Titan (Lower Left) paired with Saturn as seen from Cassini last year. (Credit: NASA/Cassini/JPL/The Space Science Institute).
Far out in the depths of the solar system, one of our most distant orbiting ambassadors is completing a flyby†of the largest known moon.†On Friday, February 18th at 11:04AM EST NASAís Cassini orbiter will skim the Saturnian moon at a distance of just 2,270 miles above the enigmatic moon Titan. Although this flyby wonít produce many pretty pictures of the cloud shrouded moon, it will perform some fairly interesting science. During the pass, Cassiniís Plasma Spectrometer will work to characterize the magnetic environment of the moon and its interaction with the local environment of ionized gas. Another fascinating aspect of the mission is a peek into the interior structure of the moon by the probeís radio science sub-system. Specifically, the probe is looking to model the moonís Love Number, as scientists seek to describe how much of the moon is fluid. Does Titan have subsurface oceans in addition to surface seas of liquid ethane and methane? Finally, researchers will be looking for any overall seasonal changes on the moon. Its currently northern hemisphere spring leading into summer on Titan, which has been known to exhibit a curious dichotomy between its two respective hemispheres. Titan has been the target of scrutiny since Cassini arrived at Saturn in 2004 and famously released the Huygens lander that sampled the atmosphere and even returned pictures from the surface on January 14th, 2005. This will be the 75th targeted flyby. †