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Topic: Titan

NASA missions have discovered an abundance of Water in our Solar System

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As NASA missions explore our solar system and search for new worlds, they are finding water in surprising places. Water is but one piece of our search for habitable planets and life beyond Earth, yet it links many seemingly unrelated worlds in surprising ways.

“NASA science activities have provided a wave of amazing findings related to water in recent years that inspire us to continue investigating our origins and the fascinating possibilities for other worlds, and life, in the universe,” said Ellen Stofan, chief scientist for the agency. “In our lifetime, we may very well finally answer whether we are alone in the solar system and beyond.”

NASA is exploring our solar system and beyond to understand the workings of the universe, searching for water and life among the stars. (NASA)

NASA is exploring our solar system and beyond to understand the workings of the universe, searching for water and life among the stars. (NASA)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft’s new orbit to bring it closer to Saturn’s moons

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A dual view of Saturn’s icy moon Rhea marks the return of NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to the realm of the planet’s icy satellites. This follows nearly two years during which the spacecraft’s orbits carried it high above the planet’s poles. Those paths limited the mission’s ability to encounter the moons, apart from regular flybys of Titan.

Cassini’s orbit will remain nearly equatorial for the remainder of 2015, during which the spacecraft will have four close encounters with Titan, two with Dione and three with the geyser-moon, Enceladus.

After a couple of years in high-inclination orbits that limited its ability to encounter Saturn's moons, NASA's Cassini spacecraft returned to Saturn's equatorial plane in March 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

After a couple of years in high-inclination orbits that limited its ability to encounter Saturn’s moons, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft returned to Saturn’s equatorial plane in March 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft’s radar pictures of Saturn’s moon Titan made clearer by new Despeckling process

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – During 10 years of discovery, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has pulled back the smoggy veil that obscures the surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.

Cassini’s radar instrument has mapped almost half of the giant moon’s surface; revealed vast, desert-like expanses of sand dunes; and plumbed the depths of expansive hydrocarbon seas. What could make that scientific bounty even more amazing? Well, what if the radar images could look even better?

Thanks to a recently developed technique for handling noise in Cassini’s radar images, these views now have a whole new look.

Presented here are side-by-side comparisons of a traditional Cassini Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) view and one made using a new technique for handling electronic noise that results in clearer views of Titan's surface. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI)

Presented here are side-by-side comparisons of a traditional Cassini Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) view and one made using a new technique for handling electronic noise that results in clearer views of Titan’s surface. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft observes Saturn’s moon Titan in the Solar Wind

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Researchers studying data from NASA’s Cassini mission have observed that Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, behaves much like Venus, Mars or a comet when exposed to the raw power of the solar wind. The observations suggest that unmagnetized bodies like Titan might interact with the solar wind in the same basic ways, regardless of their nature or distance from the sun.

Titan is large enough that it could be considered a planet if it orbited the sun on its own, and a flyby of the giant moon in December 2013 simulated that scenario, from Cassini’s vantage point.

This diagram depicts conditions observed by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during a flyby in Dec. 2013, when Saturn's magnetosphere was highly compressed, exposing Titan to the full force of the solar wind. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This diagram depicts conditions observed by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft during a flyby in Dec. 2013, when Saturn’s magnetosphere was highly compressed, exposing Titan to the full force of the solar wind. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA and European Space Agency look back at the landing on Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Ten years ago, an explorer from Earth parachuted into the haze of an alien moon toward an uncertain fate. After a gentle descent lasting more than two hours, it landed with a thud on a frigid floodplain, surrounded by icy cobblestones.

With this feat, the Huygens probe accomplished humanity’s first landing on a moon in the outer solar system. Huygens was safely on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn.

The hardy probe not only survived the descent and landing, but continued to transmit data for more than an hour on the frigid surface of Titan, until its batteries were drained.

An artist's interpretation of the area surrounding the Huygens landing site based on images and data returned by the probe on Jan. 14, 2005. (ESA - C. Carreau)

An artist’s interpretation of the area surrounding the Huygens landing site based on images and data returned by the probe on Jan. 14, 2005. (ESA – C. Carreau)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft finds two new features about Saturn’s moon Titan’s Hydrocarbon Seas

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini mission continues its adventures in extraterrestrial oceanography with new findings about the hydrocarbon seas on Saturn’s moon Titan.

During a flyby in August, the spacecraft sounded the depths near the mouth of a flooded river valley and observed new, bright features in the seas that might be related to the mysterious feature that researchers dubbed the “magic island.”

The findings are being presented this week at the Division for Planetary Sciences Meeting of the American Astronomical Society held in Tucson, Arizona.

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. (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. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Cornell)

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NASA to launch Sounding Rocket that will take 1,500 pictures in 5 minutes of the Sun

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – When Galileo first observed Venus displaying a crescent phase, he excitedly wrote to Kepler (in anagram) of Venus mimicking the moon-goddess. He would have been delirious with joy to see Saturn and Titan, seen in this image, doing the same thing.

More than just pretty pictures, high-phase observations — taken looking generally toward the Sun, as in this image — are very powerful scientifically since the way atmospheres and rings transmit sunlight is often diagnostic of compositions and physical states.

The Rapid Acquisition Imaging Spectrograph Experiment is seen peeking out of a clean room during the weeks of testing before its scheduled November 2014 launch. (NASA/RAISE)

The Rapid Acquisition Imaging Spectrograph Experiment is seen peeking out of a clean room during the weeks of testing before its scheduled November 2014 launch. (NASA/RAISE)

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NASA looks at what it will take to land Philae on a Comet

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Generally speaking, space missions fall into one of three categories:  difficult, more difficult, and ridiculously difficult.

Flybys are difficult.  A spaceship travels hundreds of millions of miles through the dark void of space, pinpoints a distant planet or moon, and flies past it at 20 to 30 thousand mph, snapping pictures furiously during an achingly brief encounter.

Going into orbit is more difficult. Instead of flying past its target, the approaching spaceship brakes, changing its velocity by just the right amount to circle the planet.  One wrong move and the spacecraft bounces off the atmosphere, becoming an unintended meteor.

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft takes photo of sunlight reflecting off the seas on Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As it soared past Saturn’s large moon Titan recently, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft caught a glimpse of bright sunlight reflecting off hydrocarbon seas.

In the past, Cassini had captured, separately, views of the polar seas and the sun glinting off them, but this is the first time both have been seen together in the same view.

This near-infrared, color view from Cassini shows the sun glinting off of Titan's north polar seas. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. Arizona/Univ. Idaho)

This near-infrared, color view from Cassini shows the sun glinting off of Titan’s north polar seas. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. Arizona/Univ. Idaho)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft discovers Methane Ice Cloud in Stratosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA scientists have identified an unexpected high-altitude methane ice cloud on Saturn’s moon Titan that is similar to exotic clouds found far above Earth’s poles.

This lofty cloud, imaged by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, was part of the winter cap of condensation over Titan’s north pole. Now, eight years after spotting this mysterious bit of atmospheric fluff, researchers have determined that it contains methane ice, which produces a much denser cloud than the ethane ice previously identified there.

This cloud in the stratosphere over the north pole of Titan is similar to Earth's polar stratospheric clouds. (NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/LPGNantes)

This cloud in the stratosphere over the north pole of Titan is similar to Earth’s polar stratospheric clouds. (NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/LPGNantes)

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