NASA has planned a close-up look at Hyperion, Saturn’s irregular shaped satellite. It will take place on Sunday May 31’st at 9:36 a.m. EDT time.
A message was posted on twitter by NASA, in which the last close look at the “Tumbling Moon” was announced. Hyperion is irregularly shaped and has a “porous” appearance due to its low-density composition.
Saturn’s moon is located in the outer solar system, and revolves around the planet’s axis. Saturn itself is located at about 1.2 Billion Kilometers or 745 miles from Earth!
The study of Hyperion’s will not be easy, the satellite does not follow a smooth rotation, but rather it randomly tumbles across with no predictable pattern. This makes observation of the same region twice hard to program by engineers.
It is assumed that if space debris such as asteroids hit Hyperion, they do not leave a crater like the ones on Earth. Falling debris would maybe compact terrain on the satellite due to its low gravity and spongy terrain.
Cassini’s closest encounter with Saturn’s strange moon was on September 26, 2005 when it navigated only 314 miles from the surface of Hyperion. The latest mission will take the man-made probe about 21.000 miles close to Saturn’s moon.
This could be good news for Cassini which, in 2005 received a 200 volt shock from Hyperion’s electrical charged surface.
One of the most exiting missions for Cassini was, landing a probe called Huygens, on another of Saturn’s moons called Titan. In 2005 the probe build by the European Space Agency was deployed, from Cassini and once it reached the surface of Titan, was able to start sending data to Earth for about 90 minutes.
The landing performed by Cassini’s probe on Titan was the first landing ever accomplished in the Outer Solar System. It is still a great feat of human engineering, and holds the record for the farthest landing of a man-made mechanism.
Cassini will end its programmed mission in 2017. It entered development in the 1980’s and was created in part to study Saturn and its satellites.
After its mission to navigate close by Hyperion, Cassini will perform several missions, plotted by scientist around Saturn’s moons.
Image Source: wanderingspace.net