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Saturn Tour Dates

Saturn Tour Dates

Artist's View of Cassini approaching Saturn
Artist's View of Cassini approaching Saturn

2015 Saturn Tour Highlights:

Dates are listed in Spacecraft Event Time (SCET) -- the time the something happens at the spacecraft based on Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Click here for details about time conversions.

Click here for a more complete list of the planned tour dates in 2015.

After a couple of years at high inclination, Cassini returns to a near equatorial orbit in 2015. This will provide new opportunities to fly by Saturn's icy moons again -- including a daring flyby through Enceladus' plumes. Timed to coincide with the plumes' maximum output -- a first for the mission -- this flyby will see Cassini pass a mere 30 miles (48 kilometers) above the moon's surface. Cassini will also fly by Dione twice this year -- the last two of five close flybys in the mission.

Jan 11 – Titan flyby (603 miles, or 970 kilometers) – T-108
During this flyby, RADAR will obtain altimetry on Punga Mare, meaning Cassini will have provided depth and/or composition information on all three of Titan's seas. RADAR will also make a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) observation of the area where a 'Magic Island' has been observed in Ligea Mare. This is a highly dynamic feature first seen in July 2013. By August 2014, the feature’s appearance had changed dramatically.

|Mysterious feature in Ligeia Mare
These images, created from Cassini Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data, show the appearance and evolution of a mysterious feature in Ligeia Mare.
Feb. 12 – Titan flyby (746 miles, or 1,200 kilometers) – T-109 The visible and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIMS) will use its “push broom” mode to take a high-resolution swath across Titan's north pole region. The instrument will also image the southern hemisphere to view the evolution of Titan's south polar vortex. Cassini's cameras will image Titan's surface and atmosphere over the equatorial sub-Saturnian hemisphere, including northern Tsegihi and eastern Aztlan.

Mar. 16 – Titan flyby (1,414 miles, or 2,275 kilometers) – T-110
Closest approach science consists of a unique, high resolution VIMS regional map of Titan's north polar lakes. VIMS will also acquire a high-resolution mosaic (at less than 3 miles [5 kilometers] per pixel) of part of the north polar area to look for changes with summer solstice. Cassini will also obtain gravity data using its low gain antenna,contributing to our understanding of Titan’s interior structure.

May 7 -- Titan flyby (1,691 miles, or 2,722 kilometers) – T-111
The VIMS instrument will construct a mosaic of Titan's Xanadu region at a resolution of 6 miles (10 kilometers) per pixel. VIMS will also obtain high-resolution images of the impact crater named Minerva at closest approach. The composite infrared spectrometer (CIRS) will conduct limb sounding in the far-infrared to provide insight into the formation of Titan's southern winter polar vortex, as well as obtaining information about the thermal structure and composition of the stratosphere. Cassini's cameras will obtain images of Titan's surface and atmosphere, including eastern Shangri-La and western Xanadu.

June 16 -- Dione flyby (321 miles, or 516 kilometers) – D-4
During this flyby, Cassini’s cameras will map the sub-Saturn part of the trailing side of Dione (i.e., the quarter of the moon's trailing hemisphere that faces Saturn). This observation includes the tectonically deformed terrain named "Eurotas Chasmata," first observed 35 years ago as bright, wispy streaks by the Voyager mission. Cassini will also try to detect fine particles that may be emitted from Dione and determine their composition. The radio science team will use this flyby to improve our knowledge of Dione’s gravitational field, internal structure and the rigidity of its outer ice shell. After close approach the Composite Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (CIRS) will be mapping the dark side to understand how Dione’s surface loses heat.

This image of Dione was taken by Cassini on Dec. 12, 2011. This was the spacecraft's closest pass of the moon's surface, approximately 62 miles (99 kilometers) of Dione.
July 7 – Titan flyby (6,806 miles, or 10,953 kilometers) – T-112 The CIRS instrument will perform back-to-back limb sounding observations at closest approach, reaching high northern and southern latitudes to contrast the temperatures and gas abundances at the summer and winter poles. VIMS will acquire a mosaic of the sub-Saturn tropical zone that includes the dune fields of Fensal and Aztlan and the Quivira plateau. VIMS will also observe the evolution of the south polar vortex and will look for the formation of clouds at northern mid-latitudes. Outbound, VIMS will take images of the north polar area with the seas illuminated.

Aug. 17 – Dione flyby (295 miles, or 474 kilometers) – D-5
This is the final targeted flyby of Dione in Cassini's long mission. The radio science team will conduct a gravity experiment at closest approach. The data collected will contribute to our knowledge of the internal structure of Dione, the rigidity of its outer ice shell, and enable insightful comparisons with Saturn’s other icy moons. The camera and spectrometers will observe the fully lit anti-Saturn side of Dione during approach. These instruments will also get a quick peek at the North Pole, which hasn’t been observed closely, at a resolution of only a few meters. The Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) will map areas on Dione that have unusual thermal anomalies. These are regions that are especially good at trapping heat. The Cosmic Dust Analyzer will continue its search for dust particles emitted from Dione.

Sept. 28 – Titan flyby (644 miles, or 1,036 kilometers) T-113
This flyby will provide important observations about the interaction between Titan's ionosphere and the neutral atmosphere with Titan in a sparsely sampled region of Saturn's magnetosphere. The data will provide important information on how Titan interacts with Saturn's magnetosphere. The ion and neutral mass spectrometer (INMS) will sample Titan’s neutral atmosphere and ionosphere. At high altitude above Titan, INMS will observe ions flowing out from Titan's extended outer atmosphere. At the lower altitudes around closest approach, RADAR will study the eastern portion of the Xanadu region.

Oct. 14 – Enceladus flyby (1,142 miles, or 1,839 kilometers) – E-20
During this flyby, Cassini will image the north polar regions of Enceladus -- something not possible in the first years of the mission, when the moon's north was in darkness. Scientists are eager to search for indications of whether the north polar region might have been geophysically active at some time in the past. There are also two plume observations designed to allow scientists to better understand the connection of specific jets to surface hot spots, and to search for variability in the plumes.

Cassini captured this image of Enceladus' plume during a flyby in 2009. On Oct. 28, Cassini will fly within 30 miles (48 kilometers) of Enceladus’ south pole.
Oct. 28 – Enceladus flyby (30 miles, or 49 kilometers) – E21 This daring flyby will bring the spacecraft within 30 miles (48 kilometers) of Enceladus’ south pole. The flyby is timed to occur when the moon’s plumes are at their maximum output -- a first for the mission. This will allow Cassini to obtain the most accurate measurements yet of the plume's composition.

Nov. 13 – Titan flyby (7,407 miles, or 11,920 kilometers) – T-114
Near closest approach, Cassini's imaging cameras will acquire a medium-to-high-resolution mosaic of Titan's leading hemisphere over Xanadu. Other observations on this flyby include VIMS' monitoring of the formation and evolution of clouds at high latitudes and the evolution of south polar vortex. VIMS will map the north pole area at high emission angles, and will monitor the evolution of the lakes and seas. CIRS will perform very high-latitude limb sounding over the south pole, monitoring the temperatures and composition in the south polar vortex as it continues to develop in southern fall. The latitudes viewed during this flyby are the most southerly latitudes possible for far-infrared limb measurements during this phase of the Cassini mission.

Dec. 6 – Protective measures to ensure safe passage through an area of increased ring particle concentration. Cassini will be turned so that its high gain antenna can be used like umbrella to shield the spacecraft from impacts by ring particles.

Dec. 19 – Enceladus flyby (3,106 miles, or 4,999 kilometers) – E-22
This will be the last targeted Enceladus flyby of the mission. The CIRS instrument will observe the moon's south polar terrain. By the time the mission concludes on 2017, Cassini will have obtained observations over six years of winter darkness in the moon's southern hemisphere. These are ideal conditions for improving measurements of heat flow from the interior to the surface. Understanding heat flow is important because it provides key information on what is driving the geysers.

Highlights archive: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2004-2006.

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