Through Titan’s Haze

Credit:NASA/JPL/Cassini

Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, is the only solar system object other than the Earth to have a thick atmosphere and standing surface liquid. When the Cassini spacecraft began observing Titan, it even discovered lakes and seas dotting the northern hemisphere. Don’t fire up your rocket just yet, though—because Titan is so cold, the lakes and seas are filled with liquid methane and ethane rather than water.
Titan’s thick, methane-rich atmosphere makes it difficult to observe the surface at visible wavelengths. Luckily, there are several windows in the near-infrared through which light can pass and reveal the surface. Seven of these windows overlap with the wavelength range covered by Cassini’s Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS). By looking at how the brightness of the surface changes with wavelength, we can learn about the composition of the surface material. Figure 1 depicts a three-color map of Titan’s surface made with VIMS. The pinkish regions show where the surface reflects strongly at 5 microns. … (Astrobites)

Credit:NASA/JPL/Cassini

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