Cassini heading towards final close encounter with Titan

Cassini heading toward final close encounter with Titan

The U.S. space agency NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is on the path to make its final close flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan this weekend in a bid to provide scientists with detailed images of its surface.

Cassini’s closest approach to the moon Titan is scheduled for 11:08 p.m. PDT on 21st of April of 2:08 a.m. EDT on 22nd of April. The spacecraft will make a pass as close as 608 miles or 979 kilometers above the potentially habitable moon’s surface at a speed of around 13,000 mph.

The flyby is expected to help researchers to closely observe the lakes and seas of liquid hydrocarbons across Titan’s northern polar region. The spacecraft will use its powerful radar to pierce the haze to capture detailed images of the surface.

In 2005, the Cassini spacecraft entered Saturn’s orbit and released a lander, allowing it to plunge through the moon’s atmosphere.

Planetary scientist Hunter Waite, of the Southwest Research Institute, said, “One of the first things we see was the important, unexpected chemistry going on in Titan’s upper atmosphere. It’s a prodigious source of organic materials, part of the little checklist of items that lead to habitability.”

A couple of weeks, Cassini detected hydrogen gas in a plume gushing from a liquid water ocean hidden beneath Saturn moon Enceladus’ icy shell. Hydrogen is a crucial energy source for microbial life. Thus, the discovery of this gas encouraged scientists to continue to explore the Saturn system in search of some kind of alien life.