Taxonomy term


Cassini's legacy after two decades

Scientists on Earth have received the last submission from the Cassini spacecraft. It descended into Saturn’s atmosphere at 122,500 kilometers per hour, which caused it to melt, thereby ensuring that Saturn’s moons Titan and Enceladus would remain protected from possible contamination by any errant Earth microbes. Cassini scientists had considered other options for the spacecraft’s end, including leaving it to float endlessly in space or parking it in orbit around Saturn. But ultimately, they chose to have it descend into Saturn’s atmosphere after deciding the data that could be returned from the descent were more valuable than any further data it might obtain by remaining in space. Scientists will make discoveries from these data for decades to come.

15 Sep 2017

Titan's oddly oriented dunes may be electrostatically sculpted

Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, which has a dense, nitrogen-rich atmosphere with evidence of large amounts of frozen water at the surface, is a world apart from Earth’s moon. Among other strange phenomena, Titan has vast fields of frozen hydrocarbon particles that form 100-meter-tall dunes whose crests point east, opposite the prevailing west-blowing winds predicted by atmospheric models of Titan. In a new study in Nature Geoscience, researchers have found that these mysterious dunes may be sculpted in part by electrostatic charging of the frozen hydrocarbon grains.

01 Aug 2017

Sun shapes Titan's atmospheric makeup

Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, has a thick atmosphere composed of 98 percent nitrogen and about 1.4 percent methane, as well as small amounts of other gases. In a new study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, astronomers have identified fluctuations in methane levels in Titan’s thermosphere that appear to be in tune with the 11-year solar cycle.
07 Sep 2015

Two new looks at Titan's dunes

Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, is covered with extensive fields of sand dunes around its equator. From a distance, the wind-swept landscape looks similar to those seen on Earth, Mars and Venus, but new research suggests that dune formation on Titan may require different conditions than previously thought.

31 Mar 2015