceladus.

Now, Cassini is all focus on Titan. Lately, it has spotted the tallest peak that Cassini was able to observe with its radar instrumentation. Then, on March 25, Cassini fired its main engine for a 45-second burn as it was preparing to get up close and personal with Titan.

NASA said, “It is the only flyby in the mission where the Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS) and the Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) will observe Titan’s atmosphere simultaneously at the same latitude”.

UVIS is a box of four telescopes that can see Ultraviolet (UV) light over wavelengths from 55.8 to 190 nanometers. During the flyby, UVIS will be taking samples by observing a solar occultation and INMS will sample the upper atmospheric density directly.

Data from the flyby will provide scientists with new insights about the density and composition of Titan’s atmosphere. Cassini’s mission is moving towards its final year, a part of an extension known as ‘Solstice Mission’.

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