Titan Images 2017

The images above, acquired from the Narrow-Angle Camera of the Cassini spacecraft on September 13, 2017, reveal Saturn's largest moon Titan whose atmosphere is completely opaque in the visible spectrum. The atmosphere of Titan is deeper than our atmosphere and the atmospheric pressure on the surface of the Orange Moon is largely higher than that of the Earth at sea level. The view in the upper part of the table corresponds to a natural color image of Titan composed of views captured using red, green and blue spectral filters. The haze of hydrocarbons or organics prevents us from seeing through the atmosphere. As a result, the atmosphere of Titan is quite uniform in the visible spectrum. The view in the lower part of the table represents an enhanced-color image of the Opaque Moon incorporating a separate view obtained using a spectral filter centered at 938 nanometers. The views in infrared or near-infrared light reveal surface features of the giant moon. The enhanced-color image allows us to discern lakes or seas in the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere. The images were taken at a distance of 481,000 miles or 774,000 kilometers from the Opaque Moon. Those views of Titan are among the last images captured from the Cassini orbiter and sent back to our planet since the plunge of the Cassini spacecraft into Saturn's atmosphere was planned for September 15, 2017.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

 

The unprocessed image above, taken from the Cassini orbiter during the final, distant flyby of the Opaque Moon on September 11, 2017,  reveals a portion of Titan's surface. One can discern the land of lakes, seas and rivers found in the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere of the dynamic moon. The irregular shape of Kraken Mare, the largest surface body of liquids on Saturn's largest moon, can be clearly observed here in particular. The northern hemisphere is currently experiencing the beginning of the Summer season that is particularly long on Titan.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

 

The image above reveals a panoramic view of Titan from an altitude of 2 kilometers during the historic atmospheric descent of the Huygens probe on January 14, 2005. The natural color view is shown in Mercator projection in which the N-S/E-W directions cross at right angles. Landscape features appear distorted due to the Mercator projection. One can notice the surprising contrast between a dark, brown area and bright regions where dark fractures or drainage channels can be discerned. The bright areas are made of hills or mountains whereas the dark, brown area can be seen as a plain since it is apparently relatively flat and uniform. The Huygens probe may have landed onto an ancient brook, stream or river.

Image Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL/University of Arizona.

 

The three views presented in this table correspond to images acquired from the Voyager 1 probe and the Voyager 2 probe during their flyby of the System of the Gas Giant Saturn. The view shown in the upper part of the table which reveals the upper part of Titan's hazy atmosphere was obtained from the Voyager 1 spacecraft on November 12, 1980 at a distance of 22,000 kilometers or 13,700 miles from the Orange Moon. The second view from top also unveils the upper part of Titan's opaque atmosphere. The image was acquired from the Voyager 1 probe on November 12, 1980 at a distance of 435,000 kilometers or 270,000 miles from the giant moon. The image shown in the lower part of the table unveils the orange disk of Titan. One can notice that the atmosphere is not completely uniform since the northern hemisphere appears darker than the southern hemisphere. One can also observe a dark collar in the north polar region. The image was captured from the Voyager 2 spacecraft on August 23, 1981 at a distance of 2.3 million kilometers or 1.4 million miles from the Opaque Moon. The view was generated on the basis of blue, green and violet frames.

Credit for the first view from top: NASA/JPL/Voyager 1.
Credit for the second view from top: NASA/JPL/Voyager 1.
Credit for the third view from top: NASA/JPL/Voyager 2.

 

The image above shows a portion of the rings of Saturn, the disk of Saturn's largest moon Titan and the disk of the icy moon Enceladus. The snapshot was obtained in visible red light with the Narrow-Angle Camera of the Cassini probe on June 10, 2006 at a distance of about 3.9 million kilometers or 2.4 million miles from the active moon Enceladus and 5.3 million kilometers or 3.3 million miles from the Opaque Moon Titan. The image was acquired at a Sun-moon-probe, or phase, angle of approximately 160 degrees relative to the giant moon Titan and the tiny moon Enceladus. A significant portion of Saturn's rings, Titan or Enceladus is in the dark due to the high phase angle. One can notice the opaque and hazy atmosphere of Titan as well as the icy jets of Enceladus thanks to the solar radiations which are scattered by the atmosphere of Titan or the icy plumes of Enceladus. One can also guess the surface of Titan in this remarkable crescent reminiscent of a solar eclipse.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.

 

The image in the upper part of this table unveils the last radar data and altimetry data of Titan's surface obtained from the Cassini orbiter during its mission in the Saturn System. These radar data and altimetry data were acquired with the Radar Mapper of the Cassini spacecraft during the 127th targeted flyby of the Orange Moon performed on April 22, 2017 and called T-126. The Radar Mapper captured two radar views of Titan's surface presented in Figure A. Each portion is about 200 miles or 300 kilometers long. The radar view at right clearly shows a portion of a sea or a lake of hydrocarbons. Lakes or seas appear relatively dark and uniform. Brightness variations allow us to discern topographic or landscape features. Landscape elements will appear bright if they are rough, irregular or tilted toward the orbiter. On the other hand, landscape features which are smooth like lakes, seas, plains or plateaus will appear dark as opposed to mountains or hills.
The radar view found on the left part of Figure A reveals a portion of Titan's landscape which had already been observed during the first radar flyby of the Opaque Moon in 2004. One can notice bright, hilly terrains as well as darker plains. Planetologists are in a position to advance that there are no obvious evidence of changes in the appearance of the terrain in this area from the first radar view in 2004 to the final radar view of 2017. The radar view found on the right part of Figure A clearly shows the portion of the lake or sea Ligeia Mare where a transient bright feature called the "Magic Island" had been identified in several radar views during the Cassini mission. Was the Magic Island a transient island close to the coast ? The last radar view shows that the Magic Island is completely absent. It seems to have completely disappeared. Several hypotheses have been advanced to account for the presence of the enigmatic transient feature. It may have been related to a field of bubbles or strong waves.
The lower view of the image represents Figure B which reveals altimetry data in a region of lakes in the middle of both radar portions presented in Figure A. Altimetry data were obtained during the T-126 Flyby thanks to the Radar Mapper of the Cassini probe which switched to altimetry mode in order to perform a first-ever or last-ever measurement of the depths of several lakes that are located in the north polar region of Saturn's largest moon. The Cassini orbiter had to orientate its antenna straight down at the surface. Thus, the Radar Mapper measured the time delay between echoes from the surface of the pool of liquid and echoes from the bottom or floor of the lake. The graph of Figure B indicates variations in the depth, altitude or height of the terrain where the altimetry signal was sent. The radar view found in the lower part of Figure B corresponds to a radar portion of the area acquired during a previous radar flyby of the region where this altimetry campaign was performed. The yellow segment shows the area where the altimetry data were taken. Thus, we obtained altimetry data for eight small lakes located in the north polar region of Titan.
Although the altimetry data are still preliminary, the lakes whose topography has been studied here are believed to be approximately the same depth. The small pools of hydrocarbons may be about 100 meters or 328 feet deep. Are those lakes connected to a subsurface layer of liquid hydrocarbons comparable to a water table or aquifer ? That's a question researchers are seriously considering, at least for the north polar region of the giant moon. The second view from the upper part of the table corresponds to Figure A in higher resolution and the third view from the upper part of the table represents Figure B in higher resolution as well.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI.                 

 

The view above shows the disk of Saturn's largest moon with a dark portion and a rough crescent related to the orientation of solar radiations which come, to a certain extent, from the other side and which clearly reveal the blue upper layer of the complex atmosphere of the Orange Moon. The image corresponds to a natural-color view generated on the basis of photos acquired with the Narrow-Angle Camera of the Cassini orbiter on May 29, 2017 using red, green and blue spectral filters. The final image was obtained at a distance of about 1.2 million miles or 2 million kilometers from the Opaque Moon. Titan experiences long nights because its rotation relative to the Sun is long. The contrast between the orange tint which dominates the hazy atmosphere of Titan and the blue tint which dominates the upper atmosphere is remarkable. Researchers advance that the difference in color could be related to a difference in the size of the particles in the haze. The blue haze dominating the upper atmosphere may be composed of smaller particles or compounds than the orange haze. The geometric configuration, here, between the spacecraft, Titan and the Sun, unveiling an interesting viewing angle, allows us to notice captivating features of Titan's atmosphere which is complex, deep, thick and rich in hydrocarbons or organics.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

 

The views above unveiling the disk of Titan, clouds and surface features were taken on March 21, 2017 with the Narrow-Angle Camera of the Cassini orbiter. Images acquired using red, green and blue spectral filters were combined to generate the natural color view appearing on the left. The image of Titan's disk appearing on the right was generated by substituting an infrared view sensitive to wavelengths of 938 nanometers for the red color channel. The images of Saturn's largest moon were captured at a distance of about 613,000 miles or 986,000 kilometers from the Orange Moon. The Cassini spacecraft has several instruments which can see through the hazy atmosphere. One can discern surface features via the Radar Mapper which produces radar views of the lakes, seas, rivers, plains, hills or mountains. One can also analyze the landscape on the basis of images taken with the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer or VIMS. The infrared or near-infrared images unveil surface features and brightness variations. We've mapped almost the entire surface of the giant moon thanks to radar and near-infrared or infrared data obtained from the Cassini spacecraft. Atmospheric features such as cyclones, dynamic clouds or cirrus-like clouds have been observed or monitored in the Titanian atmosphere during the Cassini mission. The right view clearly shows bright elongated clouds in the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere as well as pools of liquid hydrocarbons in the north polar region.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

 

The image above represents an artist's impression of Titan's landscape in the land of lakes and seas. The pools of liquids on Titan are likely dominated by methane and may also contain ethane and dissolved nitrogen. From the surface of the giant moon, the disk of Saturn would appear much larger than the disk of our moon observed from the surface of the Earth. However, the atmosphere of Titan is hazy and opaque in the visible spectrum. Therefore, Saturn may not be discernable from the surface of Titan with our eyes. Are there complex organics in the land of lakes, seas and rivers ?

Image Credit: NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory-Caltech.

 

The image above reveals, in particular, the land of lakes and seas in the high latitudes of Titan's northern hemisphere. One can also notice the dark low-latitude areas dominated by Seif Dunes as well as bright, elongated methane clouds drifting around the north polar region. Seas and lakes on Titan are likely composed of a mixture of methane and ethane. Methane is the second most abundant compound of the atmosphere of the Opaque Moon. The Titanian atmosphere is dominated by nitrogen like the atmosphere of the Earth.
The view was obtained from the ISS Narrow-Angle Camera of the Cassini spacecraft on June 9, 2017 with a spectral filter sensitive to wavelengths of near-infrared radiations centered at 938 nanometers. The image was captured at a distance of approximately 315,000 miles or 507,000 kilometers from the Orange Moon. The northern hemisphere and the area of Kraken Mare have now entered the Summer season since the Solstice of May 24, 2017 which also marks the beginning of the Winter season in the southern hemisphere. Most high-latitude regions in the northern hemisphere are now illuminated by the Sun.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.  

 

The image above, obtained on May 7, 2017 from the Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) of the Cassini spacecraft, reveals several large, elongated cloud systems in the northern hemisphere of the Opaque Moon Titan. The view which was acquired at a distance of 311,000 miles or 500,000 kilometers represents an orthographic projection centered on 37.5 degrees north latitude and 45 degrees west longitude. An orthographic image is roughly similar to the view seen by a distant watcher. Planetologists had anticipated a rise in cloud activity in the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere since the Summer season in the northern hemisphere is about to start in less than a month. The seasonal change implies an increase in the level of solar radiation reaching the north polar region of Titan. As a result, the level of evaporation in the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere may rise leading to the formation of new clouds with a higher level of cloud activity.
The new view unveils several cloud systems in the northern hemisphere from relatively low latitudes to relatively high latitudes close to the major lakes and seas. Those Titanian clouds represent some of the most intensely bright clouds captured from the Cassini orbiter regarding Titan. The brightness of the clouds may be related to high-cloud tops. The meteorological activity observed here corresponds to the most extensive cloud outburst identified on the Hazy Moon since clouds came back at northern mid-latitudes in early 2016. Three major cloud systems composed of methane can be clearly noticed here. The cloud band found in the lower part of the view lies between 30 and 38 degrees north latitude. That's quite surprising since researchers have not identified many clouds in this latitude range before that observation. A fainter band of clouds can be noticed between 44 and 50 degrees north latitude. Cloud systems have been identified quite regularly in that area over the past year. A third major cloud streak can be seen between 52 and 59 degrees north latitude.
A few isolated cirrus-like clouds can also be found at more extreme latitudes. Some clouds can be found near the southern boundary of the north polar terrain close to 63 degrees north latitude. Another cloud system can be noticed in the south at a remarkably low latitude of 23 degrees north latitude. A dark land located at a relatively low latitude and dominated by dune fields can be found in the lower part of the view. A dark patch in a relatively bright area with a streak orientated toward the northeast or the upper right draws the attention. This dark patch is known as Omacatl Macula. This surface feature may correspond to an area of dark dust that takes the shape of dunes in some locations. Some circular features in the area may represent impact craters, calderas or cryovolcanoes.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

 

The view in the upper part of this table unveils several elongated cloud systems drifting across the northern hemisphere of Saturn's largest moon Titan. The image was acquired from the Cassini spacecraft on May 7, 2017 at a distance of 316,000 miles or 508,000 kilometers from the Opaque Moon. The photo corresponds to an orthographic projection centered on 57 degrees north latitude and 48 degrees west longitude. The orthographic image is roughly similar to the view obtained by a distant observer. Surface and cloud features on Titan can be clearly observed or identified in the infrared or near-infrared spectrum. The clouds, revealed here, are apparently composed of methane.
The image was taken during a distant, non-targeted flyby of the Orange Moon during which the orbiter passed 303,000 miles or 488,000 kilometers above the surface of the giant moon. The last targeted close flyby of Titan was performed in April 2017. However, during its orbits around Saturn, we are in a position to collect, from the Cassini probe, key data regarding the atmosphere or the surface of Titan. The dark patches found in the upper part or in the high latitudes of the globe correspond to lakes or seas of hydrocarbons. Methane and ethane can appear in their liquid form on the surface of the Hazy Moon.
The image in the lower part of the table shows two versions of this view. The view found on the left represents a strongly enhanced version of the image whereas the view found on the right corresponds to a version of the image which is much softly enhanced. Therefore, the contrast is weaker and surface features are less obvious in the view on the right. The Summer season in the northern hemisphere of Titan is about to start very soon and researchers have anticipated an increase in the level of cloud activity in the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere. Are the observations in line with prevailing models of Titan's climate and meteorology ? The evaporation and condensation processes seem to be increasing in the northern hemisphere.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

 

The three images of this table correspond to raw views or unprocessed images of Saturn's largest moon Titan obtained from the Cassini spacecraft during the final close flyby of the Opaque Moon on April 21, 2017. From outer space, one can notice surface features on Titan in the infrared or near-infrared spectrum. The Titanian atmosphere appears completely opaque in the visible spectrum. The relatively dark areas found at low latitudes are dominated by Seif Dunes. Lakes, seas and rivers turn out to be concentrated in the high latitudes or in the polar regions of the Orange Moon. In the upper view, one can notice the dark regions of Fensal and Aztlan. Are Fensal and Aztlan the remnants of ancient seas of liquid methane or liquid ethane ? How can we explain the dichotomy in the distribution of surface liquids between the south polar region and the north polar region or between the low latitudes and the high latitudes ? Is the hazy atmosphere of the giant moon stable over time ?

Credit for the images: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

 

This image corresponds to a mosaic view revealing the lakes and seas located in the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere of Saturn's largest moon Titan. The images used to assemble this mosaic view were obtained on February 17, 2017 from the Narrow-Angle Camera of the Cassini probe during a relatively distant encounter with the Opaque Moon as the spacecraft was speeding away from Titan. The image was acquired at a distance of about 150,700 miles or 242,500 kilometers from the giant moon. The views were captured with a spectral filter sensitive to wavelengths of near-infrared radiation centered at 938 nanometers. At this wavelength, one can see through the opaque atmosphere of Titan and discern landscape features, lakes, seas and even clouds. The image represents an orthographic projection centered on 68 degrees north latitude and 225 degrees west longitude. An orthographic image is roughly similar to the image seen by a distant watcher observing with a telescope.
The mosaic view clearly shows the land of lakes, seas and rivers found in the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere. Kraken Mare, Ligeia Mare and Punga Mare can be clearly discerned here. One can notice several prominent cloud streaks evolving at mid-latitudes between 45 and 55 degrees north latitude to the right of the image. A bright cloud patch can also be identified in the area of the lake or sea Punga Mare found to the right of Kraken Mare roughly at center. During this distant encounter, the viewing angle over Kraken Mare and its neighboring pool of liquid hydrocarbons Ligeia Mare appeared better than during previous flybys with a higher contrast so that more details could be discerned regarding landscape features and the shorelines or the boundaries of the surface bodies of liquid. The solar radiations had to go through less haze to reach the lakes or seas and to bounce toward the eye of the Cassini spacecraft. That's why the quality of the image appeared better this time than during previous passes.
This encounter represented one of several "non-targeted" passes of the Opaque Moon in 2017 that enable researchers to monitor and analyze cloud activity in the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere. The engineers did not have to use rocket-thruster firings to orientate the probe for this flyby. The Spring season in the northern hemisphere is about to end and the Summer season in the northern hemisphere is approaching. Does this period of transition imply significant changes in cloud activity in the north polar region ? Probably because researchers are now observing increasing cloud activity in the north polar region. However, some models regarding Titan's meteorology or atmosphere had predicted more cloud activity than what scientists currently observe.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.          

 

The image above reveals, in particular, several elongated cloud patches evolving around the north polar region of Saturn's largest moon Titan. One can also notice the famous land of lakes and seas which appear relatively dark and uniform in this view. Titan's northern hemisphere is now experiencing the end of the Spring season. The long Summer season in the area will start very soon during the year of 2017. The lakes, seas or rivers may be mainly composed of methane, a simple hydrocarbon. The wispy clouds appear at high altitudes and at high latitudes. Researchers have noticed an increase in the amount or in the concentration of clouds in the area but they had expected the development of more clouds or larger cloud formations in this seasonal configuration. The sky of the Opaque Moon in the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere is surprisingly clear in this period of the Titanian year. Clouds are remarkably dynamic or sporadic. Researchers try to regularly monitor the atmosphere or the meteorology of Titan in order to have a correct insight into the level of cloud activity. Are the amount of clouds, the concentration of clouds or the distribution of clouds in line with the predictions of the prevailing meteorological model of Titan ?
The view was acquired with the Narrow-Angle Camera of the Cassini probe on October 29, 2016 using a spectral filter sensitive to wavelengths of near-infrared radiation centered at 938 nanometers. The camera is orientated toward the Saturn-facing side of the Hazy Moon. North appears upward and is inclined 3 degrees to the left. The image of Titan's disk was taken at a distance of about 545,000 miles or 878,000 kilometers from the Opaque Moon. The infrared or near-infrared views allow us to discern surface features as well as clouds. One can also notice in this view the dark low-latitude areas which tend to be dominated by Seif Dunes or parallel and linear dunes extending over long distances under the influence of prevailing winds.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

 

Titan Images 2016
Titan Images 2015
Titan Images 2014
Titan Images 2013
Titan Images 2012

Titan Images 2011
Titan Images 2010
Titan Images 2009
Titan Images 2008
Titan Images 2007
Titan Images 2006
Titan Images 2005, 2004

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