Titan (Saturn's moon)

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Saturn’s Moon Titan

Titan is the largest moon of Saturn. It has an atmosphere composed primary of Nitrogen with traces of other hyrdrocarbons. The pressure at the surface is 60% greater than the pressure you are feeling right now. Perhaps what’s most unique about Titan are its lakes. These lakes aren’t made of water, rather they are lakes of liquid methane and ethane (see the illustrations above). These are the first liquid lakes seen anywhere in the Solar System besides Earth’s. The largest of these lakes is larger than the Great Lakes on Earth.

What’s more majestic than Saturn’s rings? LITERALLY NOTHING!!

Zoom in on this awesome high resolution scan of Saturn’s rings. It’s a mosaic of images presented in natural color. The images were recorded in May 2007 over about 2.5 hours as the Cassini spacecraft passed above the unlit side of the rings.

The alphabetical designation of Saturn’s rings is historically based on their order of discovery; rings A and B are the bright rings separated by the Cassini division. In order of increasing distance from Saturn, the seven main rings run D,C,B,A,F,G,E. (Faint, outer rings G and E are not seen in this image.)

FOUR days from now, on November 29, Cassini will make a close flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan and use the large moon’s gravity to nudge the spacecraft into a series of 20 daring, elliptical, ring-grazing orbits. Diving through the ring plane just 11,000 kilometers outside the F ring (far right) Cassini’s first ring-graze will be on December 4.

Image Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, SSI, JPL, ESA, NASA

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Pluto (bottom image) with various other non-planets.

Since everyone has their knickers in a knot over Pluto not being a planet, here are various different celestial objects who are also not classified as planets. You’ll notice, just because it’s not called a “planet” doesn’t mean it isn’t cool.

Let us be reminded, there is no heirarchy of celestial bodies. It wasn’t necessarily “demoted” from planethood, it was simply reclassified as something else. There’s literally no reason to be emotionally attatched to the idea of Pluto’s planetary classifaction.

But what “classifies” a planet anyway?

According to the International Astronomical Union, there are 3 basic requirements that it must meet:
1) It orbits the sun
2) Sufficient mass to assume a “hydrostatic equilibrium” (meaning it’s mostly shaped like a globe)
3) Has “cleared its neighborhood” in its orbit.

The third one is where Pluto fails. What they mean by “clearing the neighborhood” is that the orbital path is good and clear. Every planet will still collide with something now and then but their orbital paths are not occupied by anything that is similar to the size of the planet itself. They’re not really in danger of running into much of anything except maybe an asteroid or a comet that might enter their path and collide.

In addition, here is an image showcasing the dwarf planets of the solar system. Pluto isn’t alone in it’s classification.

So don’t be sad over Pluto not being a planet, you’re just being melodramatic. Wipe your tears away with some scientific literacy. ;)

Scientists have discovered huge liquid-filled canyons on Saturn’s moon Titan

New research is providing the first evidence that liquid carved out channels and canyons on Titan. Scientists estimate some of the canyon walls are hundreds of meters deep. The channels and canyons appear dark just like Titan’s lakes and seas, and scientists have now figured out how they came to exist.

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Scientists just found new evidence that Saturn’s moon Titan could potentially support life

A new study has found evidence indicating that some of the precursors for life might exist on Titan. Titan was already on NASA’s shortlist of places in our solar system that could support life. It’s the only known body in the solar system other than Earth that has liquid on its surface — but there’s one difference.

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Color images of Pluto released by NASA this year show the dwarf planet has a reddish brown surface. But an even newer photo shows that despite those colors, Pluto’s atmosphere has a blue haze.

The discovery results from the New Horizons probe’s fly-by of Pluto, which also captured data showing that the planet contains “numerous small, exposed regions of water ice,” NASA says.

But first things first: Why would a planet that’s been known to be reddish — even pink — have a blue sky?

Scientists attribute the color disparity to tholins, particles formed after sunlight sparks chemical reactions between nitrogen and methane in the atmosphere. The process was first seen on Titan, Saturn’s moon; in the case of Pluto, the particles are likely gray or red — but they scatter blue light, making it the most visible to the human eye.

Why Is The Sky Blue? (On Pluto, That Is)

Photo: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) workers examine the Huygens probe after removal from the Cassini spacecraft in the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF) at KSC. The spacecraft was returned to the PHSF after damage to the thermal insulation was discovered inside Huygens from an abnormally high flow of conditioned air. The damage required technicians to inspect the inside of the probe, repair the insulation, and clean the instruments.

After returning from the PHSF to Launch Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Station, Cassini/Huygens launched successfully in October 1997, and reached Saturn in July of 2004. Scientific instruments carried aboard the Cassini orbiter studied Saturn’s atmosphere, magnetic field, rings, and several moons, while the Huygens probe separated and landed on the surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.

The Cassini-Huygens mission owes its name to the Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens and Italian astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini. Both had spectacular careers as observers of the heavens, which included important discoveries about Saturn and its satellites. Huygens (1629-1695) discovered Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, in 1655 and in 1656 described the shape and phase changes of Saturn’s rings. Cassini (1625-1712) was the first to observe four of Saturn’s moons, Iapetus, Rhea, Tethys, and Dione, in the 1670s and 1680s. He also, in 1675, discovered the gap in Saturn’s rings, now called the Cassini Division, and proposed that the rings were formed from many tiny particles.

Cassini-Huygens is a joint mission of NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Italian Space Agency, Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI).