Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2014 November 24

Soaring over Titan
Video Credit: Cassini Radar Mapper, JPL, USGS, ESA, NASA

Explanation: What would it look like to fly over Titan? Radar images from NASA's robotic Cassini satellite in orbit around Saturn have been digitally compiled to simulate such a flight. Cassini has swooped past Saturn's cloudiest moon several times since it arrived at the ringed planet in 2004. The virtual flight featured here shows numerous lakes colored black and mountainous terrain colored tan. Surface regions without detailed vertical information appear more flat, while sufficiently mapped regions have their heights digitally stretched. Among the basins visualized is Kraken Mare, Titan's largest lake which spans over 1,000 kilometers long. Titan's lakes are different from Earth's lakes in that they are composed of hydrocarbons with similarities to liquid natural gas. How Titan's lakes were created and why they survive continues to be a topic of research.

Tomorrow's picture: visiting creature

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
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