Above Titan’s South
Titan’s south polar vortex seems to float above the moon’s south pole in this Cassini view. The vortex, which is a mass of gas swirling around the south pole high in the moon’s atmosphere, can be seen in the lower right of this view. The moon’s northern hood is also visible in the top left of this view. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on July 6, 2012 from a distance of approximately 2.8 million kilometers from Titan.
Titan’s Polar Vortex in Color
The recently formed south polar vortex stands out in the color-swaddled atmosphere of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, in this natural color view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft taken on July 25, 2012, at a distance of approximately 103,000 km from Titan. The south polar vortex can be seen approximately centered over the south pole in the lower left of the image.
Obscured by Rings
Saturn’s rings obscure part of Titan’s colorful visage in this image from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. The south polar vortex that first appeared in Titan’s atmosphere in 2012 is visible at the bottom of this view.
The northern part of the moon’s atmosphere visible here includes the north polar hood, a cap of haze looking slightly darker than the rest of the atmosphere and seen near the top of the moon.
Parts of the rings appear dark near the center of this view because of the shadow cast by the planet. However, a sliver of illuminated Titan can be seen through the Cassini Division in the rings near the middle of this darkness.
Colorful Colossuses and Changing Hues
A giant of a moon appears before a giant of a planet undergoing seasonal changes in this natural color view of Titan and Saturn from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. This mosaic combines six images to create this natural color view. The images were obtained with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on May 6, 2012, at a distance of approximately 778,000 km from Titan.
Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, measures 3,200 miles, or 5,150 kilometers, across and is larger than the planet Mercury. Cassini scientists have been watching the moon’s south pole since a vortex appeared in its atmosphere in 2012.
Cassini monitors Titan’s developing south polar vortex, which is a mass of swirling gas around the pole in the atmosphere of the moon. The vortex can be seen at the bottom of this view. The moon’s northern hood is also visible at the top of this view. The image was taken in visible blue light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on July 18, 2012 from a distance of approximately 3 million kilometers.
Titan’s Colorful South Polar Vortex
This true color image captured by NASA’S Cassini spacecraft before a distant flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan on June 27, 2012, shows a south polar vortex, or a mass of swirling gas around the pole in the atmosphere of the moon.
Since Cassini arrived in the Saturn system in 2004, Titan has had a visible “hood” high above the north pole. It was northern winter at Cassini’s arrival, and much of the high northern latitudes were in darkness. But the hood, an area of denser, high altitude haze compared to the rest of the moon’s atmosphere, was high enough to be still illuminated by sunlight.
The seasons have been changing since Saturn’s August 2009 equinox signaled the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere and fall in the southern hemisphere for the planet. Now the high southern latitudes are moving into darkness. The formation of the vortex at Titan’s south pole may be related to the coming southern winter and the start of what will be a south polar hood.
Scientists think these new images show open cell convection. In open cells, air sinks in the center of the cell and rises at the edge, forming clouds at cell edges. However, because the scientists can’t see the layer underneath the layer visible in these new images, they don’t know what mechanisms may be at work.
Cassini Finds Likely Subsurface Ocean on Saturn Moon
Data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft have revealed Saturn’s moon Titan likely harbors a layer of liquid water under its ice shell.
Researchers saw a large amount of squeezing and stretching as the moon orbited Saturn. They deduced that if Titan were composed entirely of stiff rock, the gravitational attraction of Saturn would cause bulges, or solid “tides,” on the moon only 1 meter in height. Spacecraft data show Saturn creates solid tides approximately 10 meters in height, which suggests Titan is not made entirely of solid rocky material.
An ocean layer does not have to be huge or deep to create these tides. A liquid layer between the external, deformable shell and a solid mantle would enable Titan to bulge and compress as it orbits Saturn [Video]. Because Titan’s surface is mostly made of water ice, which is abundant in moons of the outer solar system, scientists infer Titan’s ocean is likely mostly liquid water.
The presence of a subsurface layer of liquid water at Titan is not itself an indicator for life. Scientists think life is more likely to arise when liquid water is in contact with rock, and these measurements cannot tell whether the ocean bottom is made up of rock or ice. The results have a bigger implication for the mystery of methane replenishment on Titan.
Image: This artist’s concept shows a possible scenario for the internal structure of Titan, as suggested by data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Scientists have been trying to determine what is under Titan’s organic-rich atmosphere and icy crust.
In the shadows of Saturn’s rings
Titan appears to be strung like a bead on Saturn’s rings, which cast shadows onto the southern hemisphere of the gas giant in this beautiful image from Cassini.
Faint but exquisite detail in the gas giant’s upper atmosphere paints a tranquil scene. A thin band of bright white ammonia ice clouds is etched into the planet’s disc towards the top of the image while clouds dotted below are faded scars of a huge storm that raged across the planet through much of 2011.
Shadows cast by Saturn’s iconic rings appear painted onto the planet’s southern hemisphere in two thick bands broken by thin, lighter stripes, reflecting the intricacies of the individual rings. As Saturn’s seasons progress towards northern hemisphere summer, the rings will appear to grow wider and wider.
Meanwhile Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, appears to hang on the planet’s rings like a bead on a necklace. The effect is a result of the line-of-sight viewing position; Titan orbits Saturn at an average distance of 1,221,870 km.
Crescent Titan with a cloud cap?
Cassini took this photo of Titan on June 6, 2012, on its way into the “T83” flyby. Cassini sees Titan at very high phase, and the Sun lights up its atmosphere from behind.
Cassini looks toward the dark side of Saturn’s largest moon and captures the halo-like ring produced by sunlight scattering through the periphery of Titan’s atmosphere. The image was taken in visible green light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Jan. 30, 2012 from a distance of approximately 197,000 kilometers from Titan.
On the Edge of Titan
The varying layers of atmosphere that enshroud Saturn’s enormous moon Titan is featured in this color-composite made from three raw images acquired by Cassini during its latest flyby.
On June 7 Cassini approached Titan within and imaged portions of the moon’s northwest quadrant with its radar instrument, as well as conducted further investigations of areas near the equator where surface changes were detected in 2010.
The image here was assembled from three raw images captured in red, green and blue visible light channels. It reveals some structure in the upper hydrocarbon haze layers that extend upwards above the moon’s opaque orange clouds — reaching 400-500 km in altitude, Titan’s atmosphere is ten times thicker than Earth’s!
The June 6 flyby was the second in a series of passes that will take Cassini into a more inclined orbit, where it will reside for the next three years as it investigates Saturn’s polar regions and obtains better views of its ring system.
These images were taken by the Cassini spacecraft on June 06, 2012 and received on Earth June 08, 2012. The camera was pointing toward TITAN at approximately 84,604 kilometers (first image) and 183,632 kilometers away (second image), and the images were taken using the CL1 and RED filters. These images has not been validated or calibrated. A validated/calibrated image will be archived with the NASA Planetary Data System in 2013.
Light and dark halves of Titan are visible in this Cassini image taken with a spectral filter sensitive to absorption of certain wavelengths of light by methane in the moon’s atmosphere, illustrating the seasonal changes in the northern and southern hemispheres. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Jan. 31, 2012 from a distance of approximately 210,000 km from Titan.
A new angle on Titan
This shot of Titan and Saturn was acquired by the Cassini spacecraft 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”.
Cassini also made some closer passes of Titan on May 6, taking images within about 710,000 km. After recent passes of Enceladus and Dione, Cassini buzzed past Titan in preparation of a targeted flyby on May 22, after which it will head up and out out of the “moonplane” in order to get a better view of Saturn’s rings and upper latitudes.
After that, Cassini won’t be playing amongst the moons again for three years, so images like this will be a rarity for a while.
Titan and Saturn
This image was taken on May 06, 2012 and received on Earth May 07, 2012. The camera was pointing toward Titan at approximately 475,131 miles (764,649 kilometers) away, and the image was taken using the CL1 and BL1 filters.