Cassini Makes Last Close Titan Flyby, Captures Canyon On Tethys

The planet Saturn is seen in the first color composite made of images taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on its approach to the ringed planet. For 20 years of traveling in the solar system, Cassini-Huygens was the first space probes have flown into Saturn's orbit and its Huygens first touched down on Saturn's moon called Titan in January 2005. It is now beginning its final 22 orbits around the big ringed planet.

This unprocessed image of Saturn's moon Titan was captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during its final close flyby of the hazy, planet-sized moon on April 21, 2017.

Earth's moon is also visible nearby in a cropped, zoomed-in version of the image. They will be looking into the images of Titan's hydrocarbon seas and lakes that spread across the moon's polar region.

Aside from planet Earth, the spacecraft also photographed the moon.

The spacecraft's first finale dive will take place on April 26th at 2:00am PDT (5:00am CDT).

The mission will conclude with a science-rich plunge into Saturn's atmosphere on September 15 this year. Program manager Earl Maize told the website that he has "no doubt" that Titan's gravity will help Cassini shift into the correct final orbit, but that his team is unsure what lies in the gap between Saturn and its rings. 15, no matter what.

Cassini received a large increase in velocity of approximately 1,925 mph (precisely 860.5 meters per second) with respect to Saturn from the close encounter with Titan.

The low angle of the sun over Tethys' massive canyon, Ithaca Chasma (near the terminator, at right), highlights the contours of this enormous rift in this photograph taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft, January 30, 2017.

"Ithaca Chasma is up to 60 miles (100 kilometers) wide, and runs almost three-fourths of the way around icy Tethys (660 miles or 1,062 kilometers across)", NASA officials wrote in a statement today (April 24).

  • Joe Gonzales