NASA's Cassini to give Saturn's moon Dione one last flyby

NASA will be getting one of its best look to date of Saturn's moon Dione today, as the Cassini spacecraft will be flying within 295 miles of its surface. This will be the fifth and final close flyby that Cassini conducts of the pockmarked Dione before its mission of studying Saturn concludes in 2017. Scientists are hoping the data gathered will tell them if the icy moon is geologically alive and active, similar to Enceladus, another of Saturn's satellites.

When Cassini conducts its flyby, it will use instruments to measure and analyze Dione's gravity, which scientists will then use to try to better understand its internal structure. Cassini has carried out similar flybys on a few of Saturn's other moons, and the scientists hope to be able to compare them.

Cassini will also be capturing new images of Dione's north pole with a resolution of only a few feet, and the spacecraft's Composite Infrared Spectrometer will map areas of the moon's surface that have the potential ability to trap heat.

"Dione has been an enigma, giving hints of active geologic processes, including a transient atmosphere and evidence of ice volcanoes. But we've never found the smoking gun," said member of NASA's Cassini science team Bonnie Buratti, adding that this will be their last chance at a close look for quite some time. Cassini's flyby is scheduled for approximately 2:33 PM Eastern today, however it will take a few days for the images it captures to reach Earth.