Cassini spacecraft’ infrared cameras show that Saturn’s moon Titan looks disturbingly Earth-like in latest close-up. The probe used near-infrared wavelengths to take a glimpse at the icy moon through its thick veil of haze.
But if Titan visually resembles Earth it doesn’t mean that it is a hospitable place to be in. It remains a cold barren world with methane-ethane lakes, rivers, and seas and a nitrogen-laden atmosphere. The moon gets only 1 percent of the sunlight our planet does.
Yet, it is stunning to see a space object that resembles so much the Blue Planet in a solar system inhabited by planets that are so different from one another.
Nevertheless, NASA said that Titan is one of the most similar worlds to Earth we know. But humans cannot live there because the air is made of nitrogen, the atmosphere has methane clouds and nitrogen haze. Additionally, surface temperatures can sink down to minus 290 F, which is exaggeratedly cold for any human standard.
But if an astronaut has a special space suit and breathing system, he or she may be surprised by how surprisingly similar Titan’s landscape is to our home planet’s. Plus the gravity is just slightly weaker than the Earth’s, NASA researchers explained.
The latest close-up was taken by ESA/NASA’s Cassini–Huygens robotic spacecraft in November from a distance of 6,200 miles. The image shows the side of the moon that faces Saturn. The darker regions in the picture represent areas filled with dunes created by strong winds.
There are two larges areas on the moon filled with dunes – the northern Fensal region and the southern Aztlan region. Sometimes methane rain or snow falls from the skies to replenish the methane-ethane lakes, seas, rivers, and deltas.
Scientists believe that Titan may be host to peculiar ice volcanoes that eject liquid water and a hidden ocean made of ammonia and water that fuels those volcanoes.
Cassini was launched in 1997 and performed the first flyby of Saturn in July 2004. The probe is a joint project of ESA, NASA, and Italy’s space agency designed to study Saturn and its complex system of moons. The mission is slated to end in 2017 when the probe will be allowed to take one last dive into the gas giant’s atmosphere.
Image Source: NASA