“Like L.A. Smog on Steroids” – Cassini Scientists Pick Apart Titan’s Haze

Scientists working with data from NASA’s Cassini mission have confirmed the presence of a population of complex hydrocarbons in the upper atmosphere of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, that later evolve into the components that give the moon a distinctive orange-brown haze. The presence of these complex, ringed hydrocarbons, known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), explains…

Floes of Frozen Methane May Be Floating on Titan’s Lakes

Although surface temperatures on Titan are cold enough that methane can exist as a liquid, filling lakes and flowing in streams, it may sometimes get so cold that even the liquid methane and ethane freezes, forming floes and icebergs of frozen hydrocarbons. This Titanic revelation was announced today during the 221st American Astronomical Society meeting…

A River Runs Through It (and when I say “It” I mean Saturn’s moon Titan)

No, you’re not looking down at the Amazon or the Nile (although the confusion would be understandable)… this is actually a river on an entirely different world: Saturn’s moon Titan! Radar imaging by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has revealed what appears to be a long river system, complete with side-branching tributaries, meandering across the surface of…

Titan: Dabbling in the Occult

Back in December of 2001, Saturn’s moon Titan passed in front of two background stars (called an “occultation”) from the point of view of the Hale Telescope at Palomar Observatory. Astronomers used the incredible resolving ability of the 5-meter telescope’s adaptive optics to watch the event, which revealed the diffraction of the stars’ light through…

Titan: Saturn’s Glow-In-The-Dark Moon

Titan just never ceases to amaze. Saturn’s largest moon, it’s wrapped in a complex, multi-layered nitrogen-and-methane atmosphere ten times thicker than Earth’s. It has seasons and weather, as evidenced by the occasional formation of large bright clouds and, more recently, an area of open-cell convection forming over its south pole. Titan even boasts the distinction…

Cassini Peeks at Titan’s Southern Vortex

A color-composite image of Titan shows Saturn’s largest moon in true color, including its recently-discovered southern vortex forming above its south pole. The image was assembled from three raw images acquired on August 28 by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft in red, green and blue visible light color channels. The background was extended in size to better…

Titan’s Beautiful, Boiling Southern Vortex

Thanks to Cassini’s new vantage point granted by its inclined orbit researchers have gotten a new look at the south pole of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. What they’ve recently discovered is a swirling vortex of gas forming over the moon’s pole, likely the result of the approach of winter on Titan’s southern hemisphere. Read the…

The Colors of Titan and Saturn

The pumpkin-orange colors of Titan’s thick clouds appear in stark contrast in front of the limb of Saturn, which appears quite blue along its sunlit limb due to Rayleigh scattering, the same process that makes the sky look blue here on Earth. The image here is a color composite made from three separate raw images…

More Evidence for Titan’s Underground Ocean

As Titan travels around Saturn during its 16-day elliptical orbits, it gets rhythmically squeezed by the gravitational pull of the giant planet — an effect known as tidal flexing. Now, if this cloud-covered moon were mostly composed of rock, the flexing would be in the neighborhood of around 3 feet (1 meter.) But based on measurements…

Take a Look at Titan!

Here’s a great shot of Titan and Saturn acquired by Cassini on May 6, 2012 just after a pass by the haze-covered moon. It’s a color-composite made from images taken in Cassini’s red, green and blue color channels, and the resulting image was color adjusted a bit to appear more “Saturny”.