Ghostly Pic Of Saturn’s Moon Shows It Rising From The Deep

by Elizabeth Howell on December 3, 2013

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Titan imaged by the Cassini spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Titan imaged by the Cassini spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Sunlight can do fun things in space. For example: this recent picture of Titan (a moon of Saturn) shows sunlight hitting the moon’s surface as well as a southern vortex, just visible in the shadows of the picture.

“The sunlit edge of Titan’s south polar vortex stands out distinctly against the darkness of the moon’s unilluminated hazy atmosphere,” NASA stated. “The Cassini spacecraft images of the vortex led scientists to conclude that its clouds form at a much higher altitude — where sunlight can still reach — than the surrounding haze.”

Titan has intrigued scientists for decades, since the Voyager spacecraft first revealed it as a world socked in by orange haze. Cassini dropped off a lander on the surface, called Huygens, which took pictures on the surface in 2005. Besides that, the orbiter has revealed a lot about lakes, rain and other features of the moon in the year since.

Cassini has been orbiting the moon since 2004 and is still busily producing science, but there are concerns that NASA’s budget situation could cause the agency to shut down operations on the still-healthy spacecraft. There are no other missions to Saturn or Titan booked yet, although scientists do have intriguing ideas for exploration.


Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

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