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Topic: NASA’s Cassini Mission

NASA’s Cassini Mission has found that Methane Rainfall on Saturn’s moon Titan is being transformed underground lakes

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The NASA and European Space Agency Cassini mission has revealed hundreds of lakes and seas spread across the north polar region of Saturn’s moon Titan. These lakes are filled not with water but with hydrocarbons, a form of organic compound that is also found naturally on Earth and includes methane.

The vast majority of liquid in Titan’s lakes is thought to be replenished by rainfall from clouds in the moon’s atmosphere. But how liquids move and cycle through Titan’s crust and atmosphere is still relatively unknown.

Hundreds of lakes and seas are spread across the surface of Saturn's moon Titan -- its northern polar region in particular. (ESA/ATG medialab)

Hundreds of lakes and seas are spread across the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan — its northern polar region in particular. (ESA/ATG medialab)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft data reveals salty ocean inside Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Scientists analyzing data from NASA’s Cassini mission have firm evidence of an ocean inside Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, which might be as salty as the Earth’s Dead Sea. The findings are published in this week’s edition of the journal Icarus.

“This is an extremely salty ocean by Earth standards,” said the paper’s lead author, Giuseppe Mitri of the University of Nantes in France. “Knowing this may change the way we view this ocean as a possible abode for present-day life, but conditions might have been very different there in the past.”

Researchers found that Titan's ice shell, which overlies a very salty ocean, varies in thickness around the moon, suggesting the crust is in the process of becoming rigid. (NASA/JPL/SSI/Univ. of Arizona/G. Mitri/University of Nantes)

Researchers found that Titan’s ice shell, which overlies a very salty ocean, varies in thickness around the moon, suggesting the crust is in the process of becoming rigid. (NASA/JPL/SSI/Univ. of Arizona/G. Mitri/University of Nantes)

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NASA study reveals the moon Titan may have formed earlier than it’s host, Saturn

 

Written by Preston Dyches and Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A combined NASA and European Space Agency (ESA)-funded study has found firm evidence that nitrogen in the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan originated in conditions similar to the cold birthplace of the most ancient comets from the Oort cloud.

The finding rules out the possibility that Titan’s building blocks formed within the warm disk of material thought to have surrounded the infant planet Saturn during its formation.

New research on the nitrogen in Titan's atmosphere indicates that the moon's raw materials might have been locked up in ices that condensed before Saturn began its formation. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

New research on the nitrogen in Titan’s atmosphere indicates that the moon’s raw materials might have been locked up in ices that condensed before Saturn began its formation. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft uses Sunsets on Saturn’s moon Titan to reveal Atmospheres of Exoplanets

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists working with data from NASA’s Cassini mission have developed a new way to understand the atmospheres of exoplanets by using Saturn’s smog-enshrouded moon Titan as a stand-in. The new technique shows the dramatic influence that hazy skies could have on our ability to learn about these alien worlds orbiting distant stars.

The work was performed by a team of researchers led by Tyler Robinson, a NASA Postdoctoral Research Fellow at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. The findings were published May 26th in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Artist's rendering of NASA's Cassini spacecraft observing a sunset through Titan's hazy atmosphere. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Artist’s rendering of NASA’s Cassini spacecraft observing a sunset through Titan’s hazy atmosphere. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft observes Storm on Saturn devour itself

 

Written by Jia-Rui C. Cook
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Call it a Saturnian version of the Ouroboros, the mythical serpent that bites its own tail. In a new paper that provides the most detail yet about the life and death of a monstrous thunder-and-lightning storm on Saturn, scientists from NASA’s Cassini mission describe how the massive storm churned around the planet until it encountered its own tail and sputtered out.

It is the first time scientists have observed a storm consume itself in this way anywhere in the solar system.

This set of images from NASA's Cassini mission shows the evolution of a massive thunder-and-lightning storm that circled all the way around Saturn and fizzled when it ran into its own tail. The storm was first detected on Dec. 5th, 2010. That month, it developed a head of bright clouds quickly moving west and spawned a much slower-drifting clockwise-spinning vortex. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton University)

This set of images from NASA’s Cassini mission shows the evolution of a massive thunder-and-lightning storm that circled all the way around Saturn and fizzled when it ran into its own tail. The storm was first detected on Dec. 5th, 2010. That month, it developed a head of bright clouds quickly moving west and spawned a much slower-drifting clockwise-spinning vortex. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton University)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft data suggests there maybe Ice on the Lakes of Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Jia-Rui Cook
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – It’s not exactly icing on a cake, but it could be icing on a lake. A new paper by scientists on NASA’s Cassini mission finds that blocks of hydrocarbon ice might decorate the surface of existing lakes and seas of liquid hydrocarbon on Saturn’s moon Titan.

The presence of ice floes might explain some of the mixed readings Cassini has seen in the reflectivity of the surfaces of lakes on Titan.

This artist's concept envisions what hydrocarbon ice forming on a liquid hydrocarbon sea of Saturn's moon Titan might look like. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/USGS)

This artist’s concept envisions what hydrocarbon ice forming on a liquid hydrocarbon sea of Saturn’s moon Titan might look like. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/USGS)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft takes image of River on Saturn’s Moon Titan that looks like Earth’s Nile River

 

Written by Jia-Rui Cook
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists with NASA’s Cassini mission have spotted what appears to be a miniature, extraterrestrial likeness of Earth’s Nile River: a river valley on Saturn’s moon Titan that stretches more than 200 miles (400 kilometers) from its “headwaters” to a large sea.

It is the first time images have revealed a river system this vast and in such high resolution anywhere other than Earth.

This image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows a vast river system on Saturn's moon Titan. It is the first time images from space have revealed a river system so vast and in such high resolution anywhere other than Earth. (Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI)

This image from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shows a vast river system on Saturn’s moon Titan. It is the first time images from space have revealed a river system so vast and in such high resolution anywhere other than Earth. (Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft sees rolling storms over Saturn’s Poles

 

Written by Jia-Rui C. Cook
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has been traveling the Saturnian system in a set of inclined, or tilted, orbits that give mission scientists a vertigo-inducing view of Saturn’s polar regions.

This perspective has yielded images of rolling storm clouds and a swirling vortex at the center of Saturn’s famed north polar hexagon.

This image from NASA's Cassini mission was taken on Nov. 27th, 2012, with Cassini's narrow-angle camera. (Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

This image from NASA’s Cassini mission was taken on Nov. 27th, 2012, with Cassini’s narrow-angle camera. (Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Cassini mission studies plasma spraying from Saturn’s moon Enceladus

 

Written by Jia-Rui C. Cook
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Recent findings from NASA’s Cassini mission reveal that Saturn’s geyser moon Enceladus provides a special laboratory for watching unusual behavior of plasma, or hot ionized gas. In these recent findings, some Cassini scientists think they have observed “dusty plasma,” a condition theorized but not previously observed on site, near Enceladus.

Data from Cassini’s fields and particles instruments also show that the usual “heavy” and “light” species of charged particles in normal plasma are actually reversed near the plume spraying from the moon’s south polar region. The findings are discussed in two recent papers in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Cassini imaging scientists used views like this one to help them identify the source locations for individual jets spurting ice particles, water vapor and trace organic compounds from the surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus. (Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

Cassini imaging scientists used views like this one to help them identify the source locations for individual jets spurting ice particles, water vapor and trace organic compounds from the surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus. (Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft finds Saturn Moon Phoebe has Planet-Like Qualities

 

Written by Jia-Rui C. Cook
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Data from NASA’s Cassini mission reveal Saturn’s moon Phoebe has more planet-like qualities than previously thought.

Scientists had their first close-up look at Phoebe when Cassini began exploring the Saturn system in 2004. Using data from multiple spacecraft instruments and a computer model of the moon’s chemistry, geophysics and geology, scientists found Phoebe was a so-called planetesimal, or remnant planetary building block. The findings appear in the April issue of the Journal Icarus.

Phoebe's true nature is revealed in startling clarity in this mosaic of two images taken during Cassini's flyby on June 11th, 2004. (Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

Phoebe's true nature is revealed in startling clarity in this mosaic of two images taken during Cassini's flyby on June 11th, 2004. (Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

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