Written by Jia-Rui Cook
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft successfully completed its closest-ever pass over Saturn’s moon Dione on Monday, December 12th, slaloming its way through the Saturn system on its way to tomorrow’s close flyby of Titan.
Cassini is expected to glide about 2,200 miles (3,600 kilometers) over the Titan surface on December 13th.
In the selection of the raw images obtained during the Cassini Dione flyby, Dione is sometimes joined by other moons. Mimas appears just beyond the dark side of Dione in one view. In another view, Epimetheus and Pandora appear together, along with Saturn’s rings.
This Dione encounter was intended primarily for Cassini’s composite infrared spectrometer and radio science subsystem. However, the imaging team did capture views of the distinctive, wispy fractures on the side of Dione that always trails in its orbit around Saturn. It also obtained images of a ridge called Janiculum Dorsa on the hemisphere of Dione that always leads in its orbit around Saturn.
While other flybys produced more detailed views of the surface, the best resolved images from this flyby have scales ranging from about 1,100 feet (350 meters) to about 1,600 feet (500 meters) per pixel. Janiculum Dorsa will be imaged by Cassini at higher resolution in May 2012.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena manages the mission for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations team is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, CO. JPL is a division of Caltech.