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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has close flyby of Saturn’s Moon Dione

 

Written by Preston Dyches / DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made a close flyby of Saturn’s moon Dione on June 16th, coming within 321 miles (516 kilometers) of the moon’s surface. The spacecraft made its closest approach to Dione at 1:12pm PDT (4:12pm EDT) on June 16th.

During the flyby, Cassini’s cameras and spectrometers observed terrain that includes “Eurotas Chasmata,” a region first observed 35 years ago by NASA’s Voyager mission as bright, wispy streaks. After the Voyager encounter, scientists considered the possibility that the streaks were bright material extruded onto the surface by geologic activity, such as ice volcanoes.

Cassini's penultimate encounter with Saturn's moon Dione is slated for June 16th. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Cassini’s penultimate encounter with Saturn’s moon Dione is slated for June 16th. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Cassini’s close flybys and sharp vision later revealed the bright streaks to be an intricate network of braided canyons with bright walls, called linea.

Cassini will also try to detect and determine the composition of any fine particles being emitted from Dione, which could indicate low-level geologic activity.

Mission controllers expect images to begin arriving on Earth within a few days of the encounter.

This flyby was the fourth targeted encounter with Dione of Cassini’s long mission. Targeted encounters require a propulsion maneuver to precisely steer the spacecraft toward a desired path above a moon. Cassini’s closest-ever flyby of Dione was in December 2011, at a distance of 60 miles (100 kilometers). The spacecraft will fly past Dione one more time, on August 17th, swooping within 295 miles (474 kilometers) of the surface.

In late 2015, the spacecraft will depart Saturn’s equatorial plane — where moon flybys occur most frequently — to begin a year-long setup of the mission’s daring final year. For its grand finale, Cassini will repeatedly dive through the space between Saturn and its rings.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

For more information about Cassini, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/cassini

http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov


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