The existence of oceans or lakes of liquid methane on Saturn's moon
Titan was predicted more than 20 years ago. But with a dense haze
preventing a closer look it has not been possible to confirm their
presence. Until the Cassini flyby of July 22, 2006, that is.
Radar imaging data from the flyby, published this week in the journal
Nature, provide convincing evidence for large bodies of liquid. This
image, used on the journal's cover, gives a taste of what Cassini saw.
Intensity in this colorized image is proportional to how much radar
brightness is returned, or more specifically, the logarithm of the
radar backscatter cross-section. The colors are not a representation of
what the human eye would see.
The lakes, darker than the surrounding terrain, are emphasized here by
tinting regions of low backscatter in blue. Radar-brighter regions are
shown in tan. The strip of radar imagery is foreshortened to simulate
an oblique view of the highest latitude region, seen from a point to
This radar image was acquired by the Cassini radar instrument in
synthetic aperture mode on July 22, 2006. The image is centered near 80
degrees north, 35 degrees west and is about 140 kilometers (84 miles)
across. Smallest details in this image are about 500 meters (1,640
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the
European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in
Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate,
Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and
assembled at JPL. The radar instrument was built by JPL and the Italian
Space Agency, working with team members from the United States and
several European countries.
For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.cfm .
Link: USGS - Cassini Mission