Science

Saturn Moon Tethys' Giant Canyon Snakes into Darkness in Cassini Photo

Saturn Moon Tethys' Giant Canyon Snakes into Darkness in Cassini Photoā€¯

Cassini-Huygens, a NASA's spacecraft that is set to explore the Saturn is now on its final journey.

The spacecraft made its 127th and final close approach to Titan on April 21st at 11:08pm PDT (1:08am CDT on April 22nd), passing at an altitude of about 608 miles (979 kilometers) above the moon's surface.

This view from NASA's Cassini orbiter shows Earth and its only natural satellite as points of light between the icy rings of the gas giant Saturn. Cassini then transmitted images and other data to Earth after the encounter, which will be looked at by scientists investigating Titan.

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Cassini's radar team will be looking this week at the final set of new images of the hydrocarbon seas and lakes that spread across Titan's north polar region.

Now, as its mission comes to an end, the spacecraft will change course, during which it will once again complete a close flyby of Titan, the USA space agency explained.

"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 mission project scientist Linda Spilker, from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This week, on April 26, Cassini will initiate its Grand Finale death dive composed of 22 plunges through the gap between Saturn's rings.

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Earl Maize, the Cassini project manager, said that the flyby caused the spacecraft to a ballistic path.

The close encounter with Titan increased Cassini's velocity to about 1,925 miles per hour. "The canyon has a maximum depth of almost 2.4 miles (4 kilometers) deep".

The canyon, known as Ithaca Chasma, is visible at the image's lower right, near the terminator - the line between a celestial object's dayside and nightside.

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Though the space agency released the photo today, Cassini actually captured it on January 30, 2017, when the probe was about 221,000 miles (356,000 km) from Tethys.



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