MAY 11, 2017 06:50 AM PDT

Cassini Grabs Photos of Methane Clouds in Titan's Atmosphere

As a part of the Cassini probe’s Grand Finale, it’s tasked with whizzing in between Saturn and its rings and satellites 22 times before its suicide mission in September when it dives into Saturn’s atmosphere in a final farewell.

NASA has been using Cassini during these 22 close-proximity flybys to learn more about everything from the age of Saturn’s rings, to their mass, to more about Saturn’s atmosphere. On the other hand, Cassini also gets a closer look at some of Saturn’s natural satellites, including the largest of them all, Titan.

During one of these flybys, Cassini was able to grab incredibly detailed shots of Titan’s atmosphere revealing its Summertime methane clouds. The photograph was reportedly snapped on Sunday, May 7th when Cassini was just over 300,000 miles away from the moon.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

This isn't the first time methane clouds have been spotted on Titan, but because of the close proximity of the Cassini spacecraft at the time, they are some of the most detailed images yet.

Along with Enceladus, Titan is one of the moons of major interest because it may have the environment required to support life. Like Earth, it’s believed that Titan harbors liquid oceans on its surface, and would be the only other known body in our Solar System besides Earth to do so.

Related: Cassini grabs photographs of waves in Saturn's rings, caused by gravitational forces from moons

Enceladus, on the other hand, is believed to have a sub-surface ocean, which means there’s a thick shell encasing the possible life-supporting ocean.

Nevertheless, both moons are of interest to NASA and other space agencies, and this is the main reason NASA will be destroying Cassini in September, as it prevents the spacecraft from accidentally colliding with and contaminating either moon.

One thing that’s for sure is NASA is exploring this region in our Solar System isn't over. NASA is planning two new missions to study these moons in more detail.

It may be a while before we get new probes out there again, but once there, NASA plans to test their habitability with orbiters and landers just like we have done with Mars. Eventually, me may even drill into Enceladus’ surface to see if that subsurface ocean really exists.

Source: Space.com, Popular Science

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JUN 19, 2018
Space & Astronomy
JUN 19, 2018
Watch the Heart of the ESA's ExoMars Rover Endure Stress Testing
The European Space Agency plans to send its ExoMars rover to Mars in 2020 to explore the red planet’s surface for signs of past (or present) life. Bu...
JUL 10, 2018
Space & Astronomy
JUL 10, 2018
Listen to the Eerie Plasma Waves That Move From Saturn to Enceladus
When NASA’s Cassini spacecraft performed its grand finale before plunging into Saturn’s atmosphere, the spacecraft’s Radio Plasma Wave Sc...
JUL 18, 2018
Space & Astronomy
JUL 18, 2018
Blue Origin's Ninth Test Launch Yields Spectacular Results
On Wednesday, commercial space company Blue Origin performed an “extreme” test launch of its New Shepard rocket and crew capsule system. Image...
JUL 23, 2018
Space & Astronomy
JUL 23, 2018
Earth is Pretty Small Compared to Everything Else in Space
To you and I, the Earth might seem like a large place. But in astronomical terms, our planet is actually quite small. Comparatively, the gas giant planets...
SEP 03, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 03, 2018
High-Speed Solar Wind May Pose a Greater Risk to Satellites Than Geomagnetic Storms
The satellites that we put into space to orbit the Earth and explore distant worlds are comprised of highly sensitive electronics. With that in mind, they...
SEP 04, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 04, 2018
This NASA Rocket Will Spend 15 Minutes Gawking at the Sun with X-Ray Vision
NASA is currently eyeballing Friday, September 7th for the third consecutive launch of its Focusing Optics X-ray Solar Imager (FOXSI), a space vehicle spec...
Loading Comments...