Cassini Views Hydrocarbon Dunes of Titan in Near-infrared 938 Nanometers

Looking for changes in features of hydrocarbon sands in order to better understand winds and dunes of Titan

The shadowy region seen here is one of the most interesting parts discovered on Titan. In this H-shaped region planetary scientists detect the Dunelands of Titan.
The shadowy region seen here is one of the most interesting parts discovered on Titan. In this H-shaped region planetary scientists detect the Dunelands of Titan. Image credit: NASA

Space news (Planetary science: the moons of Saturn; Titan)

At first glance of news, it might seem Saturn’s frozen moon Titan is similar to Earth in many ways, but the atmospheric phenomenon and surfaces detected aren’t anything like those on Earth. The clouds of this distant moon drop ethane and methane rain into lakes covering large regions. The solid surface of Titan is made primarily of solid water and its vast dune fields are composed of hydrocarbon sands. 

The dark shadowy region in the Cassini image of Titan above hosts two large regions where planetary scientists detect hydrocarbon sand dunes called Aztlan (in the south, down direction) and Fensal (in the north, down direction). Planetary scientists study surface features looking for changes over time, which they use to better understand the atmospheric phenomenon.

The view above was taken at a distance of about 450,000 miles (730,000 kilometers), by Cassini’s narrow-angle camera on July 25, 2015, using a spectral filter sensitive to near-infrared light with a wavelength of 938 nanometers.

The mosaic below is composed of Cassini images taken on September 07, 2015, of the hemisphere of Titan containing the dune-filled regions Aztlan and Fensal. Planetary scientists detect small islands from 3 to 25 (5 to 40 kilometers) in size sprinkled around these regions, they believe are mainly water ice along the top, with a dark particulate material deposited by the atmosphere in the surrounding lower areas.

This mosaic of images of the same H-shaped region on Titan shows additional details on these surface features. Image credit: NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
This mosaic of images of the same H-shaped region on Titan shows additional details on these surface features. Image credit: NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The larger island to the near right, called Bazaruto Facula, contains a dark crater, while several islands in Western Fensal above can be seen here. Images of a region called Shangri-La located on the opposite side of Titan, show similar island-features which appear in clusters with an east-west orientation along their long axis.

Aztlan to the south in this image appears to have far fewer small island features. Planetary scientists do detect three large islands in the western reaches of this region and a few smaller islands. The largest of the islands just right of center in the bottom left frame is 149 to 75 miles (240 by 120 kilometers) across and has been given the name of Sotra Facula.

Discover everything Cassini has discovered about Titan here.

Learn more about the mission of Cassini here.

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Learn about the discoveries Cassini has made about Saturn here.

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Cassini Spies Bright Features in Kraken Mare Possibly Related to “Magic Island” Observed in Ligeia Mare

Space scientists think could be floating debris or waves on the seas of Saturn’s moon Titan 

Cassini radar data reveal the depth of a liquid methane/ethane sea on Saturn's moon Titan near the mouth of a large, flooded river valley. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Cornell
Cassini radar data reveal the depth of a liquid methane/ethane sea on Saturn’s moon Titan near the mouth of a large, flooded river valley. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Cornell

Space news (November 18, 2014) – Sailing over Titan’s moons – 

Cassini sailed over Saturn’s moon Titan on August 21, 2014, to take a first look at the depths near the opening of a huge river valley along the eastern shore of Titan’s largest sea Kraken Mare. NASA space scientists collected data along a 120-mile shore-to-shore track of the hydrocarbon sea. One part of this track collected altimetry data along a 25-mile section indicating sea depths in this region of 66 to 115 feet (20 – 35 meters). This involves Cassini’s radar bouncing a beam off the bottom of Kraken Mare to determine an estimate of the depth in the region.

During this 25-mile section of the 120-mile track across Kraken Mare Cassini’s radar and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) detected bright features in the sea space scientists think could be similar to another bright, mystery feature previously observed in another of Titan’s seas, Ligeia Mare, researchers have called “Magic Island”. Detecting the features using both instruments gives scientists a better look and idea of the identity of these enigmatic features.

Space scientists at this time think these unknown features observed by Cassini’s instruments could be waves, floating debris or something else entirely. Unfortunately, it may be awhile before we know anything more about the bright features observed in Kraken Mare since this is the last chance for the spacecraft to observed the region.

Cassini will fly by Titan once again in January 2015, to take a closer look at the original feature spied in Ligeia Mare. At this time they’ll also attempt to measure the sea depth of Punga Mare, the only large sea in Titan’s far north Cassini hasn’t observed.

You can find more information on Cassini and its mission to observe the seas of Saturn’s moon Titan here.

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NASA’s Cassini Orbiter Captures Images of Methane Clouds Moving Over Northern Seas of Saturn’s Moon Titan

NASA's Cassini Orbiter tracks methane clouds moving over Titan's northern seas Ligeia Mare
NASA’s Cassini Orbiter tracks methane clouds moving over Titan’s northern seas Ligeia Mare

Methane clouds over northern seas could signal arrival of summer storms

Space news (the solar system: Saturn; Titan) – looking for evidence of clouds moving over surface of Saturn’s moon Titan –

Planetary space scientists have been looking for evidence of clouds moving over the northern hydrocarbon seas of Saturn’s moon Titan for awhile. Their planetary models of Titan predicted the movement of clouds over the northern seas, which should signal the arrival of summer storms. Near the end of July, they were provided with the proof they require in the form of images of methane clouds moving at 7 to 10 mph across the sky above the hydrocarbon seas of Titan’s northern sea Ligeia Mare. You can watch a movie showing the movement of clouds over the northern seas of Titan here.

NASA's Cassini Orbiter captured images of clouds active over the northern seas of Titan
NASA’s Cassini Orbiter captured images of clouds active over the northern seas of Titan

“We’re eager to find out if the clouds’ appearance signals the beginning of summer weather patterns, or if it is an isolated occurrence,” said Elizabeth Turtle, a Cassini imaging team associate at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland. “Also, how are the clouds related to the seas? Did Cassini just happen to catch them over the seas, or do they form preferentially?”

Work continues for the team

Planetary scientists will continue to watch and study seasonal changes on Saturn’s moon Titan in order to learn more about the weather systems on other worlds and our own. This will be a job requiring patience, because a year on Titan is equivalent to 30 years on Earth, and each season lasts around seven years.

You can find additional information on NASA’s Cassini Solstice Space Mission here.

You can find more information on the Cassini Orbiter Space here.

 

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The Search for a Cradle for a New Human Genesis Begins

Could a Cradle For a New Human Genesis be found in Our Solar System?

The human journey to the beginning of space and time is looking for a new home for mankind
Could Titan act as a cradle for a new human genesis?

Earth is quickly becoming a less hospitable place for human life

Astronomy News – The search for another home to act as a cradle for a new human genesis has turned another page today. Two papers analyzing the chemical activity reported by observations made by NASA’s Cassini Orbiter of Saturn’s moon Titan report the data is consistent with the possible presence of theoretical methane-based life and how such life forms existing in an exotic and dynamic environment could affect their surroundings.

The first paper is available online and in the August edition of Icarus and was authored by Darrell Strobel of Johns Hopkins University. This paper describes a flow of hydrogen molecules through the atmosphere of Titan that disappear at the surface. “It’s as if you have a hose and you’re squirting hydrogen onto the ground, but it’s disappearing.”

The second paper is also available online and will appear in a future issue of The Journal of Geophysical Research. This paper reports a lack of acetylene and an abundance of organic compounds on the surface of Titan. This implies that Titan could be a place in the solar system where dynamic organic chemistry is currently taking place, and Titan could be a possible place in our solar system where the elements could exist for a home to act as a cradle for a new human genesis.

This news in no way means they have found life on Titan, but it does strengthen the case for the possibility of life taking more forms and existing in environments beyond those envisioned by humans. The scientists releasing these studies can certainly be applauded for keeping an open mind to the possibility that life exists beyond the bounds set by human imagination. We should keep in mind that chemical processes can also explain the data collected by the Cassini Orbiter and this is certainly a much simpler explanation for a flow of hydrogen molecules through the atmosphere of Titan that disappears at the surface. Indeed, hydrogen would seem to be the element of choice to consume in life processes on Titan. We should probably exhaust all other possibilities, before suggesting there the result of life processes, though, and save the existence of life for the last conclusion.

Astronomers are currently busy looking for a cradle for a new human genesis

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