Cassini gets a glimpse of Titan's sunlit seas


A near-infrared, colour mosaic from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows the sun glinting off of Titan's north polar seas.
NASA
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has captured an image of bright sunlight reflecting off hydrocarbon seas on Saturn's large moon Titan.

The sunglint is in the south of Titan's largest sea, Kraken Mare, just north of an island archipelago separating two separate parts of the sea and is helping scientists get a better idea of Titan's terrain.

Titan's seas are mostly liquid methane and ethane. Cassini has found great fields of sand dunes near the moon's equator and lower latitudes, and lakes and seas near the poles, particularly in the north.

The southern portion of Kraken Mare has what NASA has described as a "bathtub ring" – a bright margin of evaporate deposits indicating that the sea was larger at some point in the past and has become smaller due to evaporation. The deposits are material left behind after the methane and ethane liquid evaporates, in the way a saline crust is left on a salt flat.

A labyrinth of channels connect Kraken Mare to another large sea, Ligeia Mare, which is partially covered in its northern reaches by a bright, arrow-shaped complex of clouds made of liquid methane droplets that could be actively refilling the lakes with rainfall.

The view was acquired during Cassini's 21 August 2014. The image above contains real colour information, although it is not the natural colour the human eye would see. The unaided human eye would see little but haze.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. More information is available on the NASA website.

  1. http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/main/index.html
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