Stories tagged Titan

Oct
16
2007

Ten year birthday for Cassini Huygens

Cassini-Huygens
Cassini-Huygens
The Cassini Huygens mission to Saturn just passed its ten year mark. It blasted off from Earth on Oct 15, 1997. I hooked up my computer to the internet a month later, and have been enjoying photos from it ever since. Last year for Paul McCartney's 64th birthday, sixty-four images from Cassini were put together into a poster and a movie.

Jupiter, Saturn, and its moons

Cassini flew by Jupiter on the way to Saturn . Cassini approached Saturn in mid-2004. One of my favorite photos is titled, The Dragon Storm. You can click through all of the Cassini photos by starting on this Cassini Imaging Diary page.

Huygens lands on Titan

The term "Huygens" refers to a probe attached to the Cassini craft. On Christmas Day, 2004 it separated itself and landed on Saturn's moon, Titan (click here to access videos and photos).

Learn more about Cassini-Huygens

If you haven't been following this exciting mission, you have ten years of catching up available.

The Orion crew exploration vehicle: This rendering represents a concept of the Orion crew exploration vehicle.   Image courtesy: Lockheed Martin Corp.
The Orion crew exploration vehicle: This rendering represents a concept of the Orion crew exploration vehicle. Image courtesy: Lockheed Martin Corp.
Scientific American.com has a cool interactive on what they think the Five Goals for Exploring the Solar System should be. Check it out, and then think about what you think our goals for exploring the solar system should be. What do you think?

Jun
03
2007

Just a little astronomical item:
The European Space Agency (ESA) has begun to release the findings from the Huygens probe, which landed two and a half years ago on Titan, the largest of Saturn’s moons.

Mighty Titan!: A great place to vacation. If you don't mind swimming in liquid methane. (Photo credit - Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

Huygens recorded two and a half hours worth of data during its descent to the moon’s surface, and then sent transmissions for another seventy minutes after landing, before it moved out of range of the Cassini spacecraft (from which it was launched). Much attention has been placed on the readings from the descent, although Titan’s atmosphere turned out to be hazier than scientists had expected, do to the large quantity of dust particles, or “aerosols.”

The possible presence of extremely low frequency (ELF) radio waves might also suggest underground oceans on Titan, something already theorized about by scientists.

Even after two years of study, researchers say the few hours of data still holds massive potential. I fully expect the existence of Titanian mer-people to be announced within the year. But I’ve been wrong about this sort of thing before.

Check out the Science On a Sphere exhibit at the museum for some cool images of Titan.

Sciencedaily, Building Our View of Titan

Dec
27
2006

Enceladus: This is an enhanced color view of Saturn’s moon Enceladus.  The image is a mosaic was created from 21 false-color frames taken by the Cassini spacecraft.  Image courtesy NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.
Enceladus: This is an enhanced color view of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. The image is a mosaic was created from 21 false-color frames taken by the Cassini spacecraft. Image courtesy NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.

The Cassini spacecraft currently in orbit around Saturn is sending back incredible images of the ringed planet and its moons. Its next flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan is tomorrow, at around 3:30 am Central Time. The flyby tomorrow will be used to determine if Titan has a subsurface ocean.

Like most other NASA missions, there is a lot of material to whet your appetite for space information. There are video updates from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), image galleries, and even an opportunity to vote on your favoriate image from the Cassini mission.

The Cassini spacecraft is a joint project between NASA/JPL, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian Space Agency (ASI). Cassini was launched on October 15, 1997 and has been in orbit around Saturn since July 2004.

Aug
05
2005


Titan's lake that wasn't: Pockmarked surface with a large black area that might look like a lake. Courtesy NASA/JPLCourtesy NASA/ESA

After hopes that Saturn's moon, Titan,
might host rivers or oceans of methane and ethane, scientists have determined that its surface is "dry as a bone."

These chemicals abound in Titan's smoggy atmosphere, which is similar to the atmosphere of early Earth. Scientists have hoped the moon might provide clues as to how life began on our planet.

Early radar studies suggested that Titan was covered with pools of methane, a flammable gas on Earth but liquid on Titan because of intense atmospheric pressure and cold (atmospheric pressure near the surface is about 60 percent greater than Earth's!). Last year, the Cassini space craft arrived at Saturn's surface and also observed liquid-like features on its moon.

Why is Titan sending mixed messages? One researcher said: "At one time, maybe a liquid water and ammonia mix flowed onto the surface of froze. That could be smooth on the scale of radar but rough on the scale we see."

Another possibility is that Titan's rivers and lakes evaporated long ago and left flat plains of organic material. Organic particles from Titan's atmosphere might also have settled in low-lying areas, creating smooth lake-like surfaces.

The latest measurements of Titan (done with the Keck II telescope in Hawaii) focused on the southern hemisphere; scientists believe it's still possible that organic material exists in the north.

Titan is the largest of Saturn's 19 moons, and the second largest moon in the solar system. It's rivaled only by Jupiter's moon, Ganymede. Although Titan is classified as a moon, it's larger, too, than the planets Mercury and Pluto. Click here to view a movie of infra-red images (representing heat variations in the atmosphere) of Titan made with the Hubble Space Telescope.

Jun
28
2005

Saturn's moon Titan is the only satellite (moon) in our solar system that has a dense atmosphere. Nitrogen is the main component of this atmosphere and methane the second most important. The Cassini spacecraft photographed Titan as it passed by on October 26, 2004. Later analyses of the images revealed a cryovolcano that spews ice instead of lava. This finding is reported by Christopher Sotin and associates at Universite de Nantes and the Universite de Paris-Sud in France and other institutions in Germany, Italy, and the USA (Arizona, California, Colorado, New York, Washington). This giant ice volcano may also release methane into the atmosphere; however, the images show that a widespread methane ocean does not exist. Because Titan's atmosphere is similar to that of Earth, scientists are studying Titan for clues to the origin of life.