Cassini Watches Clouds Form Over Titan’s Methane Sea

What’s the weather forecast on Titan? Well if you’re planning a vacation down by the shores of Ligeia Mare you may get some cloudy skies, if what happened at the end of July repeats itself! The animation above was made from images acquired by Cassini during a flyby of Titan in July 2014, showing the…

Cassini Marks Ten Discovery-Filled Years at Saturn

Just a week after Curiosity celebrated its first Martian year in Gale Crater and we have yet another milestone anniversary in Solar System exploration: as of 10:48 p.m. EDT tonight Cassini will have been in orbit around Saturn for a full decade! “There are times when human language is inadequate, when emotions choke the mind, when the magnitude…

Just Another Hazy Day on Titan

The weather forecast for Titan? Cloudy, hazy, and cold — just like every other day! The image here is a color-composite made from raw data captured by Cassini during a flyby on April 7, 2014, and it shows a look at the two main features of Titan’s atmosphere: a thick orange “smog” made of organic…

Have Waves Finally Been Found on Titan’s Lakes?

We’ve known for quite some time now that lakes of liquid methane and ethane exist on the frigid surface of Saturn’s overcast moon Titan. While the sheer presence of large amounts of liquid on another world is fascinating, one thing that’s particularly intrigued scientists about these hydrocarbon lakes is their uncanny stillness — in many…

The Brightest Lights: 12 Awesome Space Stories of 2013

What a year for space exploration! With 2013 coming to a close I thought I would look back on some of the biggest news in space that I’ve featured here on Lights in the Dark. Rather than a “top ten” list, as is common with these year-end reviews, I’m going to do more of a…

Celebrate the Holidays with Cassini and Saturn

Cassini couldn’t make it to the mall this year to do any Christmas shopping but that’s ok: we all got something better in our stockings than anything store-bought! To celebrate the holidays the Cassini team has shared some truly incredible images of Saturn and some of its many moons for the world to “ooh” and “ahh”…

Fly Over Titan’s “Land O’Lakes”

By now you probably know about the lakes of liquid hydrocarbons on Titan. Thanks to Cassini, we know that Saturn’s largest moon is the one other place in the solar system where liquid can be found in stable amounts on the surface, except that it’s not water like we have here on Earth, but rather…

Cassini Gets Its Best Look Ever at Titan’s Polar Lakes

A combination of exceptionally clear weather, the steady approach of northern summer, and a poleward orbital path has given Cassini — and Cassini scientists — unprecedented views of countless lakes scattered across Titan’s north polar region. In the near-infrared mosaic above they can be seen as dark splotches and speckles scattered around the moon’s north…

Titan’s Misty Mountains May Have “Roots As Nobody Sees”

It’s been thought for some time that Saturn’s largest moon Titan has a complex internal structure consisting of multiple layers of ice and liquid water. At one point it was even suggested that there are water ice “cryovolcanoes” on Titan, where watery slush oozes to the surface and freezes solid in the moon’s 270-degree-below temperatures,…

Saturn and Titan Together

Here’s a particularly nice view of Saturn backlit by the Sun, captured by Cassini while on the ringed planet’s night side on August 12, 2013. Titan is visible at the upper right, its thick atmosphere scattering sunlight into a nearly-complete ring around it. The color-composite above was assembled from raw images captured in red, green,…

Titan Not Windy Enough For Waves? Cassini Will See About That.

Saturn’s largest moon Titan has often been likened to a primordial Earth, with its thick atmosphere, changing weather patterns, and — most intriguing of all — vast amounts of liquid on its surface in the form of lakes, streams, and rivers. One big difference though: nearly ten times farther from the Sun than we are,…

“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…