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Cassini: Close Flyby of Rhea

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Cassini Makes Last Close Flyby of Saturnian Moon Rhea

NASA's Cassini spacecraft will be swooping close to Saturn's moon Rhea on Saturday, March 9, the last close flyby of Rhea in Cassini's mission. The primary purpose will be to probe the internal structure of the moon by measuring the gravitational pull of Rhea against the spacecraft's steady radio link to NASA's Deep Space Network here on Earth. The results will help scientists understand whether the moon is homogeneous all the way through or whether it has differentiated into the layers of core, mantle and crust.

In addition, Cassini's imaging cameras will take ultraviolet, infrared and visible-light data from Rhea's surface. The cosmic dust analyzer will try to detect any dusty debris flying off the surface from tiny meteoroid bombardments to further scientists' understanding of the rate at which "foreign" objects are raining into the Saturn system.

Cassini will fly within about 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) of the surface. The time of closest approach is around 10:17 a.m. PST (1:17 p.m. EST). This is Cassini's fourth close flyby of Rhea.

On Feb. 10, 2015, Cassini will pass Rhea at about 29,000 miles (47,000 kilometers), but this is not considered a targeted flyby. Cassini has been in orbit around Saturn since 2004 and is in a second mission extension, known as the Solstice mission.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. JPL is a division of Caltech. For more information on Cassini, visit http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov .

Jia-Rui Cook 818-354-0850

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

jccook@jpl.nasa.gov

2013-085

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Cassini Returns Images of Battered Saturn Moon

733406mainrhea201303116.jpg

This image was taken on March 10, 2013, and received on Earth March 10, 2013 by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. The camera was pointing toward Rhea at approximately 174,181 miles (280,317 kilometers) away, and the image was taken using the CL1 and CL2 filters. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute › Full image and caption

Following its last close flyby of Saturn's moon Rhea, NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured these raw, unprocessed images of the battered icy moon. They show an ancient, cratered surface bearing the scars of collisions with many space rocks. Scientists are still trying to understand some of the curious features they see in these Rhea images, including a curving, narrow fracture or a graben, which is a block of ground lower than its surroundings and bordered by cliffs on either side. This feature looks remarkably recent, cutting most of the craters it crosses, with only a few small craters superimposed.

Cassini flew by Rhea at an altitude of 620 miles (997 kilometers) on March 9, 2013. This flyby was designed primarily for the radio science sub-system to measure Rhea's gravity field. During closest approach and while the radio science sub-system was measuring the icy satellite's gravity field, the imaging team rode along and captured 12 images of Rhea's rough and icy surface. Outbound from Rhea, Cassini's cameras captured a set of global images from a distance of about 167,000 miles (269,000 kilometers).

Data from Cassini's cosmic dust analyzer were also collected to try to detect any dusty debris flying off the surface from tiny meteoroid bombardments. These data will help scientists understand the rate at which "foreign" objects are raining into the Saturn system.

This was the mission's fourth close encounter with Rhea. The spacecraft will pass the moon, but at a much greater distance, in a few years.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. JPL is a division of Caltech. For more information on Cassini, visit http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov .

Jia-Rui Cook 818-354-0850

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

jccook@jpl.nasa.gov

2013-089

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