Triple Crescent

Triple CrescentSaturn has many moons. The three shown here—Titan, Mimas, and Rhea—show marked contrasts in their surface features. Titan, Saturn’s largest moon and the largest moon in this image, appears fuzzy because we only see its clouds. Because Titan’s atmosphere refracts light around the moon, its crescent is wrapped just a little further around the moon than it would on an airless body. Rhea (upper left) appears rough because its icy surface is heavily cratered. A close inspection of Mimas, though difficult to see at this scale, would show surface irregularities because of its violent history.

Image Credit: NASA

One more thing … If it’s clear where you are this evening, go outside and look up in the western sky just after sunset. There’s a conjunction of Venus and Jupiter tonight. They will be separated by less than half the diameter of the Full Moon.

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