Cassini Spies a Sunny Day on Titan's Seas

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. Continue reading →

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.

This near-infrared, color view from Cassini shows the sun glinting off of Titan's north polar seas.

This Christmas season,

NASA's Cassini mission got into the festive spirit

, capturing some breathtaking views of the beautiful ringed gas giant Saturn. Along with Saturn and its majestic rings, views of the Saturnian moons Titan, Enceladus and Rhea were also shared, showcasing some of the system's most fascinating mysteries such as Titan's south polar vortex, ring resonances and Saturn's hexagonal northern jet stream. Shown here, in a wide angle shot of Saturn's north pole, the hexagon is clearly visible.

As winter approaches the southern hemisphere of Saturn, a familiar blue hue returns to the gas giant's clouds.

In this view of Saturn's rings, the "Titan Ringlet," embedded within the Colombo Gap in the center of this Cassini photo, can be seen. The Ringlet is slightly oval shaped with its axis always pointing toward Titan. This is one example of the gravitational moon-ring resonances that shape Saturn's rings.

The moons Titan and Rhea line up from Cannini's perspective. Titan is Saturn's biggest moon that plays host to a thick, hazy atmosphere. Crater-riddled Rhea, the second largest, is barren in comparison.

The stacked clouds over Titan's south polar vortex are lit up by the twilight sun.

Titan's hydrocarbon lakes become visible through the moon's atmosphere as Cassini uses a special filter to cut through the haze.

A beautiful ring is created as Cassini observes Titan's dark side, the moon's thick atmosphere scattering sunlight.

A half crescent Enceladus, Saturn's icy moon.