During a recent flyby of Saturn's moon Titan, NASA's Cassini mission captured some breathtaking infrared views of the small world, photographing sunlight glinting off its hydrocarbon seas.
PHOTO: Cassini Spies Wind-Rippled Sea on Titan
Cassini has spotted sun glint before on Titan's surface, but this is the first set of observations (stitched together as a mosaic) where the boundaries of the seas and the sunlight glint are visible in the same view.
As Titan's surface is so cold, water cannot exist in a liquid state. Instead, the world cycles liquid methane (a substance that has a lower freezing point than water) from Titan's "great lakes", into the atmosphere as vapor, which condenses as clouds, raining methane back down onto the hydrocarbon surface. Much like Earth's water cycle, Titan's methane cycle creates rivers, deltas, valleys and large masses of liquid methane as observed here.
PHOTO: Cassini's Stunning View of Titan's Great Lakes
The sea glinting in sunlight is Kraken Mare, Titan's larges body of liquid. Surrounding Kraken Mare is a ‘bathtub ring' - an old coastline that suggests the sea was at a higher level than it is now.
This observation was captured by Cassini's Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) on Aug. 21.
For more information about this image, browse the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory news release.