The Cassini spacecraft recently swooped by Saturn’s largest moon Titan and captured images of large patches of clouds. “These are some of the largest clouds our cameras on Cassini have yet seen on Titan!” said Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team lead, in an email announcing the image. “And the fact that we see them in the equatorial region is big news and may signify seasonal change is underway!”
The image was taken on September 27, 2010 and received on Earth September 28, 2010 at a distance of approximately 1,282,259 kilometers away. The spacecraft was actually at its closest approach on Sept. 24, and took a long, sustained look at the hazy moon, coming within 8,175 kilometers (5,080 miles) above the hazy moon’s surface.
Cassini’s visual and infrared mapping spectrometer also took a look at these clouds, so look for more information soon about this large region of clouds.
Cassini also used its composite infrared spectrometer instrument to take a look at Titan’s stratosphere to learn more about its vertical structure as the seasons change.
This flyby is the first in a series of high-altitude Titan flybys for Cassini over the next year and a half.
See a larger version of the image at the CICLOPS website.