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Cassini Spacecraft Heads Toward The Gateway To Its Grand Finale This Weekend

First Posted: Apr 21, 2017 05:10 AM EDT
NASA At Saturn: Cassini's Grand Finale
NASA's Cassini spacecraft will make a flyby of the moon Titan, which is one of the final orbits in its Grand Finale, on April 21, 2017.
(Photo : NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/YouTube screenshot)

NASA's Cassini spacecraft is heading toward the gateway to its Grand Finale. This is a final set of 22 orbits that will overtake between the planet and its rings. Its destination will be a dive into Saturn on Sep. 15, 2017.

The Grand Finale will begin on April 21, 2017, in which Cassini will have a flyby of Saturn's moon Titan. It will approach Titan closer at 608 miles (979 kilometers) above the surface of Titan at a speed of about 13,000 mph (21,000 kph). The spacecraft will examine the lakes and seas of liquid hydrocarbons in the northern polar region of Titan. It will also capture detailed images of the surface of the moon Titan using its strong radar, according to NASA.

Its radar will also look for any variations on the methane lakes and seas of the moon Titan. This will examine the depth and composition of the moon's smaller lakes. It will also look for Titan's "magic island" that is described as a mysterious feature in one of the moon's seas. This is because it modifies in appearance during the series of flybys. The researchers want to know if this magic island is a floating debris, wave, bubble or something else.

According to the Cassini project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California -- Linda Spilker -- the Grand Finale for Cassini's journey was far and away the desired choice for the mission's scientists. "Cassini will make some of its most extraordinary observations at the end of its long life."

The mission's scientists aim to know and examine Saturn's internal structure and the origins of the rings. They want to have the first-ever sampling of the atmosphere of Saturn and the particles that come from the main rings. The scientists are also looking forward to having the closest views of the clouds and the inner rings of Saturn, according to EarthSky.

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