With NASA's Cassini prime mission concluded, the Cassini Equinox Mission begins. The spacecraft remains healthy and its international science team has planned for it to take closer looks at especially interesting features in the Saturnian system from July 2008 to September 2010.
Cassini already revealed parts of the Earth-like and active world of Titan and discovered the potential habitability of Enceladus. The two moons are now the main attractions for exploration in the Equinox mission.
Saturn's equinox, when the sun shines directly on the equator, occurs in August 2009. This will be an opportune time for Cassini to study the rings in new lighting conditions. Over the past four years, the rings were illuminated from the south, revealing complex dynamics and interactions with moons and moonlets. Cassini will monitor seasonal changes as the angle of sunlight shifts to top of the ring plane and the northern hemispheres of Saturn and its moons.
Titan's imaging radar and altimeter will make more passes of the haze-covered moon to reveal new terrain. In addition, the spacecraft's flight path will take it to new places within Saturn's huge and dynamic magnetic environment.
Cassini findings will continue to lay the groundwork for possible future missions to Saturn, Titan or Enceladus.
Last Updated: 3 February 2011