Investigating Titan's Mid-Southern Latitudes
Cassini completed its 51st targeted flyby of Titan on February 7, passing the moon at a distance of 967 kilometers (601 miles) above the surface. INMS observed the boundary region of Titan’s interaction with Saturn’s magnetosphere, while RADAR collected SAR coverage of possible mountain ranges in the southern hemisphere that were suggested in VIMS data.
TITAN-50 Science Highlights
Closest approach at T-50 featured the Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) as the "prime" instrument, in control of exactly where the spacecraft would be pointed for this flyby. The observation was designed to measure the boundary between the wake side and the inner flank of the magnetospheric interaction region at mid-southern latitudes. RADAR rode along with INMS at closest approach. During the flyby, the instrument collected synthetic aperture radar data over the mountain ranges southwest of Tsegihi, and obtained altimetry measurements inbound and outbound.
For the Optical Remote Sensing instruments, CIRS focused on mapping temperatures, trace hydrocarbons, nitriles and oxygen compounds in Titan's stratosphere along with searching for weak isotopes and new gas species. VIMS performed cloud mapping and observations of the atmosphere at the limb. UVIS obtained an image cube of Titan's atmosphere at extreme ultraviolet and far ultraviolet wavelengths by sweeping its slit across the disk. These cubes provide spectral and spatial information on nitrogen emissions, H emission and absorption, absorption by simple hydrocarbons, and the scattering properties of haze aerosols. This is one of many such cubes gathered over the course of the mission to provide latitude and seasonal coverage of Titan's middle atmosphere and stratosphere.
For the Magnetosphere and Plasma Science suite of instruments, the Magnetospheric Imaging Instrument (MIMI) measured energetic ion and electron energy input to Titan's atmosphere. Because T-50 was an upstream flank-in flyby, the geometry was suitable for the Magnetometer Subsystem (MAG) to study the magnetic pileup region across the night side hemisphere. T-50 also took place in Saturn's near-noon sector where Titan could be found in the magnetosheath if the solar wind pressure was high. This is an arrangement that is also of interest to MAG. Finally, the Radio and Plasma Wave Science instrument measured thermal plasmas in Titan's ionosphere and surrounding environment, searched for lightning in Titan's atmosphere, and investigated the interaction of Titan with Saturn's magnetosphere.