The Cassini spacecraft has revealed incredible images of lakes and seas made of mostly methane on Saturn’s moon Titan, NASA announced at the
American Geophysical Union meetingon Dec. 11.
Cassini took off back in 2004 with the main goal of exploring Saturn and its moons.
Cassini’s most recent passes of Titan’s northern hemisphere have shown that one lake called the Kraken Mare is much larger than astronomers originally thought. Astronomers were even able to calculate the depth of the lake Ligeia Mare (560 feet) using radar signaling from Cassini.
The new images and radar analysis show the liquid that make up the lakes and seas of Titan is mostly methane, similar to the liquid form of natural gas on Earth. The lakes form on Titan in a similar way that lakes form on Earth through evaporation and precipitation, except Titan is cycling hydrocarbons.
NASA has altered the actual colour of the images below so that its easier to see the lakes and terrain of Titan. You can see the lakes of the northern pole of Titan:
In this image you can see the lakes outlined in blue. The lakes on Titan are about the same size of the major lakes and seas on Earth like the Caspian Sea. This mosaic is the most complete view NASA has of Titan’s northern lakes. It was created using radar.
Here you can see another colour mosaic of what Cassini saw during one flyby of the surface. The lakes are labelled to make them easier to see. The images were taken in the infrared spectrum and coloured to make it easier to see, the planet isn’t actually green:
“Learning about surface features like lakes and seas helps us to understand how Titan’s liquids, solids and gases interact to make it so Earth-like,” said Steve Wall, radar team lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a
press release. “While these two worlds aren’t exactly the same, it shows us more and more Earth-like processes as we get new views.”
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory uploaded an animation of the surface of Titan to YouTube:
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