Remember Cassini, the multibillion dollar spaceship we put in orbit around Saturn back in July? (If not, see the PT posts Say hello to Phoebe and First decent views of the surface of Titan, and the Cassini website).
Well, it has taken awhile for Cassini to do its first full orbit, but it is back in the inner Saturnian system, and today it completed its first flyby of Titan, the solar system’s largest moon and only moon with a thick atmosphere made of nitrogen and organic compounds.
Cassini will pass within 746 miles of Titan – a mere 10 hour drive on the freeway – and snap up close photos, and image the surface in detail with atmosphere-penetrating radar.
Here is a photo taken during approach (last Sunday, October 24), with a special filter to peer through the smog:
The flyby happened some hours ago, but the raw images are coming in (the Cassini webpage Raw image archive seems a bit sluggish, all of us spacegeeks must be checking it) and more importantly, at about 6:30 p.m. PST., the Titan Flyby Webcast will occur from JPL for those of us who don’t get NASA TV.