Titan—the Hard Way


Six Nightly Views of Titan's SurfaceWe’re used to seeing pictures of Saturn’s moon Titan taken by the Cassini spacecraft. These views of Titan were taken by a ground-base telescope, the Very Large Telescope at the European Southern Observatory in Chile. The image on the right has been enlarged for clarity, and the coordinate grid used Titan overlaid. The images are false-colour renderings coded with red (1.575 μm; surface), green (1.600 μm; surface), and blue (1.625 μm; atmosphere), respectively.

Image Credit: ESO

Ten Years Ago


Huygens_descentThese images of Saturn’s moon Titan were taken on 14 January, 2005 by the Huygens probe at four different altitudes. The images are flattened (Mercator) projections of the view from the descent imager/spectral radiometer on the probe as it landed on Titan’s surface.

Ten years ago, Huygens parachuted into the haze of the alien moon toward an uncertain fate. After a gentle descent lasting more than two hours, it landed with a thud on a frigid floodplain surrounded by icy cobblestones. This was the first landing on a moon in the outer solar system, Titan, the largest moon of Saturn.

Image Credit: ESA / NASA

Titan and Rhea


Titan and RheaSaturn’s two largest moons, Titan and Rhea, seem to be stacked together in this true-color picture taken by the Cassini spacecraft. This view looks toward the Saturn-facing side of Rhea. North on Rhea is up and rotated 35 degrees to the right.

Separate images taken with red, green and blue filters using Cassini‘s narrow-angle camera were combined to create this natural-color view. The spacecraft was approximately 1.8 million km away from Rhea and 2.5 million km from Titan.

Image Credit: NASA

Land of Lakes


Titan is the only body in the Solar System other than the Earth with stable areas of liquid on its surface.

Video Credit: NASA

Titan’s Southern Vortex


Titan_SouthernVortexThose of us who follow the Cassini mission are used to seeing pictures containing multiple moons of Saturn. That’s what I thought this was when I first saw it, but that small crescent isn’t a moon. It’s the storm vortex around Titan’s south pole. Its sunlit edge stands out distinctly against the darkness of the moon’s unilluminated hazy atmosphere. Cassini spacecraft images of the vortex have led scientists to conclude that its clouds form at a very high altitude—where the Sun has not yet set—above the surrounding haze near the moon’s surface.

Image Credit: NASA