UA linked NASA mission captures photos of lakes on Saturn moon - Tucson News Now

UA linked NASA mission captures photos of lakes on Saturn moon

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Portions of this article are from NASA.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured new images of lakes and seas on Titan, the largest of Saturn's moon.  

These bodies of water are not filled with water, but with liquid methane and ethane. 

Titan has a 'hydrologic cycle' similar to Earth but instead of water it is hydrocarbons that move through gas, liquid, and solid states.  

This false-color mosaic, made from infrared data collected by NASA's Cassini spacecraft, reveals the differences in the composition of surface materials around hydrocarbon lakes at Titan, Saturn's largest moon. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/University of Idaho 

Aboard Cassini is a visual and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIMS), which is run by a research team at the University of Arizona. 

Recent changes in weather on Titan allowed scientists to use the VIMS and other on board instruments to see the moon as never before.  

A full Saturn year is 30 Earth years. 

Cassini was launched in 1997 and started sending back data from Saturn and Titan in 2004. 

With nearly 10 years of data, NASA says "Saturn and its moons have seen the seasons change from northern winter to northern summer." 

According to NASA "Two recent flybys provided better viewing geometry. Sunlight has begun to pierce the winter darkness that shrouded Titan's north pole at Cassini's arrival in the Saturn system nine years ago. A thick cap of haze that once hung over the north pole has also dissipated as northern summer approaches. And Titan's beautiful, nearly cloudless, rain-free weather continued during Cassini's flybys this past summer."

Above Image: The vast hydrocarbon seas and lakes (dark shapes) near the north pole of Saturn's moon Titan sprawl out beneath the watchful eye of NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Scientists are studying images like these for clues about how Titan's hydrocarbon lakes formed. Titan is the only world other than Earth that is known to have stable bodies of liquid on its surface. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/JHUAPL/Univ. of Arizona 

"Titan's northern lakes region is one of the most Earth-like and intriguing in the solar system," said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist, based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "We know lakes here change with the seasons, and Cassini's long mission at Saturn gives us the opportunity to watch the seasons change at Titan, too. Now that the sun is shining in the north and we have these wonderful views, we can begin to compare the different data sets and tease out what Titan's lakes are doing near the north pole." 


The new images are available online at: 

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/multimedia/index.html


For more information about the Cassini mission, visit: 

http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov

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