Sunday July 4, 2004

A New World

In case you missed it in the news: Cassini has taken pictures of the surface of Saturn's moon Titan. The best previous pictures looked like this—just the orange cloud tops. Cassini's new pictures, taken in the near infrared, look through the clouds and reveal surface features. Beautiful!

It's only going to get better. These pictures were taken from quite far away, but over the next four years, Cassini is going to be in orbit around Saturn and will have many opportunities for close-ups of Titan, as detailed in this press release:

Friday's flyby at a closest distance of 339,000 kilometers (210,600 miles) provided Cassini's best look at Titan so far, but over the next four years, the orbiter will execute 45 Titan flybys as close as approximately 950 kilometers (590 miles). This will permit high-resolution mapping of the moon's surface with an imaging radar instrument, which can see through the opaque haze of Titan's upper atmosphere. In January 2005, the Huygens probe that is now attached to Cassini will descend through Titan's atmosphere to the surface.

This is exciting stuff, if you're the kind of person who gets excited by stuff like this, and I so totally am.

[Now playing: "Cloud Age Symphony" by Shuntaro Okino]

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