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2004 - 2006 Saturn Tour Highlights

2004 - 2006 Saturn Tour Highlights

2006 Saturn Tour Highlights:

Jan. 15, 2006: Titan flyby -- the first solar occultation occurs, giving scientists the chance to see the sun shining directly through the atmosphere of Titan.

Jan. 17, 2006: Flyby of Rhea -- one of the best non-targeted flybys of this icy moon in the tour, this pass complements last November's targeted flyby.

Feb. 27, 2006: Titan flyby -- these are the first of four coordinated Radio Science flybys that explore the interior of Titan. T22, T33, and T38 are the others. T11 is the flyby that occurs when Titan is near apoapsis, and the spacecraft flyby is at a low inclination

Mar. 18, 2006: Titan flyby -- the first Radio Science bistatic (bouncing a signal off the surface and returning it to Earth) and occultation (sending the radio signal through the atmosphere of Titan to the Earth) observations.

Mar. 21, 2006: Flyby of Rhea -- one of the closer non-targeted flybys of Rhea, this pass will display Rhea at a large phase angle, highlighting craters and topography.

Apr. 30, 2006: Titan flyby -- a shared closest approach between the Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS) with another stellar occultation probing the atmosphere of Titan at a different latitude, and RADAR, exploring another interesting swath of the surface of Titan. Interestingly, we haven't had a RADAR observation since October 28, 2005.

May 20, 2006: Titan flyby -- the second Radio Science bistatic (bouncing a signal off Titan's surface and returning it to Earth) and occultation (sending the radio signal through the atmosphere of Titan to the Earth) flyby of the mission.

Jul. 2, 2006: Titan flyby -- this occurs two years to the date from our first detailed glimpse of Titan at T0. Titan is in an unusual position relative to the incoming solar wind, sun, and Saturn, which makes this a particularly interesting flyby for the magnetospheric instruments that will control the pointing of the spacecraft up to closest approach, one of only two flybys in the whole mission where they do that. After closest approach, we turn the spacecraft over to the infrared instrument CIRS, which is probing the atmosphere.

Jul. 22, 2006: Cassini's orbit gets rotated out of the plane of the rings with this Titan encounter -- the start of the "Titan 180 transfer."

Sep. 9, 2006: Enceladus non-targeted, and Methone (perhaps closest in the mission) flybys occur.

Sep. 17, 2006: Cassini views the Sun as is passes behind Saturn and the rings. The rate of passage through the rings is very slow and the view will yield information on the D and C rings that is impossible at any other time in the tour.

Nov. 9, 2006: Enceladus non-targeted -- views of south pole from about 125,000 kilometers (about 77,700 miles).

Dec. 12, 2006: Titan flyby -- this flyby has a shared closest approach between a UVIS stellar occultation at a different latitude, INMS sniffing the atmosphere and RADAR exploring the surface.

Dec. 28, 2006: Titan flyby -- this flyby is the second of four coordinated radio science flybys exploring the interior of Titan (T11, T33, and T38 are the others). T22 is the flyby that occurs when Titan is again near apoapsis, but the spacecraft flyby is at a high inclination.


2005 Saturn Tour Highlights:

Jan. 14, 2005: The European Space Agency's Huygens probe descended through Titan's cloudy atmosphere, touching down on the surface about two and half hours later.

Feb. 15, 2005: Cassini makes another pass by Titan and it's first pass by Enceladus.

Mar. 9, 2005: Cassini flies within 504 kilometers (313 miles) of icy Enceladus.

Mar. 31, 2005: Cassini flies by Titan and Enceladus.

Sep. 26, 2005: Cassini studies Hyperion at a range of 1,010 kilometers (628 miles), the closest approach ever to the tiny moon. It is Cassini's only visit to the moon during the primary mission.

Oct. 11, 2005: Cassini turned its instruments on Dione from a distance of 500 kilometers (311 miles).

Nov. 26, 2005: Cassini passed within 500 kilometers (311 miles) of Rhea.


2004 Mission Milestones:

Jun. 11, 2004: Cassini takes the first detailed images of tiny, battered Phoebe, a small moon on the edge of the Saturn system. The images and data are gathered at a range of 2,068 kilometers (1,285 miles).

Jul. 1, 2004: Cassini zips across Saturn's ring plane and settles into Saturn's gravitational grip - the first spacecraft to orbit the giant planet. The initial spectacular images of the rings reveal new details about their composition and structure.

Oct. 26, 2004: Cassini makes its first close pass by Titan. Cruising by at a distance of only 1,200 kilometers (750 miles), the spacecrafts radar provides the first detailed glimpses of the moon's mysterious surface.

Dec. 25, 2004 (UTC): The European Space Agency's Huygens probe separates from the Cassini orbiter and begins its 21 day journey to Titan. Dec. 25 counts as day one and Jan. 14 is day 21.

Dec. 31, 2004: Cassini caps off an amazing first year with a flyby of icy Iapetus, snapping the first close-up images of the battered moon.